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Historic Tiger Baseball #6--Xmas with Ty Cobb Vol. I

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Special Edition

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Christmas with Ty Cobb

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For your enjoyment during this Holiday Season, Historic Tiger Baseball will celebrate the career of the most famous Tiger player of all, Ty Cobb. Each day a different aspect of Cobb's life and times will be examined. I initially thought I would let him have his day like everyone else. But the "Georgia Peach" is just too big for only one day;

he deserves his own season.

So put on your slippers and evening jacket, cozy up next to the fire with some Couvasier, and enjoy a Christmas With Ty Cobb.

Chapter 1

The one-game strike of 1912

Taking the "cripple" to the woodshed

Claude Lueker was a low-level local politico in New York, but he and Cobb knew each other from when they were young in Georgia, and they had never got along. All game long Leuker had been merciless in the taunts he hurled at Cobb. He had derided Cobb’s hitting, laughed at his fielding and defamed him for his personal life. Then he escalated to racial slurs and finally to attacks on Cobb’s mother. Cobb took an awful lot before he charged up there but that did it. Storming into the stands, Cobb grabbed Leuker around the neck--because that’s about all there was--smashed him to the ground, then proceeded to beat the ever loving crap out of him. Before order was restored the whole Tiger team had rushed into the stands in support of Cobb. Fans and players alike pummeled each other with serious injuries incurred on both sides. It all happened in New York City. It was May 15, 1912 and it would lead to even bigger things. The next two days would prove to be crucial for baseball and would change the way the game would be played in the future.

When a fan pointed out to Cobb that Leuker was a “cripple” and had no arms, Cobb shot back that he would have beat him up even if he’d had no legs as well. The media had a field day with this of course.

American League President Ban Johnson was at the game, and although the fans seated nearby sympathized with Cobb, Johnson had to do something, so he suspended Cobb indefinitely. Thursday was a travel day, and Friday the Tigers beat the hometown Philadelphia A’s 6-3 without Cobb. Before that game, the other Tigers wrote a letter to Ban Johnson saying, in effect, that while he might not be the most popular person, as a baseball player and teammate, he was the best. Then they asked Johnson to drop the suspension immediately, and if he didn’t, the undersigned players wouldn’t play in Saturday’s game.

I guess the players felt that Leuker’s calling Cobb’s mother a “father-killer” was a bit much. (Incidentally, Cobb’s mother was found innocent of murdering her husband. She claimed she killed him when he tried to get in through a window of their home and surprised her. Rumor had it that Cobb’s father had suspected her of entertaining men and had come home early from a business trip to catch her in the act. Rumor also had it that she was, and that he did.)

The players also presented Tiger management with an edict that said they would not go out on the field until Ban Johnson’s suspension of Cobb was lifted. They should have known better. Owner Frank Navin was a tough man and first and foremost a businessman. He wouldn’t cave in to threats like that. And besides, a lot of money was involved. It was made clear to Navin that if the Tigers did not show up on the field against Philadelphia he would be fined $5,000 by the League.

It was a no-brainer. Navin’s dictum was if we don’t have a team, we go out and get ourselves one. No matter where and how, we get one. Navin sat down with manager Hughie Jennings and they both decided to sign up some local talent. At first Jennings wasn’t too keen on the idea. He was a player’s manager, loved his team, and felt it was wrong to usurp the team’s wishes. His philosophy had always been that the feelings of his players should come first. However, Navin was relentless and the search was on.

Going to teams and colleges in the area they quickly signed up local players. Some of the amateurs recruited were Jim Mcgarr, Jack Coffey, Bill Leinhauser, Dan McGarvey, Aloysius Travers, Pat Meaney, and Hap Ward. Two interesting choices were Detroit coaches Jim McGuire (48) and 41 year old Joe Sugden. Coaching and participating in batting practice didn’t make up for the fact that they were out of shape and too old to participate in a Major League game.

One of the players they did manage to sign was Billy “Mahorg” His real name was Billy Graham (Mahorg was a reverse of Graham). He ended up as the only player of the group who played again in the Majors. In 1916 he had one at bat for the Phillies. As a footnote to his career, he later on was involved in the 1919 Black Sox scandal as a conspirator.

Al Travers, the Detroit pitcher in the game, was 20 years old at that time and a student at St. Joseph’s University. When the smoke cleared, Travers had given up 26 hits and 24 runs in eight innings. The final score was Philadelphia 24 and Detroit 2. Ed Irvin hit two triples for Detroit and ended up his career with a 2,000 slugging percentage. Joe Sugden and Deacon McGuire had two other hits for the Tigers. Manager Hughie Jennings pinch hit and flew out.

(Travers later went on to become a Jesuit priest. He actually taught at the Philadelphia-area Catholic high school attended by one of IdahoBert’s colleagues. Every year Father Al would introduce his new crop of students to his one-game career through his scrapbook of the event.)

Philadelphia feasted. Led by Eddie Collins 5-6, their hitting included Amos Strunk 3-6, Stuffy McInnis and Hal Maggert 3-4. Jack Coombs was the winner and former Yankee great and future Hall of Famer Herb Pennock pitched three scoreless innings.

Ban Johnson was furious at this travesty, and took the next train to Philadelphia. Sunday was always an off day in most major league cities, including all of Pennsylvania. In part of his tirade, he told Navin that if he didn’t get his players back to work the Detroit team would never play again. Johnson canceled Monday’s game, instead meeting with the Tiger players. He told them in no uncertain terms that if they went through with their strike, every one of them who did not take the field for the next game (vs. Washington on the 21st) would be run out of baseball. Some of the more stubborn players decided that they would stick to their principles and not play anyway. Ty Cobb himself came forth and implored his teammates to back down and play. Ty served a 10-day suspension, returning to the field on the 27th. Cobb was also fined $50, which was like a slap on the wrist, and each player who signed the petition was fined $100.

The incident led to discussions between players in both leagues. The result was the players deciding to form a new group to protect themselves in the future. It was the precursor of the present-day Players Union.

This was liberally plagiarized from an article in baseball-guru.com and baseball-fever.com

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What a great read, lovingly plagiarized. I didn't know that stuff about his parents, and I'd forgotten that the guy in the stands didn't have any arms. I'd say that a guy with no arms who shoots off his mouth and doesn't think that anyone will ever call him out deserves a particularly savage beating!

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What a great read, lovingly plagiarized. I didn't know that stuff about his parents, and I'd forgotten that the guy in the stands didn't have any arms. I'd say that a guy with no arms who shoots off his mouth and doesn't think that anyone will ever call him out deserves a particularly savage beating!
Your sensitivity levels for those less fortunate are a bit off today? :cheeky:

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Wow, I've read everything I can get my hands on about my namesake, and I never knew that Ty knew Claude when they were in GA. Learn somethin' new every day...thanks, as always, for these great threads. But I think I may be in trouble with my boss for drinking cognac on the job!

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Wow, I've read everything I can get my hands on about my namesake, and I never knew that Ty knew Claude when they were in GA. Learn somethin' new every day...thanks, as always, for these great threads. But I think I may be in trouble with my boss for drinking cognac on the job!
Take it all with a grain of salt. None of this is based on my own research. I get all this off the internet and I have already run across two stories about this incident alone from the same site: baseballguru. One contends that Ty's mother was defamed and another that his racial background was. I'm not sure what's true and what isn't.

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What's everyone's opinion of the movie "Cobb" ?? I thought it was a very slanted treatment of Cobb's life story, albeit entertaining at times. I could certainly picture Cobb roaring down that snow-covered mountain road .....

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