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Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb

Personal Info
Birth December 18, 1886
Birthplace Narrows, GA
Death July 17, 1961
Deathplace Atlanta, GA
Professional Career
Debut August 30, 1905, Detroit Tigers vs. New York Highlanders, {{{debutstadium}}}
Team(s) Detroit Tigers (1905-1926)
Philadelphia Athletics (1927-1928)
Career Highlights
  • MVP in 1911.
  • Highest career batting average (.366).
  • Most career steals of home plate with 54.
  • Ty won 5 straight batting titles and 12 total.

Tyrus Raymond "Ty" Cobb (December 18, 1886July 17, 1961), nicknamed "the Georgia Peach", was an American baseball player generally considered to be the greatest player of the "dead ball era" (19001920). For many years arguments raged as to whether he or Babe Ruth, diametrically opposite types of players, was the greatest player of all time. He is still considered one of the greatest players in the history of the game. He was certainly a great drawing card. Writers about the Tigers have noted that the team often acquiesced to Cobb's salary demands, possibly to the detriment of the rest of the team, because he brought people into the ballparks. When he retired in 1928 he was the holder of 90 major league records and he received the most votes of the first five players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1936. When asked, in the late 1950s how well he thought he would hit against modern pitchers, he responded "Probably only about have to remember I'm over 70 years old now." (Harrigan, 1997). Cobb also said of himself that "in legend, I am a sadistic, slashing, swashbuckling despot who waged war in the guise of sport."

Pre-professional career[]

Baseball Hall of Fame
Ty Cobb
is a member of
the Baseball
Hall of Fame

Tyrus Raymond Cobb was born in Narrows, Georgia, the first of three children. His mother Amanda (Chitwood), who had married William Herschel Cobb when she was twelve, was fifteen when she gave birth to Ty. In 1893, W.H. Cobb, a teacher by profession, bought a one hundred acre (400,000 m²) farm in Royston, Georgia to supplement his teaching income. It was on this farm that Ty's father taught him the values of hard work and perseverance. It was also in those fields that Ty grew strong and developed his relationship with his father. When W.H. saw that Ty displayed a knack for farming and its economics, the two grew closer. Cobb once said, "It was the sweetest thing in the world to be fully accepted by my father. All at once, he was willing to hear my ideas, discuss them, and even exchange opinions."

W.H. Cobb became a very well respected man in the community, getting elected to the Georgia State Senate. When Ty was not working the farm for his father, he was honing his baseball skills by playing for the Royston Rompers and the semi-pro Royston Reds during his early and mid-teens. W.H. greatly disapproved of Ty playing baseball, fearing that his firstborn would become a drunken womanizer like the stereotypical big league ballplayers of the day. However, when Ty, at seventeen, approached his father to ask for his blessing to try out for the South Atlantic League (Sally League) team in Augusta, W.H. reluctantly acquiesced. He figured that it would be best for his son to get the baseball out of his system and return home to pursue a career as a doctor, lawyer, or military man.

Professional career[]


Ty Cobb at bat in 1908 at Chicago's South Side Park

Minor leagues[]

In 1904, Cobb successfully tried out for the Augusta Tourists, a minor league club in the newly formed South Atlantic League, but was cut two days into the season. Cobb asked his father for permission to try out for a semi-pro team in Anniston, Alabama. In Cobb's account of the conversation he said that his father gave him permission to go, but warned him, "Don't come home a failure." Cobb tried out for the Anniston Steelers of the Tennessee-Alabama League. He easily made the team due to his previous professional experience. Cobb was hoping that his success would be noted in a major paper in Georgia, but to no avail. He took matters into his own hands by sending postcards to Grantland Rice, the sports editor of the Atlanta Journal, under several different aliases. Eventually, Rice wrote a small note in the Journal that a "young fellow named Cobb seems to be showing an unusual lot of talent." W.H. kept this press clipping in his wallet until his death, showing it to all as if it were a baby picture.

Cobb continued to tear up the league, and after about three months, he received a telegram from Augusta asking him to return. Con Strouthers, Cobb's previous manager with the Tourists, had been released, and the team missed his aggressive style. His return to Augusta proved unfruitful, as he finished the season hitting a meager .237 in 35 games.

Andy Roth, manager of Augusta, wanted Cobb back for 1905, but Cobb demanded a raise to $125 per month. It was the first of many salary disputes in his career. Despite the fact that he was asking a lot for a teenager with less than a season's experience, Roth consented and he rejoined the team in the spring of 1905.

By August 1905, Cobb, under the tutelage of his new manager, George Leidy, was leading the league in hitting. The Tourists' management sold the left-handed hitting and right-handed fielding Cobb to the American League's Detroit Tigers for $750. Cobb was given a $50 gold watch as a gift in his final appearance with the Augusta Tourists.

Shortly before Cobb's debut in the major leagues, his father was shot to death in a freak accident. On August 8, 1905, his father, suspecting his wife of infidelity, told her that he was going out of town. He returned later that evening to check up on her. He climbed onto the roof outside their bedroom. When Amanda Cobb saw a man in the window, she got a shotgun and fired twice, killing Cobb's father. She was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter, but was acquitted when she testified that she had mistaken her husband for an intruder.

Major leagues[]

The early years[]


Cobb signs a $5000 contract for 1908 after a bitter holdout.

Three weeks after his mother killed his father, Cobb was playing center field for the Detroit Tigers. On August 30, 1905, in his first major league at-bat, Cobb doubled off the New York Highlanders's Jack Chesbro. The rest of the season didn't go as well. Cobb managed to only bat .240 in 41 games. Cobb showed enough promise as a rookie for the Tigers to give him a lucrative (for the time) $1,500 contract for 1906. Although rookie hazing was customary, Cobb could not endure it in good humor, and he soon became alienated from his teammates. He later attributed his hostile temperament to this experience: "These old-timers turned me into a snarling wildcat."

The following year he became centerfielder for the Tigers and hit .320 in 97 games. He would never hit below that mark again. In spring training in 1907, Cobb, considered a racist by many, fought a black groundskeeper over the condition of the Tigers' spring training field in Augusta, Georgia, and ended up choking the man's wife when she intervened. In one regular season game Cobb reached first, stole second, third and home. He would do it again five more times in his career to set the record. Cobb's Tigers were engaged in an incredibly close 4-way race for the American League pennant with the Philadelphia A's, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. Both the White Sox and Indians ran into trouble late in the season. The final series that year pitted the Tigers against Connie Mack's Athletics. Cobb belted a ninth inning out of the park home run to send the game into extra innings. In his next at bat (11th inning), Cobb struck a ground rule double, driving in the go-ahead run. However, the A's recovered. When the game was called a tie in the 17th, the Tigers won the pennant anyway. That season, his first as a regular, Cobb hit .350 to win the first of his 11 batting titles. He also led the league with 212 hits, 49 steals and 116 RBI.

In the 1907 World Series the Tigers faced the Chicago Cubs. Cobb got a triple in Game 4, but the Tigers lost the series 4-0-1. Cobb struggled to hit .200 in the postseason.

Cobb was almost traded in 1907 to the Cleveland Indians for Elmer Flick. He was put on the block by his manager, Hughie Jennings, who was exasperated by Cobb's antics. The trade never materialized because Cleveland felt that Cobb was too divisive and that Flick was a better player.

In September of 1907 Cobb began a relationship with Coca-Cola that would last his entire life and make him a very rich man. In 1918 Cobb took a loan out against his future baseball earnings to buy his first 1000 shares of Coke stock. By the time he died, he owned 3 bottling plants, in Santa Maria, California, Twin Falls, Idaho and Bend, Oregon and owned over 20,000 shares of stock.

The following season the American League Pennant Race came down to the Tigers and another team, this time it was the White Sox. The Tigers ended up winning it on October 6, 1908, their last game of the year, defeating the White Sox 7-0. Cobb again won the batting title, although he "only" hit .324 that year. In their first rematch with the World Series champion Cubs, the Tigers once again lost the series 4-1, but Cobb had a much better postseason, leading the Tiger regulars with a .368 batting average.

In August 1908 Cobb married Charlotte "Charlie" Marion Lombard, the daughter of prominent Augustan Roswell Lombard.

In a 1909 game, Cobb spiked Frank "Home Run" Baker. After the incident, Connie Mack called Cobb "...the dirtiest player around." Ban Johnson, AL President, initially condemned him for his slide, but later said that Cobb was merely playing hard within the rules. A photo of the incident also supported Cobb, as it was clear that Cobb was sliding to the inside of the base and Baker was reaching across the base to try to tag him. There was no obvious malevolent intent. The Tigers won the American League pennant, and it looked as if they might beat Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. Babe Adams, a rookie pitcher and the 4th starter in Pittsburgh’s rotation, was chosen by Fred Clarke to pitch the first game in place of Howie Camnitz, the Pirates ailing ace. He finessed the Tigers, becoming the first pitcher to win three games in a World Series. During the Series Cobb stole home in the second game, igniting a three-run rally, but that was the high point for Cobb. He ended batting a lowly .231 in his last World Series. Cobb won the Triple Crown in hitting .377 with 107 RBI and 9 home runs, all of which were inside-the-park home runs.

The Conlon photo[]


The famous Charles M. Conlon photo: Cobb stealing third, sliding into Jimmy Austin

One day in New York, in 1909, Charles M. Conlon was fortunate enough to snap a terrific action photo of Cobb sliding into third base, an image that has been reprinted countless times. In the book Baseball's Golden Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon, by the brother-and-sister team of Neal and Constance McCabe, the story of that famous photo is presented, along with a print of the full photo, the way it actually looked.

For publication, the original photo was cropped on the right, taking away almost half of it, in order to focus on the action. That is the version everyone saw until the book was published in 1993. The excised portion merely shows more of the right-side bleachers, as well as the left arm of the third base coach.

Conlon was actually on the field with his big camera, a common practice of the day. He was positioned to the outfield side of the third base coach's box. Cobb was on second. New York third baseman Jimmy Austin was playing in for a possible sacrifice bunt. Cobb took off for third, but the batter did not get the bunt down. Austin backpedaled to take the throw from the catcher. Cobb spilled Austin and the catcher's throw sailed into left field. Presumably Cobb could have got up and scored, but the book does not elaborate.

Instead, the issue was whether Conlon got the shot or not. He changed plates, just to be safe, because he did not remember if he had squeezed the shutter bulb or not, and he knew it had potential to be a great shot. It turned out that he did, it was, and baseball had one of its iconic images.

1910 Chalmers Award controversy[]


Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie

In 1910, Cobb and Napoleon Lajoie, manager and star of the Cleveland Naps, were neck-and-neck for the American League batting title, with Cobb ahead by a slight margin going into the last day of the season. The prize was a Chalmers Automobile. Cobb sat out the game to preserve his average. Lajoie, whose team was playing the St. Louis Browns, notched seven hits in a doubleheader to pass Cobb. Six of those hits were bunt singles that fell in front of the third baseman. It turned out that Browns manager, Jack O' Conner, had ordered third baseman Red Corriden to play deep, on the outfield grass, so as to allow the popular Lajoie to win the title. AL president Ban Johnson declared Cobb the official batting average winner after some wrangling, which may have included the firing of O' Conner by the Browns. The Chalmers people, however, decided to award an automobile to both Cobb and Lajoie. Modern researchers, led by Pete Palmer, determined that one 2 for 3 game was double-counted for Cobb, and that Lajoie had the higher average in 1910. This finding has been accepted by most responsible modern baseball historians, including the Society for American Baseball Research. The next year, the Chalmers Award was given to the player "most valuable" to his team, and the modern Most Valuable Player Award was born, with Cobb winning the American League version unanimously.

The 1911 Season[]

Cobb Jackson

Ty Cobb and Joe Jackson in Cleveland

One of Cobb's most devastating approaches to baseball and perhaps the one that left the most lasting impression was his psychological intimidation. Cobb was having an incredible year in 1911, including a 40-game hitting streak. But by the end of the season, ”Shoeless” Joe Jackson had a 9 point lead on him in batting average. Very near the end of the season, Cobb’s Tigers had a long series (6 games in 4 days) in Cleveland with Jackson’s Indians. Cobb and Jackson were friendly both on and off the field, both being Southerners. Cobb used that friendliness for his gain. As he discussed in his autobiography, Cobb would ignore Jackson whenever Jackson said anything to him. Then Cobb would snap angrily at Jackson making him wonder what he could have done to so anger Cobb. Meanwhile, Cobb says, "My mind was centered on just one thing: getting all the base hits I could muster. Joe Jackson's mind was on many other things. He went hitless in the first three games of the series, while I fattened up. By the sixth game, I'd passed him in the averages." Then, just for good measure, Cobb completed his ploy by giving Jackson a hearty good-bye just as the Tigers were leaving town. Cobb felt that it was those mind games of his that caused Jackson to "fall off" to a final average of .408, while Cobb himself sailed home with a .420 average, 248 hits, 147 runs scored, 144 RBI, 83 stolen bases, and the league lead in doubles, triples, and slugging average. The only major offensive category which Cobb did not lead in was home runs, where Frank Baker surpassed him 11-8. Cobb's dominance at the plate is suggested by this statistic: he struck out swinging twice during the entire 1911 season. He was awarded another Chalmers, this time for being voted the AL MVP by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

The hitting streak[]

Ty Cobb became the 1st player since 1900 to hit safely in 40 or more games with his hitting streak in 1911. The others were Joe DiMaggio of New York AL with 56 (72 out of 73) in 1941; Willie Keeler of Baltimore NL with 44 in 1894 (45 over 2 seasons 1893-1894); Pete Rose of Cincinnati NL with 44 in 1978; Bill Dahlen of Chicago NL with 42 (70 out of 71) in 1894; and George Sisler of St. AL with 41 in 1922. Paul Molitor of Milwaukee AL had a 39-game streak in 1987.

The game that may best illustrate Cobb's unique combination of attributes occurred on May 12, 1911. Playing against the New York Yankees, Cobb scored a run from first base on a single to right field, then scored another run from second base on a wild pitch. In the 7th inning, he tied the game with a 2-run double. The Yankee catcher began vociferously arguing the call with the umpire, going on at such length that the other Yankee infielders gathered nearby to watch. Realizing that no one on the Yankees had called time, Cobb strolled unobserved to third base, and then casually walked towards home plate as if to get a better view of the argument. He then suddenly slid into home plate for the game's winning run.

More controversy followed Cobb during an exhibition series in Cuba. Following the series against Negro League players, Cobb vowed never to play against a black team again. His detractors have suggested that Cobb was irritated at finishing second to Negro Leagues star Pop Lloyd in batting average, .370 to .500, as well as by the attention paid to Grant "Home Run" Johnson. Cobb was also thrown out stealing several times by Bruce Petway. However, Cobb's supporters point to the fact that the second base bag was misplaced by 3 extra inches, and that even when Cobb noticed this and complained, the Negro League team refused to move it to its correct position.

On May 15, 1912, Cobb assaulted Claude Lueker, a heckler, in the stands in New York. Lueker and Cobb traded insults with each other throughout the first three innings, and the situation climaxed when Lueker called Cobb a "half-n*gger." Cobb then climbed into the stands and attacked the handicapped Lueker, who after an industrial accident lost all of one hand and three fingers on his other hand. The league suspended him; and his teammates, though not fond of Cobb, went on strike to protest the suspension prior to the May 18 game in Philadelphia. For that one game, Detroit fielded a replacement team made up of college and sandlot ballplayers, plus two Detroit coaches, and lost, 24-2. Some of major league baseball's all-time negative records were established in this game, notably the 26 hits allowed by Allan Travers, who pitched the sport's most unlikely complete game. The strike ended when Cobb urged his teammates to return to the field.

In 1914, Red Sox pitcher Dutch Leonard hit Cobb in the ribs with a fastball. In the next at bat, Cobb bunted the ball down the right side line. First baseman Clyde Engle covered the play, turning to toss the ball to Leonard just as Cobb spiked him. Cobb became the first professional athlete to appear in a motion picture when he starred in "Somewhere in Georgia". Based on a story by sports columnist Grantland Rice, the film casts Cobb as "himself", a small-town Georgian bank clerk with a talent for baseball. When he's signed to play with the Detroit Tigers, Cobb is forced to leave his sweetheart (Elsie McLeod) behind, whereupon a crooked bank cashier sets his sights on the girl. Upon learning that Cobb has briefly returned home to play an exhibition game with his old team, the cashier arranges for Our Hero to be kidnapped. Breaking loose from his bonds, Cobb beats up all of his captors and shows up at the ball field just in time to win the game for the home team.

Baseball starts to change[]


Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth

Cobb kept dominating the league winning batting titles in every year till 1915. Modern research by Pete Palmer and others determined that Nap Lajoie was actually the AL batting leader in 1910. Cobb's hit total has been determined as 4189 and his lifetime batting average as .366 (.36636). Also in 1915 Cobb set the single season steals record with 96 which stood until Maury Wills broke it in 1962. Cobb’s streak of batting titles ended the following year when he finished second with .371 to Tris Speaker’s .386. In 1919, a young pitcher from the Boston Red Sox named Babe Ruth began to come on strong as a home run hitter by shattering the 40-year old home run record by hitting 29 round-trippers. Cobb abhorred Ruth's power game, and when he saw fans becoming enamored with the Babe, he was afraid that the "inside style" of bunting, taking the extra base and hitting the ball to gaps that he had perfected would fall by the wayside.

Ruth started the 1920 season on a pace to destroy his own record. Therefore, when Cobb and the Tigers showed up in New York to play the Yankees for the first time that season, writers billed it as a showdown between two stars of competing styles of play. Ruth easily won this mini-battle, with two homers and a triple, while Cobb got only one single in the entire series.

But the people who really knew baseball still favored Cobb, according even to Ruth's own manager, Miller Huggins. The venerable Tris Speaker once said, "Babe was a great ballplayer, but Cobb was even greater. Ruth could knock your brains out, but Cobb would drive you crazy." Most of the fans, however, even in Cobb's own home city of Detroit, now came to watch Ruth instead of Cobb. The fans began to prefer the excitement of the home run rather than the strategy and cunning moves of the hit and run and double steal.

As Ruth's popularity grew, Cobb became increasingly hostile toward him. Cobb saw Ruth not only as a threat to his style of play, but also to his style of life. While Cobb preached ascetic self-denial, Ruth gorged on hot dogs, beer, and women. Perhaps what angered him the most about Ruth was that despite Ruth's total disregard for his physical condition and traditional baseball, he was still an overwhelming success and brought fans to the ballparks in record numbers to see him set his own records.


Ty Cobb hit 117 home runs and 1,137 extra base hits during his career.

After enduring several years of seeing his fame and notoriety usurped by Ruth, Cobb decided that he was going to show that anybody could hit home runs if he chose to. On May 5, 1925, Cobb began a two-game hitting spree better than any even Ruth had unleashed. He was sitting in the dugout talking to a reporter and told him that, for the first time in his career, he was going to swing for the fences. That day, Cobb went 6 for 6, with two singles, a double, and three home runs. His 16 total bases set a new AL record. The next day he had three more hits, two of which were home runs. His single his first time up gave him 9 consecutive hits over three games. His five homers in two games tied the record set by Cap Anson of the old Chicago NL team in 1884. Cobb wanted to show that he could hit home runs when he wanted, but simply chose not to do so. At the end of the series, 38-year-old Cobb had gone 12 for 19 with 29 total bases, and then went happily back to bunting and hitting-and-running. For his part, Ruth's attitude was that "I could have had a lifetime .600 average, but I would have had to hit them singles. The people were paying to see me hit home runs."

On August 19, 1921, in the second game of a double header against Elmer Myers of the Boston Red Sox Cobb collected his 3,000th hit.

Cobb as player/manager[]

Frank Navin, the Detroit Tigers owner, signed Cobb to take over for Hughie Jennings as manager for the 1921 season. Cobb signed the deal on his 34th birthday for $32,500. To say the least, the signing caught the baseball world off-guard. Universally disliked (even by the members of his own team) but a legendary player, Cobb's management style left a lot to be desired. He expected as much from his players as he gave, and most of the men did not meet his standard. The closest he came to winning the pennant race was in 1922, when the Tigers finished in second place. Cobb blamed his lackluster managerial record (479 wins-444 losses) on Navin, who was arguably an even bigger skinflint than Cobb. Navin passed up a number of quality players that Cobb wanted to add to the team. In fact, Navin had saved money by hiring Cobb to manage the team. The Tiger management made a classic blunder by not signing Carl Hubbell.

At the end of 1925 Cobb was once again embroiled in a batting title race, this time with one of his teammates and players, Harry Heilmann. In a doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns on October 4, Heilmann got six hits, leading the Tigers to a sweep of the doubleheader and beating Cobb for the batting crown, .393 to .389. Cobb and Browns manager George Sisler each pitched in the final game. Cobb pitched a perfect inning. Cobb, though not a major power hitter, hit 5 home runs in 2 consecutive games and had 25 total bases in 2 consecutive games - records he shares to this day. He led the league in on-base percentage in 1925, his most successful batting department leadership of the 1920s.

Cobb moves to Philadelphia[]

Cobb finally called it quits from a 22-year career as a Tiger in November 1926. He announced his retirement and headed home to Augusta, Georgia. Shortly thereafter, Tris Speaker also retired as player-manager of the Cleveland team. The retirement of two great players at the same time sparked some interest, and it turned out that the two were coerced into retirement because of allegations of game-fixing brought about by Dutch Leonard, a former pitcher of Cobb's.

It seemed that Leonard was bitter about being let go from organized baseball in what he felt was a conspiracy by Cobb and Speaker. He used the game-fixing charges as a way to retaliate against the two men so that they would know what it would be like to be run out of the league. His plan failed as he was unable to convince either Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis or the public that the two had done anything for which they deserved to be kicked out of baseball.

Landis allowed both Cobb and Speaker to return to their original teams, but each team let them know that they were free agents and could sign with whomever they wished. Speaker signed with the Washington Senators for 1927, Cobb with the Philadelphia Athletics. Speaker then joined Cobb in Philadelphia for the 1928 season. Cobb says he came primarily to seek vindication and to reach 4000 hits and so that he could say he left baseball on his own terms. Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker were unofficially blackballed from becoming managers or full-time coaches, according to documents later uncovered.

Cobb played regularly in 1927 for a young and talented team that finished second to one of the greatest teams of all time, the 1927 Yankees, which won 110 games. He returned to Detroit to quite a welcome on May 11, 1927. Cobb doubled in his first at bat, to the cheers of Tiger fans. On July 18, 1927, Cobb became the first player to get 4,000 career hits when he doubled off former teammate Sam Gibson of the Detroit Tigers at Navin Field.

Cobb returned again in 1928, for no real reason other than he had nothing else to do with his life. He played less frequently due to his age and the blossoming abilities of the young A's, who were again in a pennant race with the Yankees. It was against those Yankees in September that Cobb had his last at bat, a weak pop-up behind third base. He then announced his retirement, effective at the end of the season. Ironically, had he stuck with the A's in some capacity for one more year, he might have finally got his elusive World Series ring. But it was not to be.

In 1928, in a game against the New York Yankees, the combined line-up included 13 future Hall of Fame players. In addition to Cobb, Tris Speaker, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane, Lefty Grove, Eddie Collins, Bill Dickey, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Waite Hoyt, Earle Combs, Herb Pennock and Tony Lazzeri participated in the game.

Post professional career[]

File:Ty Cobb HOF plaque new.jpg

Cobb's plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Cobb retired a very rich and successful, but very lonely man. He spent his retirement pursuing his off-season activities of hunting, golfing and fishing, full-time. He also traveled extensively, both with and without his family. His other pastime was trading stocks and bonds, increasing his immense personal wealth.

In the winter of 1930/31, Cobb moved into a Spanish ranch estate on Spencer Lane in the millionaire's community of Atherton outside San Francisco. At that same time, his wife Charlie filed the first of several divorce suits.

Cobb had never had an easy time being a father and husband. His children had found him to be demanding, yet also capable of kindness and extreme warmth. "He always wanted us to work as hard as we could at anything we did," Cobb's son James told sportswriter Ira Berkow in 1969. "Just as he did." Cobb had expected his boys to be exceptional athletes, especially baseball players. Ty, Jr. flunked out of Princeton and would have rather played tennis than baseball, and in general was a disappointment to his father. Despite his shortcomings as a father, Cobb had only wanted his children to work hard and succeed, though it seems that it was hard for him to accept that they would succeed in anything except baseball. Charlie finally divorced Cobb in 1947, after 39 years of marriage, the last few of which she lived in nearby Menlo Park.

A tremendous thrill came in February, 1936, when the first Hall of Fame election results were announced. Cobb had been named on 222 of 226 ballots, outdistancing Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, the only others to earn the necessary 75% of votes to be elected in that first year. His 98.2 percentage stood as the record until Tom Seaver received 98.8% of the vote in 1992 (Nolan Ryan also surpassed Cobb, being named on 98.79% of the ballots in 1999). Those incredible results show that although many people disliked him personally, they respected the way he played and what he accomplished.

There was little else for Cobb to be happy about, now a bachelor in the twilight of his life. He drank and smoked heavily, and spent a great deal of time complaining about the collapse of baseball since the arrival of Ruth. Cobb was known to help out young players. He was instrumental in helping Joe DiMaggio negotiate his rookie contract with the New York Yankees, but ended his friendship with Ted Williams when the latter suggested to him that Rogers Hornsby was a greater hitter than Cobb.

Another bittersweet moment in Cobb's life reportedly came in the late 1940s when he and sportswriter Grantland Rice were returning from the Masters golf tournament. Stopping at a South Carolina liquor store, Cobb noticed that the man behind the counter was Shoeless Joe Jackson, who had been banned from baseball almost 30 years earlier following the Black Sox scandal. But Jackson did not appear to recognize Cobb, and finally Cobb asked, "Don't you know me, Joe?" “Sure I know you, Ty,” replied Jackson, “but I wasn’t sure you wanted to speak to me. A lot of them don’t.”

Second marriage[]

At 62, Cobb remarried. The bride was 40-year-old Frances Cass. This marriage also failed, and she later filed for divorce. She felt that he was simply too difficult to get along with when he was drunk. However, Cobb counter filed and won the suit.

When two of his three sons died young, Cobb was alone, with few friends left. He therefore began to be generous with his wealth, donating $100,000 in his parents' name for his hometown of Royston to build a modern 24 bed hospital now called the Cobb Memorial Hospital. He also established the Cobb Educational Fund, which awarded scholarships to needy Georgia students bound for college, by endowing it with a $100,000 donation in 1953.

Cobb knew that another way he could share his wealth was by having biographies written that would set the record straight and teach young players how to play. John McCallum spent some time with Cobb to write a combination how-to and biography. He, like everyone else, found Cobb difficult at best, and impossible at worst. McCallum's book came out in 1956 and was filled with half-truths and misinformation that McCallum had never checked out.

After McCallum left, Cobb was again alone and had a longing to return to Georgia. It was on a hunting trip near his Lake Tahoe home that Cobb's long-range plans were going to be cut short, as he collapsed in pain and was diagnosed with prostate cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and Bright's disease, a degenerative kidney disorder. He returned to his Lake Tahoe lodge with painkillers and bourbon to try to ease his constant pain. He did not trust his initial diagnosis, however, so he went to Georgia to seek advice from doctors he knew, and they found his prostate to be cancerous. They removed it at Emory Hospital, but that did little to help Cobb. From this point until the end of his life, Cobb criss-crossed the country, going from his lodge in Tahoe to the hospital in Georgia.

Al Stump[]

Al Stump, one of the most celebrated sports writers in the country at the time, was asked by Doubleday to ghostwrite Cobb's autobiography. Like John McCallum, Stump found Cobb rather difficult to work with most of the time and totally impossible when drunk. Stump's time with Cobb was "interesting," but not necessarily in a good sense. Despite the troubles, Stump stuck it out mostly because he feared Cobb's reaction if he tried to leave. From the time the two spent together we now have two books and a movie, each of which offers a slightly different point of view of Cobb's life.

A powerful moment in Stump's experience was the visit to the Cobb family mausoleum in December 1960. Cobb had used the mausoleum as an attempt to reunite his family members in death, disinterring some of them to do so. It was here that Cobb told Stump about the murder of his father, and pointed the finger at his mother. He had never spoken much about the incident, and most people at the time probably didn't even know that W.H. had been shot.

Cobb also spent much of his last few years making visits to places important to him, like the Hall of Fame. He traveled to Cooperstown in June 1960, and lingered after-hours in the Hall, gazing at the plaques on the wall, including his own, with tears in his eyes.

By the spring of 1961, Cobb was spending most of his time at Emory Hospital for cobalt treatments to slow the spread of his cancer, which had now moved into his spine and skull. He did feel good enough to make it to spring training of the new LA Angels in 1961, and then to his last ball game on their opening day, 1961.

The Stump autobiography came out a few months after Cobb's death, and sold well for the four years that it was in print. Despite Cobb's unpleasantness, the book (Cobb: A Biography) painted Ty in a sympathetic light. Thirty years later, however, Stump extensively revised the book, including his own experience with Cobb and capturing the man who was so disliked by so many of his contemporaries. In 1994 the writing of the book was used as the basis for a film starring Tommy Lee Jones as Cobb.


In his last days Cobb spent some time with the old movie comedian Joe E. Brown, talking about the choices Cobb had made in his life. He told Brown that he felt that he had made mistakes, and that he would do things differently if he could. He had played hard and lived hard all his life, and had no friends to show for it at the end, and he regretted it. Publicly, however, Cobb claimed not to have any regrets: "I've been lucky. I have no right to be regretful of what I did" (Newsweek, July 31, 1961, 54).

He checked into Emory Hospital for the last time in June 1961, bringing with him a paper bag with a million or so dollars in securities and his Luger pistol. This time his first wife, Charlie, his son Jimmy and other family members came to be with him for his final days. His final day came a month later, July 17, 1961.

Cobb's funeral was perhaps the saddest event associated with Cobb. From all of baseball, the sport that he had dominated for over 20 years, baseball's only representatives were three old players, Ray Schalk, Mickey Cochrane, Nap Rucker, along with Sid Keener from the Hall of Fame. Also there were his first wife, Charlie, his two daughters, his surviving son, Jimmy, his two sons-in-law, his daughter-in-law, Mary Dunn Cobb, and her two children. He had outlived many of his contemporaries, had alienated most of the others, and a lot of them were glad that he was finally dead. The sparse attendance was in great contrast to the hundreds of thousands of mourners who had turned out at Yankee Stadium and St. Patrick's Cathedral to bid farewell to Cobb's great rival, Babe Ruth, in 1948.

In his will, Cobb left a quarter of his estate to the Cobb Educational Fund, and the rest of his reputed $11 million he distributed among his children and grandchildren. Cobb is interred in the Royston, Georgia town cemetery.


Efforts to create a Ty Cobb Memorial in Royston failed, primarily because most of the artifacts from his life were in Cooperstown, and the Georgia town was too remote to make a memorial worthwhile. The building erected is now Royston City Hall.

However, on July 17, 1998, on the 37th anniversary of his death, the Ty Cobb Museum opened its doors in Royston. The time had become right to honor the man in his own hometown.

Records and achievements[]

  • Highest lifetime major-league batting average (.366)
  • Most career steals of home (54)
  • Most career batting titles (11)
  • Second in career hits (4,191 – first in AL and first when retired)
  • Second in career runs scored (2,246 – first in AL, first when retired and still most all-time by left-handed hitters)
  • Second in career triples (295)
  • Third in career steals (892 – first when retired)
  • Fourth in career doubles (724)
  • Stole second, third, and home after reaching base on 6 separate occasions
  • Led the American League in hits 8 times
  • Led the American League in runs scored 5 times
  • Scored 100 runs 11 times in his career
  • Reached 1,000 hit level by the age of 24—the youngest of any major league player
  • Batted under .320 only once in his career—his first season
  • Batted over .400 three times (1911, 1912 & 1922), tying a major league record
  • Batted over .320 for record 23 straight seasons (played at least 50 games each season)
  • Had two consecutive game hitting streaks of 35 games or more (35 in 1917 and 40 in 1911), the only player to do so; his two streaks rank 6th and 11th on the all-time list; (George Sisler had streaks of 41 and 34 games)
  • Five hitting streaks of 20+ games: 40, 35, 25, 21, and 21.
  • One of only two people to hit a home run before his 20th birthday and after his 40th birthday (the other is Rusty Staub)
  • After subtracting home runs, Cobb drove in more of his teammates for RBI, 1,843, than any other player.
  • Won the prestigious Triple Crown in 1909
  • Hit 5 homeruns in 2 games in 1925, tying a major league record
  • First player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame - Inducted with 24 men in June, 1939 Cooperstown opening.
  • In 1999, he ranked number 3 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Regular season stats[]

3035 11434 2246 4189 724 295 117 1937 892 178 1249 357 .36636 .433 .512 5854 295 94


  • The grunge band Soundgarden has a song called "Ty Cobb".
  • In the movie Field of Dreams, the character of Shoeless Joe (Ray Liotta) remarked that Ty Cobb wanted to play at the field. Joe further remarked that, "...none of us could stand the son of a bitch when we were alive, so we told him to stick it!"
  • Homer Simpson consoles his son Bart upon the death of Krusty the Clown by saying, "Don't worry, son. I'm sure he's up in heaven right now, laughing it up with all the other celebrities: John Dillinger, Ty Cobb, Joseph Stalin... (sigh) I wish I were dead."
  • In the film Nurse Betty, a hitman (Morgan Freeman) admonishes his son (Chris Rock) for scalping a man; after Rock protests that he only did it because his father was waxing poetic about American Indians, Freeman retorts, "If I had told a Ty Cobb story, would you have taken a baseball bat and beaten him to death?"
  • ESPN's "Page 2" selected Cobb as the "ultimate sports villain."
  • Cobb once broke up a Rube Waddell no-hitter with a bunt single.
  • Cobb and Rusty Staub are the only MLB players to have hit home runs in both their teens and forties.
  • The Detroit Tigers have retired five of their players' numbers—2 (Charlie Gehringer, 5 (Hank Greenberg), 6 (Al Kaline), 16 (Hal Newhouser), and 23 (Willie Horton). These numbers hang on the wall of Comerica Park, along with Cobb's name, a way of "retiring his number" even though he played before uniform numbers were worn.
  • Ty Cobb faced pitcher Walter Johnson more times than any other batter-pitcher matchup in baseball history. Cobb also got the first hit allowed in Johnson's career. After Johnson hit Detroit's Ossie Vitt with a pitch in August 1915, seriously injuring him, Cobb realized that Johnson was fearful of hitting opponents. He used this knowledge to his advantage, by standing closer to the plate.
  • On the flip side of the above, Cobb's teammate Sam Crawford stated in the book The Glory of Their Times that he and Johnson were friendly, and sometimes in an out-of-reach game Johnson would let up on Crawford, who would smack the ball, and bear down all the harder on Cobb, and that his relatively good success against Johnson mystified and irked the highly competitive Cobb.
  • In that same article, Crawford stated that his choice for "best ever" player was Honus Wagner, not Cobb. His assessment of Cobb on a personal level seemed tinged not with resentment, but with sadness, at the way Cobb isolated himself and distrusted most everyone, especially northerners.
  • Ty Cobb has several Georgia hospitals named after him, along with the Ty Cobb Healthcare System.
  • The movie Cobb is based on him, specifically on an article that his co-biographer Al Stump wrote posthumously, about a perilous weekend he spent with Cobb during a blizzard at Cobb's Lake Tahoe residence.
  • Shortly after his death, Cobb's body was on display in Georgia; the exhibit was closed due to vandalism.
  • Cobb was dressed in his baseball suit at his funeral.
  • The Japanese manga/comic book artist Hirohiko Araki, creator of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, did a manga comic based on Cobb, entitled "Ty Cobb" as part of his "Chronicles of the Bizarre and Eccentric" series.
  • Cobb often claimed to have killed a mugger in self-defense, while in Detroit in August of 1912; however, a 1994 examination of the autopsy records of the Detroit Medical Examiner for August and September 1912, and of the archives of Detroit newspapers for that same period, revealed no deaths matching Cobb's description of the incident [1]. It is possible that the mugger was injured, but survived his encounter with Cobb; it is equally possible that Cobb invented the incident.


  • Charles Alexander, Ty Cobb (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984).
  • Richard Bak, Ty Cobb: His Tumultuous Life and Times (Dallas, Tex.: Taylor, 1994).
  • Patrick Harrigan, The Detroit Tigers, Club and Community, 1945 to 1995 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997).
  • Al Stump, Cobb: A Biography (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin, 1994) revised
  • Ty Cobb at the Internet Movie Database

External links[]

Preceded by:
First AL MVP
American League Most Valuable Player
Succeeded by:
Tris Speaker
Preceded by:
Hughie Jennings
Detroit Tigers managers
Succeeded by:
George Moriarty