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Historic Tiger Baseball #8--XMAS with Ty Cobb Vol.III

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Special Edition

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Christmas with Ty Cobb

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Chapter 3

Ty Cobb could homer with the best of them when he wanted to

By Larry Schwartz/Special to ESPN.com

http://espn.go.com/classic/s/cobbtyadd.html

Signature Game

May 5, 1925 - When Babe Ruth and his mighty home runs came onto the scene, Cobb seethed with anger. The Detroit Tigers center-fielder believed in the single, the steal, advancing baserunners with a grounder. He resented that the Babe and his brute force had taken over baseball.

Before playing the Browns in St. Louis, Cobb told a reporter, "I'll show you something today. I'm going for home runs for the first time in my career."

Cobb, the Tigers' player-manager, was 38 and in his 21st season in the majors. Only once had he reached double figures in homers (12 in 1921), though he had led the American League with nine in 1909.

Cobb was as good as his word today. In the first and second innings, he smashed home runs into the right-field bleachers. In the eighth, he went even deeper, sending the ball beyond the bleachers and onto Grand Avenue. His three homers tied the 20th century record for most in a game.

In his other three at-bats in the Tigers' 14-8 victory, Cobb had two singles and a double. With his 16 total bases, he broke by three the modern record. He finished 1925 with 12 homers.

Until the Mets' Edgardo Alfonzo accomplished the feat in 1999, no other major leaguer had ever gone 6-for-6 with three homers in a game.

The day after his three-homer performance, Cobb banged out two more home runs against the Browns, becoming the first player in the 20th century to hit five homers in back-to-back games.

Odds 'n' Ends

For his career, he ended up with 118 homers in 11,429 at-bats, or a shade better than one homer in every 100 at-bats.

His father William named his first child Tyrus, after the Phoenician city of Tyre, which withstood months of siege by Alexander the Great's army.

William tried to discourage Ty from playing baseball as a youngster. William was quoted as saying: "There's nothing so useless on earth as knocking a string ball around a pasture with ruffians."

When asked why he fought so hard, Cobb said, "I did it for my father, who was an exalted man. He never got to see me play [in the majors]. But I knew he was watching me and I never let him down."

As a kid, Cobb used to take his homemade bat, "Big Yellow," to bed with him.

Sam Crawford, the Hall of Fame outfielder who played with Cobb for 13 years, said, "He came up with an antagonistic attitude. Any little razzing [was turned] into a life-or-death struggle. He was still fighting the Civil War. We were all damn Yankees before he even met us."

In the summer of 1906, Cobb had a nervous breakdown and entered a sanitarium. He left the Tigers in July and didn't return until September.

In 1907, Cobb received his first commercial endorsement -- from Coca-Cola.

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, Ga., and ended up choking the man's wife when she intervened. Tiger catcher Charley "Boss" Schmidt beat him up for his assault on the woman. Tigers manager Hugh Jennings offered the 20-year-old Cobb to Cleveland for outfielder Elmer Flick, the 1905 A.L. batting champion with a .306 average. Nap Lajoie, the Indians' player-manager, turned down the deal, believing Cobb was too much trouble.

Cobb's outbursts didn't stop when his playing career ended, either. He continued to argue with waitresses, cashiers, customs officials, policemen and old friends. When he drank, his behavior was even worse.

In June of 1912, three men jumped Cobb and his wife in Detroit. Cobb pulled his gun, but it wouldn't fire. He chased down one of the fleeing thieves and beat the man's face to an unrecognizable pulp with the butt of his pistol.

"An extremely peculiar soul, brooding and bubbling with violence, devious, suspicious and combative all the way."

-- Grantland Rice

"My father had his head blown off with a shotgun when I was 18 years old -- by a member of my own family. I didn't get over that."

-- Ty Cobb

Philadelphia Athletics third baseman Frank "Home Run" Baker, who was spiked by Cobb in 1909, called Cobb's slashing spikes "Cobb's kiss."

Cobb is the only major leaguer with two hitting streaks of at least 35 games. He had a 40-game streak in 1911 and a 35-game streak in 1917.

Cobb won the Triple Crown in 1909, hitting .377 with nine homers and 107 RBI. He kept the batting title in 1910 with a .385 average, one point higher than Nap Lajoie. The next year, Cobb had his best season, leading in eight offensive categories: batting (.420), slugging percentage (.621), hits (248), doubles (47), triples (24), runs (147), RBI (144) and steals (83). Except for stolen bases, all were career bests for Cobb, who won the first AL MVP award. He became the first player to have successive .400 seasons, batting .410 in 1912.

In 1915, Cobb stole a then-record 96 bases, scored 144 runs and won his ninth straight batting title with a .369 average. But his streak ended the next year, his .371 finishing second to Tris Speaker's .386. He then won batting titles the following three years with the remarkably consistent averages of .383, .382 and .384.

On his 34th birthday, Cobb was named Detroit's player-manager. While the Tigers played above .500 in five of Cobb's six seasons as manager, only once did they finish within single-digits of the first-place team. Cobb the player didn't let down Cobb the manager, remaining among the league leaders at .389, .401 (George Sisler hit .420), .340, .338, .378 and .339

Cobb was divorced twice; the father of five children.

Heinie Manush, a future Hall of Famer who was Cobb's protégé as a rookie in 1923, said, "I couldn't like him as a man. No way. He ran things like a dictator. But as a teacher, he was the best."

After the 1926 season, Cobb was accused by former Tigers teammate Dutch Leonard of fixing a 1919 game against Cleveland. Leonard said he, Cobb, and the Indians' Tris Speaker and Joe Wood were in on the fix. He sent two letters, one written by Cobb, to A.L. President Ban Johnson as evidence. The matter was referred to Commissioner Landis, who exonerated the players. However, many baseball people believed Leonard and thought that Landis ruled as he did because he didn't want another gambling scandal to taint baseball.

In 1936, in the first balloting for the Hall of Fame, Cobb received the most votes (222 of 226), outpolling Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.

Cobb began investing early in his career and became a millionaire buying stock in Coca-Cola and United Motors (now General Motors). When he died of cancer at age 74 on July 17, 1961, in Atlanta, The Sporting News reported he was worth as much as $12 million. In 2005 American dollars that would be equal to nearly $75 million.

Only four people from baseball attended his funeral.

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"won his ninth straight batting title" WOW

MWG is there any way to archive these threads in their own area? I don't want to miss any. Outstanding idea Bert. I look forward to each one.

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In June of 1912, three men jumped Cobb and his wife in Detroit. Cobb pulled his gun, but it wouldn't fire. He chased down one of the fleeing thieves and beat the man's face to an unrecognizable pulp with the butt of his pistol.

Bert, thanks again for the thread.

The pistol-whipping incident cited above is a mystery. It has been said that Cobb killed the would-be robber by beating him to death with his pistol. But baseball historians pored through police and morgue records for the entire summer of 1912, and there is no record of a man being killed in this manner. Here's a link to a piece about that incident written by the wonderful Cobb researcher Bill Burgess:

http://baseballguru.com/bburgess/analysisbburgess01.html

Burgess also claims Cobb wasn't as racist, or as evil, as legend claims. Here are some links to a few articles on that subject:

http://baseballguru.com/bburgess/analysisbburgess04.html

http://baseballguru.com/bburgess/analysisbburgess02.html

If you like reading about Cobb, this is can't-miss stuff.

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Bert, thanks again for the thread.

The pistol-whipping incident cited above is a mystery. It has been said that Cobb killed the would-be robber by beating him to death with his pistol. But baseball historians pored through police and morgue records for the entire summer of 1912, and there is no record of a man being killed in this manner. Here's a link to a piece about that incident written by the wonderful Cobb researcher Bill Burgess:

http://baseballguru.com/bburgess/analysisbburgess01.html

Burgess also claims Cobb wasn't as racist, or as evil, as legend claims. Here are some links to a few articles on that subject:

http://baseballguru.com/bburgess/analysisbburgess04.html

http://baseballguru.com/bburgess/analysisbburgess02.html

If you like reading about Cobb, this is can't-miss stuff.

Has anyone read the two books by Cobb's biographer, Stump? I haven't but I understand that the first one published in 1961 was a sanitized PR piece written with Cobb's direction and edited under his over-bearing, scrutinizing eye. The second one in the mid-'90s was the real story and it's sub-title was "The meanest man to ever play baseball." I understand this second book was an unvarnished version that was not very flattering.

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Has anyone read the two books by Cobb's biographer, Stump? I haven't but I understand that the first one published in 1961 was a sanitized PR piece written with Cobb's direction and edited under his over-bearing, scrutinizing eye. The second one in the mid-'90s was the real story and it's sub-title was "The meanest man to ever play baseball." I understand this second book was an unvarnished version that was not very flattering.

I've read the latter several yeras ago. Not flattering is a good way to put it if I recall correctly. Its probably due for a reread.

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