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Historic Tiger Baseball #9--XMAS with Ty Cobb Vol. IV

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Special Edition

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An amazing photograph of Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, his partner in hunting -- and possibly in fixing baseball games. This image from 1926 captures the two on a day off, guns in hand, antlers from successful kills littering the ground.

Christmas with Ty Cobb

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Chapter 4

Greatest player ever

But would you want him to marry

your sister?

By Shirley Povich

Washington Post Columnist

Sunday, January 1, 1995; Page D14

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/longterm/general/povich/launch/cobb.htm

The book is out ("Cobb, a Biography") and the movie ("Cobb") will be showing throughout the country next week, and now everybody is reminded for sure that Ty Cobb was, indeed, a vicious, demonic fiend who took to the ballfield every day with blood — not his own — in his eye. And how he cut and ravaged and savaged his way to all those records (90) he put in baseball's archives.

Yes, the greatest player of all time was baseball's preeminent unconscionable scoundrel; as miserable a cretin as ever pulled on a uniform, and an outspoken racial bigot to boot.

Cobb not only honed his spikes to his desired cutting edge for any infielders who got in his way, but off the field he was often an instant heel who beat up on waiters and bartenders and any civilians he conjectured as unfriendly, including any in the grandstands.

It's all there in the book by Al Stump, a fine writer and Cobb's longtime biographer companion who suffered Cobb's ugly presence to the very last of his days as a drunken, cancer-riddled diabetic wreck who abused even his nurses.

It's all there, including how he may have been traumatized as a teenager when the father Cobb loved was shot dead by his mother, who mistook him for a second-story burglar. She was tried and acquitted of murder. But how much did it affect the youthful Cobb, how much did it account for a neurosis that would take so many violent forms, including horse whipping his son for flunking out of college? That was for the shrinks to decide.

But it is also a truth that in the 90 years since that teenage Georgia youth broke in with the Detroit Tigers, the game has never seen his equal in baseball skills. Young Cobb reinvented the game for himself and proved he could cut and slash his way around the bases, and intimidate, and win 12 American League batting titles with his highly unorthodox hands-apart batting grip that was also new to the game.

Also new to the game was the constant violence he brought to it, and so good riddance to Ty Cobb.

Yet, as nasty as he was, there was an occasional outbreak of sentiment by Cobb. At some point following his retirement, the meanest man ever to play the game was visited by some out-of-character kindly thoughts toward others, a sort of peeling off of the malice that was in his nature.

Recalled here was an afternoon in Cobb's company at a Cooperstown hotel where Cobb, now in his seventies, was attending the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, as was his custom. Willing to talk about the game he had dominated, he revealed himself on this day as a man of some benevolence.

"Damn it," Cobb said, "Sam Rice should be put in the Hall of Fame here." Like Cobb, Sam Rice of the Washington Senators was an outfielder, and Cobb was saying: "Sam Rice belongs. You don't appreciate how good a ballplayer a man is until you play against him and I played against Sam Rice for 14 years and he could do everything, and I'm saying his name should be here too."

Cobb made it a project. No player could have a weightier endorsement. In 1963, Sam Rice (career .322, lacking only 13 hits to reach the 3,000 milestone) was voted into the Hall of Fame.

From the late Harry Heilmann I learned more about Ty Cobb. Heilmann, who joined the Tigers as a rookie outfielder in 1914, talked of his relationship, or rather non-relationship, with Cobb. "We were in the same batting order for several years before Cobb spoke to me. That was because I was hitting better than .300 and Cobb saw me as a threat to all those batting titles he had been winning {nine in a row} and he was cool to me."

Matters changed in 1921, Heilmann said. "That was when Cobb became manager of the Tigers and now he needed me, and turned friendly. He showed me more about hitting than I ever knew. That year my average zoomed to .394 and got me the first of my four batting titles."

Heilmann said Cobb was the most intense man he ever saw. "He would have made a great banker, a great general, a great scientist — great at whatever he wanted to be. Let me tell you about that time in the Tigers' training camp in New Orleans when Cobb was our manager.

"Those were the days when every big league camp had a sliding pit, and after practice one day Cobb came past a group of us trying to broad jump. The Tigers had signed a young college first baseman who had won the broad jump at the Drake Relays and the fellow was teaching us how to make the leaps.

"Cobb watched for a while and then said he'd have a try at it himself. He outjumped everybody except the kid and then left unhappy and mumbling to himself.

"Ten days later, Cobb grabbed the kid and said, 'Let's you and me jump.' They had three goes at it and Cobb won all three. We found out that for the last 10 days he'd been sneaking off to town and taking broad jump lessons from the Loyola College track coach. Cobb wouldn't finish second to anybody."

Heilmann died of cancer at the age of 56 in 1951. Before his death, when Cobb learned that the Veterans Committee was poised to vote Heilmann into the Hall of Fame, he prevailed on Cooperstown officials to waive the rules and let him inform Heilmann prematurely — on his deathbed — of the honor. Ty Cobb was not all bad, all the time.

Clark Griffith related to me how he once dealt with the menace of Ty Cobb in the Detroit lineup. It was when he was managing the New York Highlanders (later the Yankees) in 1907 that Griffith hatched his plot to neutralize the threat of Ty Cobb.

"I took a second-string third baseman, big George Moriarty, and put him on first base," Griffith said. "Then I told our pitcher to walk Cobb first time up. Previously, I had told Moriarty to call Cobb some nasty names and pick a fight with him, and Moriarty was willing. Picking the fight with Cobb was easy and the umpire threw both men out of the game. I got rid of Cobb at the cost of only a backup first baseman."

Cobb died in 1961 at the age of 74, a broken man. But from beyond the grave he was hauled back into the news in 1985. That was when Pete Rose began making an assault on Cobb's record of 4,191 base hits that, presumably, would be standing for all time. When the aggressive Rose did collect the tie-breaking 4,192, it was loudly hailed in terms tantamount to a New Coming. And a Feat for the Ages, prompting all the front-page news.

Yet to acclaim Rose as the new hit champion and superior to Cobb in any respect was to make even Cobb's detractors bristle. Also none of the game's historians was troubling himself to point out that Rose needed approximately 2,500 more times at bat, equivalent to four full seasons, to achieve Cobb's plateau.

To compare Pete Rose with Ty Cobb is, on any basis, an insult to Cobb. For stealing 20 bases Rose became known as Charlie Hustle. Cobb never stole fewer than 20 in his career and set one record at 96. Compare them as hitters? Another affront to Cobb, who had a career average of .367 (in the dead ball era) compared to Rose's .301. A .323 season was Rose's peak. Cobb never fell to that mark.

One of the remembered tributes to Ty Cobb is the story that used to make the rounds in such New York watering holes as Toots Shor's 52nd Street restaurant, where Toots himself liked to pose the question:

"How much do you think Ty Cobb would hit against today's pitching?"

Whereupon Toots would answer it himself. "I'd say maybe .310, perhaps .320."

"You say .310? Is that all?"

That permitted Toots to say, "Remember, Cobb today would be 74 years old."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

TY COBB
Cobb, Tyrus Raymond "The Georgia Peach"
b: 12/18/1886, Narrows, Ga. d: 7/17/61, Atlanta, Ga.
BL/TR, 6'1", 175 lbs. Deb: 8/30/05 MH
==============================================================================
YEAR TM/L G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1905 Det-A 41 150 19 36 6 0 1 15 10 .240
1906 Det-A 98 358 45 113 15 5 1 34 19 .316
1907 *Det-A 150 605 97 212 28 14 5 119 24 .350
1908 *Det-A 150 581 88 188 36 20 4 108 34 .324
1909 *Det-A 156 573 116 216 33 10 9 107 48 .377
1910 Det-A 140 506 106 194 35 13 8 91 64 .383
1911 Det-A 146 591 147 248 47 24 8 127 44 .420
1912 Det-A 140 553 120 226 30 23 7 83 43 .409
1913 Det-A 122 428 70 167 18 16 4 67 58 31 .390
1914 Det-A 98 345 69 127 22 11 2 57 57 22 .368
1915 Det-A 156 563 144 208 31 13 3 99 118 43 .369
1916 Det-A 145 542 113 201 31 10 5 68 78 39 .371
1917 Det-A 152 588 107 225 44 24 6 102 61 34 .383
1918 Det-A 111 421 83 161 19 14 3 64 41 21 .382
1919 Det-A 124 497 92 191 36 13 1 70 38 22 .384
1920 Det-A 112 428 86 143 28 8 2 63 58 28 .334
1921 Det-A 128 507 124 197 37 16 12 101 56 19 .389
1922 Det-A 137 526 99 211 42 16 4 99 55 24 .401
1923 Det-A 145 556 103 189 40 7 6 88 66 14 .340
1924 Det-A 155 625 115 211 38 10 4 78 85 18 .338
1925 Det-A 121 415 97 157 31 12 12 102 65 12 .378
1926 Det-A 79 233 48 79 18 5 4 62 26 2 .339
1927 Phi-A 134 490 104 175 32 7 5 93 67 12 .357
1928 Phi-A 95 353 54 114 27 4 1 40 34 16 .323
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total 24 3035 11434 2246 4189 724 295 117 1937 1249 ?357 .366

1tyandkids.jpg

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For everything there is a season and it looks like people have had enough of Ty Cobb. We'll move on tomorrow to another player.

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I can never get enough of Ty Cobb.

Me, neither.

BTW, in the last Cobb thread, you asked if anyone had read Al Stump's most recent bio of the Peach. I did, and I thought it was okay. Others, including the aforementioned Bill Burgess (the Cobb historian) thinks Stump's book, and the Cobb movie, were hatchet jobs.

My favorite Cobb bios are a recent picture-dominated book by local writer Richard Bak, called "Ty Cobb: His Tumultuous Life and Times"; and the biography by Charles Alexander, "Ty Cobb."

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Me, neither.

BTW, in the last Cobb thread, you asked if anyone had read Al Stump's most recent bio of the Peach. I did, and I thought it was okay. Others, including the aforementioned Bill Burgess (the Cobb historian) thinks Stump's book, and the Cobb movie, were hatchet jobs.

My favorite Cobb bios are a recent picture-dominated book by local writer Richard Bak, called "Ty Cobb: His Tumultuous Life and Times"; and the biography by Charles Alexander, "Ty Cobb."

I liked the Charles Alexander book.

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I'd like to know more about the post-baseball years. This $12 million is still bothering me...I know that Coke and GM stock did pretty well, and I haven't researched the total returns on those stocks for the 30 or 40 years up to 1961, but that's a heck of a lot of money to be made just on investments. I'm still thinking that he must have foreclosed on a widow or two along the way. What's the "definitive" biography to read for the non-baseball stuff?

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I am always surprised at the continued differences that people had in describing his character. What's up with that?

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Bert I have really enjoyed your articles of Cobb. First 2 things I do when I get to work in the morning.

1. Get cofee

2. Look for some Bert reading!:happy:

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Bert I have really enjoyed your articles of Cobb. First 2 things I do when I get to work in the morning.

1. Get cofee

2. Look for some Bert reading!:happy:

Bert, even though I don't always comment, I'm reading this stuff too.

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Thanks for the kind words all. I'm less concerned about comments than hits as a gauge that people are reading it all. An occasional comment just keeps it from dropping too far down the list--although I never tire of hearing expressions of your heart felt love.:cheeky:

At noon there were only 13 hits so my thought was that people were tired of Cobb. There's not a lot more that you can't find on your own, really, aside from Bill Burgess' material. I may post one more farewell thread of pictures dedicated to the "gentle giant" in a day or so then move on to other players and events.

We do have another one hundred years of players and history to cover. After all, our team colors are navy blue and orange--not teal and orange.

*smirk*

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The Cobb articles have been great Bert. Thios whole series you have developed gives me one more thing to look forward to every couple of days. Thank You.

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I may post one more farewell thread of pictures dedicated to the "gentle giant" in a day or so then move on to other players and events.

Wahoo Sam would be a good one. And Fatty Fothergill.

Thanks again, Bert.

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Great post Bert.

Couple of notes, Shirley Povich was 90(!) when he wrote that article. Like many other writers (especially Povich!), he had his biases, so we need to take some of his commentary and "facts" with a grain of salt.

Also, Cobb invested in Coca-Cola earlier than the 30's & keep in mind that COKE split a couple of times along the way in his lifetime (2 for 1 in 1927, 4 for 1 in 1935, 3 for 1 in 1960)

Cobb not only lent his image and name to Coca-Cola, he also invested his money. A shrewd businessman, Cobb bought his first stock in the Atlanta-based soft drink company in 1918 at the suggestion of friend Robert Woodruff, the son of the president of Coca-Cola and later himself the leader of the company for more than six decades. Cobb took out a loan against his future baseball earnings to buy his first 1,000 shares and continued to invest in Coca-Cola throughout his lifetime. Quickly, Cobb and Woodruff developed a close relationship, harbored by their common Georgian heritage — Woodruff a native of Atlanta. Like Cobb, Woodruff was a sportsman and an intense competitor, and he would often invite Cobb to go quail hunting on his 30,000 acre hunting plantation in Ichauway, Georgia.
One of baseball's highest paid players, Cobb continued to put money into the company, later purchasing three Coca-Cola bottling plants, in Santa Maria, California, Twin Falls, Idaho and Bend, Oregon. Eventually he would own more than 20,000 shares of Coca-Cola stock, making him one of the major stockholders in the company and earning him a place on the board of directors. As the company grew, Cobb's fortune swelled. At the time of his death in 1961, Cobb's estimated worth was between $10 and $12 million, "a large volume of it generated by Coca-Cola stock," according to Coca-Cola spokesman Phil Mooney. Due, in large part, to these investments, Cobb was able to establish the Cobb Educational Foundation of Atlanta, which paid college tuition for thousands of young people, and to build the Cobb Memorial Hospital of Royston, Georgia, just a few miles from his home town.

http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/history/2002/021218_cobb_ty.htm

http://www.milliplex.com/omnivalue/transactions/coca-cola.html

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Great post Bert.

Couple of notes, Shirley Povich was 90(!) when he wrote that article. Like many other writers (especially Povich!), he had his biases, so we need to take some of his commentary and "facts" with a grain of salt.

Also, Cobb invested in Coca-Cola earlier than the 30's & keep in mind that COKE split a couple of times along the way in his lifetime (2 for 1 in 1927, 4 for 1 in 1935, 3 for 1 in 1960)

http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/history/2002/021218_cobb_ty.htm

http://www.milliplex.com/omnivalue/transactions/coca-cola.html

Thank you very much for adding to the thread. This is exactly what I'm hoping for. He owned the Coke plant in Twin Falls, Idaho? Had no idea. I go to Twin all the time on business.

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I can never get enough of Ty Cobb.

I can never get enough Bert. Oh, that sounds odd, did I say that out loud?:embar:

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I can never get enough Bert. Oh, that sounds odd, did I say that out loud?:embar:

Perhaps, I can't get enough Idaho sounds better? :laugh:

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Good show Redshark, that really helps to add up the $12 million. Taking out a loan in 1918 to buy stock explains a lot, as do the bottling plants. Now I'd like to read about the working conditions at the bottling plants that Ty owned. Something by Dickens I think.

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By the way, anyone who wants to do the research and calculate the total annualized return on Coke shares since 1918, I'd love to see it. You'd need to know the dividend payout year-by-year, and have an accurate tracking of the splits. Obviously I'm too frickin' lazy and anyway I'm suddenly really busy. God damned customers...they're lucky I need the money.

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Can you imagine the kind of media attention Cobb would get today? Can you imagine how NEGATIVE it would be due to his mannerisms, and what a shame it would be? Although I would have liked to see him play with today's players, I'm glad he was around when he was, since today's media and PC trends might have adversely effected his awesome play.

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