|Birth Day:||December 18, 1886|
|Death Date:||Jul 17, 1961 (age 74)|
|Birth Place:||Narrows, United States|
As per our current Database, Ty Cobb died on Jul 17, 1961 (age 74).
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He lost his father to a gunshot wound, inflicted by his mother.
Cobb was born in 1886 in Narrows, Georgia, a small rural community of farmers that was unincorporated. He was the first of three children born to William Herschel Cobb (1863–1905) and Amanda Chitwood Cobb (1871–1936). Cobb's father was a state senator.
When he was still an infant, his parents moved to the nearby town of Royston, where he grew up. By most accounts, he became fascinated with baseball as a child, and decided he wanted to play professional ball one day; his father was vehemently opposed to this idea, but by his teen years, he was trying out for area teams. He played his first years in organized baseball for the Royston Rompers, the semi-pro Royston Reds, and the Augusta Tourists of the South Atlantic League who released him after only two days. He then tried out for the Anniston Steelers of the semipro Tennessee–Alabama League, with his father's stern admonition ringing in his ears: "Don't come home a failure!" After joining the Steelers for a monthly salary of $50, Cobb promoted himself by sending several postcards written about his talents under different aliases to Grantland Rice, the sports editor of the Atlanta Journal. Eventually, Rice wrote a small note in the Journal that a "young fellow named Cobb seems to be showing an unusual lot of talent". After about three months, Cobb returned to the Tourists and finished the season hitting .237 in 35 games. In August 1905, the management of the Tourists sold Cobb to the American League's Detroit Tigers for $750 (equivalent to $21,342 in 2019).
On August 8, 1905, Cobb's mother fatally shot his father with a pistol that his father had purchased for her. Court records indicate that Mr. Cobb had suspected his wife of infidelity and was sneaking past his own bedroom window to catch her in the act. She saw the silhouette of what she presumed to be an intruder and, acting in self-defense, shot and killed her husband. Mrs. Cobb was charged with murder and then released on a $7,000 recognizance bond. She was acquitted on March 31, 1906. Cobb later attributed his ferocious play to his late father, saying, "I did it for my father. He never got to see me play ... but I knew he was watching me, and I never let him down."
Three weeks after his mother killed his father, Cobb debuted in center field for the Detroit Tigers. On August 30, 1905, in his first major league at bat, he doubled off Jack Chesbro of the New York Highlanders. Chesbro had won a record 41 games the previous season. Cobb was 18 years old at the time, the youngest player in the league by almost a year. Although he hit only .240 in 41 games, he signed a $1,500 contract to play for the Tigers in 1905.
The following year, 1906, Cobb became the Tigers' full-time center fielder and hit .316 in 98 games, setting a record for the highest batting average (minimum 310 plate appearances) for a 19-year-old (later bested by Mel Ott's .322 average in 124 games for the 1928 New York Giants). He never hit below that mark again. After being moved to right field, he led the Tigers to three consecutive American League pennants in 1907, 1908 and 1909. Detroit would lose each World Series (to the Cubs twice and then the Pirates); however, with Cobb's postseason numbers far below his career standard. Cobb did not get another opportunity to play on a pennant-winning team.
In 1907, Cobb reached first and then stole second, third and home. He accomplished the feat four times during his career, still an MLB record as of 2020. He finished the 1907 season with a league-leading .350 batting average, 212 hits, 49 steals and 119 runs batted in (RBI). At age 20, he was the youngest player to win a batting championship and held this record until 1955, when fellow Detroit Tiger Al Kaline won the batting title while twelve days younger than Cobb had been. Reflecting on his career in 1930, two years after retiring, he told Grantland Rice, "The biggest thrill I ever got came in a game against the Athletics in 1907 [on September 30]... The Athletics had us beaten, with Rube Waddell pitching. They were two runs ahead in the 9th inning, when I happened to hit a home run that tied the score. This game went 17 innings to a tie, and a few days later, we clinched our first pennant. You can understand what it meant for a 20-year-old country boy to hit a home run off the great Rube, in a pennant-winning game with two outs in the ninth."
In September 1907, Cobb began a relationship with The Coca-Cola Company that lasted the remainder of his life. By the time he died, he held over 20,000 shares of stock and owned bottling plants in Santa Maria, California, Twin Falls, Idaho, and Bend, Oregon. He was also a celebrity spokesman for the product. In the offseason between 1907 and 1908, Cobb negotiated with Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina, offering to coach baseball there "for $250 a month, provided that he did not sign with Detroit that season". This did not come to pass, however.
Despite great success on the field, Cobb was no stranger to controversy off it. As described in Smithsonian Magazine, "In 1907 during spring training in Augusta, Georgia, a black groundskeeper named Bungy Cummings, whom Cobb had known for years, attempted to shake Cobb's hand or pat him on the shoulder." The "overly familiar greeting infuriated" Cobb, who attacked Cummings. When Cummings' wife tried to defend him, Cobb allegedly choked her. The assault was only stopped when catcher Charles "Boss" Schmidt knocked Cobb out. However, aside from Schmidt's statement to the press, no other corroborating witnesses to the assault on Cummings ever came forward and Cummings himself never made a public comment about it. Author Charles Leerhsen speculates that the assault on Cummings and his wife never occurred and that Schmidt likely made it up completely. Cobb had spent the previous year defending himself on several occasions from assaults by Schmidt, with Schmidt often coming out of nowhere to blindside Cobb. On that day, several reporters did see Cummings, who appeared to be "partially under the influence of liquor", approach Cobb and shout "Hello, Carrie!" (the meaning of which is unknown) and go in for a hug. Cobb then pushed him away, which was the last interaction that anyone saw between Cobb and Cummings. Shortly thereafter, hearing a fight, several reporters came running and found Cobb and Schmidt wrestling on the ground. When the fight was broken up and Cobb had walked away, Schmidt remained behind and told the reporters that he saw Cobb assaulting Cummings and his wife and had intervened. Leerhsen speculates that this was just another one of Schmidt's assaults on Cobb and that once discovered, Schmidt made up a story that made him sound like he had assaulted Cobb for a noble purpose. In 1908, Cobb attacked a black laborer in Detroit who complained when Cobb stepped into freshly poured asphalt; Cobb was found guilty of battery but the sentence was suspended.
The following season, the Tigers finished ahead of the Chicago White Sox for the pennant. Cobb again won the batting title with a .324 average, but Detroit suffered another loss in the World Series. In August 1908, Cobb married Charlotte ("Charlie") Marion Lombard, the daughter of prominent Augustan Roswell Lombard. In the offseason, the couple lived on her father's Augusta estate, The Oaks, until they moved into their own house on Williams Street in November 1913.
The Tigers won the AL pennant again in 1909. During that World Series, Cobb's last, he stole home in the second game, igniting a three-run rally, but that was the high point for him, finishing with a lowly .231, as the Tigers lost to Honus Wagner and the powerful Pirates in seven games. Although he performed poorly in the postseason, he won the Triple Crown by hitting .377 with 107 RBI and nine home runs, all inside the park, thus becoming the only player of the modern era to lead his league in home runs in a season without hitting a ball over the fence.
Cobb, during his career, was involved in numerous other fights, both on and off the field, and several profanity-laced shouting matches. For example, Cobb and umpire Billy Evans arranged to settle their in-game differences through fisticuffs under the grandstand after the game. Members of both teams were spectators, and broke up the scuffle after Cobb had knocked Evans down, pinned him and began choking him. In 1909, Cobb was arrested for assault for an incident that occurred in a Cleveland hotel. Cobb got into an argument with the elevator operator around 2:15 a.m. when the man refused to take him to the floor where some of his teammates were having a card game. The elevator operator stated that he could only take Cobb to the floor where his room was. As the argument escalated, a night watchman approached and he and Cobb eventually got into a physical confrontation. During the fight, Cobb produced a pen knife and slashed the watchman across the hand. Cobb later claimed that the watchman, who had the upper hand in the fight, had his finger in Cobb's left eye and that Cobb was worried he was going to have his sight ruined. The fight finally ended when the watchman produced a gun and struck Cobb several times in the head, knocking him out. Cobb would later plead guilty to simple assault and pay a $100 fine. This incident has often been retold with the elevator operator and the watchman both being black. However, recent scholarship has shown that all parties involved were white.
Both official sources, such as Total Baseball, and a number of independent researchers, including John Thorn, have raised questions about Cobb's exact career totals. Hits have been re-estimated at between 4,189 and 4,191, due to a possible double-counted game in 1910. At-bats estimates have ranged as high as 11,437. The numbers shown below are the figures officially recognized on MLB.com.
In 1911, Cobb moved to Detroit's architecturally significant and now historically protected Woodbridge neighborhood, from which he would walk with his dogs to the ballpark prior to games. The Victorian duplex in which Cobb lived still stands.
Cobb was having a tremendous year in 1911, which included a 40-game hitting streak. Still, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson led him by .009 points in the batting race late in the season. Near the end of the season, Cobb's Tigers had a long series against Jackson's Cleveland Naps. Fellow Southerners Cobb and Jackson were personally friendly both on and off the field. Cobb used that friendship to his advantage. Cobb ignored Jackson when Jackson tried to say anything to him. When Jackson persisted, Cobb snapped angrily back at him, making him wonder what he could have done to enrage Cobb. Cobb felt that it was these mind games that caused Jackson to "fall off" to a final average of .408, twelve points lower than Cobb's .420, a 20th-century record which stood until George Sisler tied it and Rogers Hornsby surpassed it with .424, the record since then except for Hugh Duffy's .438 in the 19th century.
On May 12, 1911, playing against the New York Highlanders, he scored from first base on a single to right field, then scored another run from second base on a wild pitch. In the seventh inning, he tied the game with a two-run double. The Highlanders catcher vehemently argued the safe call at second base with the umpire in question, going on at such length that the other Highlanders infielders gathered nearby to watch. Realizing that no one on the Highlanders 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 broke into a run and slid into home plate for the eventual winning run. It was performances like this that led Branch Rickey to say later that Cobb "had brains in his feet".
On May 15, 1912, Cobb assaulted a heckler, Claude Lucker (often misspelled as Lueker), in the stands in New York's Hilltop Park where his Tigers were playing the Highlanders. Lucker and Cobb had traded insults with each other through the first couple of innings. Cobb at one point went to the Highlander dugout to look for the Highlander's owner to try to have Lucker ejected from the game, but his search was in vain. The situation finally climaxed when Lucker allegedly called Cobb a "half-nigger". Cobb, in his discussion of the incident in the Holmes biography, avoided such explicit words but alluded to Lucker's epithet by saying he was "reflecting on my mother's color and morals". He went on to state that he warned Highlander manager Harry Wolverton that if something wasn't done about that man, there would be trouble. No action was taken. At the end of the sixth inning, after being challenged by teammates Sam Crawford and Jim Delahanty to do something about it, Cobb climbed into the stands and attacked Lucker, who it turned out was handicapped (he had lost all of one hand and three fingers on his other hand in an industrial accident). When onlookers shouted at him to stop because the man had no hands, he reportedly retorted, "I don't care if he got no feet!" Though extremely rare in the 21st century, attacking fans was not so unusual an activity in the early years of baseball. Other notable baseball stars who assaulted heckling fans include Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Rube Waddell, Kid Gleason, Sherry Magee, and Fred Clarke.
In 1913, Cobb signed a contract worth $12,000 for the six month season (equivalent to $310,424 in 2019), making him likely the first baseball player in history to be paid a five-figure salary.
In 1915, Cobb set the single-season record for stolen bases with 96, which stood until Dodger Maury Wills broke it in 1962. That year, he also won his ninth consecutive batting title, hitting .369.
In 1917, Cobb hit in 35 consecutive games, still the only player with two 35-game hitting streaks (including his 40-game streak in 1911). He had six hitting streaks of at least 20 games in his career, second only to Pete Rose's eight.
Also in 1917, Cobb starred in the motion picture Somewhere in Georgia for a sum of $25,000 plus expenses (equivalent to approximately $499,000 today ). Based on a story by sports columnist Grantland Rice, the film casts Cobb as "himself", a small-town Georgia bank clerk with a talent for baseball. Broadway critic Ward Morehouse called the movie "absolutely the worst flicker I ever saw, pure hokum".
In October 1918, Cobb enlisted in the Chemical Corps branch of the United States Army and was sent to the Allied Expeditionary Forces headquarters in Chaumont, France. He served approximately 67 days overseas before receiving an honorable discharge and returning to the United States. He was given the rank of captain underneath the command of Major Branch Rickey, the president of the St. Louis Cardinals. Other baseball players serving in this unit included Captain Christy Mathewson and Lieutenant George Sisler. All of these men were assigned to the Gas and Flame Division, where they trained soldiers in preparation for chemical attacks by exposing them to gas chambers in a controlled environment, which was eventually responsible for Mathewson's contracting tuberculosis, leading to his premature death on the eve of the 1925 World Series.
Leonard accused former pitcher and outfielder Smoky Joe Wood and Cobb of betting on a Tiger-Indian game played in Detroit on September 25, 1919, in which they allegedly orchestrated a Tiger victory to win the bet. Leonard claimed proof existed in letters written to him by Cobb and Wood. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis held a secret hearing with Cobb, Speaker and Wood. A second secret meeting among the AL directors led to the unpublicized resignations of Cobb and Speaker; however, rumors of the scandal led Judge Landis to hold additional hearings in which Leonard subsequently refused to participate. Cobb and Wood admitted to writing the letters, but claimed that a horse-racing bet was involved and that Leonard's accusations were in retaliation for Cobb's having released him from the Tigers, thereby demoting him to the minor leagues. Speaker denied any wrongdoing.
By 1920, Babe Ruth, sold to the renamed New York Yankees from the Boston Red Sox, had established himself as a power hitter, something Cobb was not considered to be. When his 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 hit two homers and a triple during the series, compared to Cobb's one single.
On August 19, 1921, in the second game of a doubleheader against Elmer Myers of the Boston Red Sox, Cobb collected his 3,000th hit. Aged 34 at the time, he is still the youngest ballplayer to reach that milestone, and in the fewest at-bats (8,093).
In 1922, Cobb tied a batting record set by Wee Willie Keeler, with four five-hit games in a season. This has since been matched by Stan Musial, Tony Gwynn and Ichiro Suzuki. On May 10, 1924, Cobb was honored at ceremonies before a game in Washington, D.C., by more than 100 dignitaries and legislators. He received 21 books, one for each year in professional baseball.
The closest Cobb came to winning another pennant was in 1924, when the Tigers finished in third place, six games behind the pennant-winning Washington Senators. The Tigers had also finished third in 1922, but 16 games behind the Yankees. Cobb blamed his lackluster managerial record (479 wins against 444 losses) on Navin, who was arguably even more frugal than he was, passing up a number of quality players Cobb wanted to add to the team. In fact, he had saved money by hiring Cobb to both play and manage.
On May 5, 1925, Cobb told a reporter that, for the first time in his career, he was going to try to hit home runs, saying he wanted to show that he could hit home runs but simply chose not to. That day, he went 6 for 6, with two singles, a double and three homers. The 16 total bases set a new AL record, which stood until May 8, 2012 when Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers hit four home runs and a double for a total of 18 bases. The next day he had three more hits, two of which were home runs. The single his first time up gave him nine consecutive hits over three games, while his five homers in two games tied the record set by Cap Anson of the old Chicago NL team in 1884. By the end of the series Cobb had gone 12 for 19 with 29 total bases, and afterwards reverted to his old playing style. Even so, when asked in 1930 by Grantland Rice to name the best hitter he'd ever seen, Cobb answered, "You can't beat the Babe. Ruth is one of the few who can take a terrific swing and still meet the ball solidly. His timing is perfect. [No one has] the combined power and eye of Ruth."
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, 1925, Heilmann got six hits to lead the Tigers to a sweep of the doubleheader and beat Cobb for the batting crown, .393 to .389. Cobb and Browns player-manager George Sisler each pitched in the final game, Cobb pitching a perfect inning.
Cobb announced his retirement after a 22-year career as a Tiger in November 1926, and headed home to Augusta, Georgia. Shortly thereafter, Tris Speaker also retired as player-manager of the Cleveland Indians. 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 managed by Cobb.
On January 27, 1927, Judge Landis cleared Cobb and Speaker of any wrongdoing because of Leonard's refusal to appear at the hearings. 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 any club they wanted. Speaker signed with the Washington Senators for 1927, and Cobb with the Philadelphia Athletics. Speaker then joined Cobb in Philadelphia for the 1928 season. Cobb said he had come back only to seek vindication and say he left baseball on his own terms.
Cobb played regularly in 1927 for a young and talented team that finished second to one of the greatest teams of all time, the 110–44 1927 Yankees, returning to Detroit to a tumultuous welcome on May 10 and doubling his first time up to the cheers of Tiger fans. On July 18, Cobb became the first member of the 4,000 hit club when he doubled off former teammate Sam Gibson, still pitching for the Tigers, at Navin Field.
Describing his gameplay strategy in 1930, he said, "My system was all offense. I believed in putting up a mental hazard for the other fellow. If we were five or six runs ahead, I'd try some wild play, such as going from first to home on a single. This helped to make the other side hurry the play in a close game later on. I worked out all the angles I could think of, to keep them guessing and hurrying." In the same interview, Cobb talked about having noticed a throwing tendency of first baseman Hal Chase, but having to wait two full years until the opportunity came to exploit it. By unexpectedly altering his own baserunning tendencies, he was able to surprise Chase and score the winning run of the game in question.
Cobb never had an easy time as husband and father. His children found him to be demanding, yet also capable of kindness and extreme warmth. He expected his sons to be exceptional athletes in general and baseball players in particular. Tyrus Raymond, Jr. flunked out of Princeton (where he had played on the varsity tennis team), much to his father's dismay. The elder Cobb subsequently traveled to the Princeton campus and beat his son with a whip to ensure against future academic failure. Tyrus Raymond, Jr. then entered Yale University and became captain of the tennis team while improving his academics, but was then arrested twice in 1930 for drunkenness and left Yale without graduating. Cobb helped his son deal with his pending legal problems, but then permanently broke off with him. Even though Tyrus Raymond, Jr. finally reformed and eventually earned an M.D. from the Medical College of South Carolina and practiced obstetrics and gynecology in Dublin, Georgia, until his premature death at 42 on September 9, 1952, from a brain tumor, his father remained distant.
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 that first year. His 98.2% stood as the record until Tom Seaver received 98.8% of the vote in 1992. Those incredible results show that although many people disliked him personally, they respected the way he had played and what he had accomplished. In 1998, Sporting News ranked him as third on the list of 100 Greatest Baseball Players.
In retirement, Cobb wrote a letter to a writer for The Sporting News accusing Crawford of not helping in the outfield and of intentionally fouling off balls when Cobb was stealing a base. Crawford learned about the letter in 1946 and accused Cobb of being a "cheapskate" who never helped his teammates. He said that Cobb had not been a very good fielder, "so he blamed me." Crawford denied intentionally trying to deprive Cobb of stolen bases, insisting that Cobb had "dreamed that up".
In the winter of 1930, Cobb moved into a Spanish ranch estate on Spencer Lane in the affluent town of Atherton located south of San Francisco, California on the San Francisco Peninsula. At the same time, his wife Charlie filed the first of several divorce suits; but withdrew the suit shortly thereafter. The couple eventually divorced in 1947 after 39 years of marriage; the last few years of which Mrs. Cobb lived in nearby Menlo Park. The couple had three sons and two daughters: Tyrus Raymond Jr, Shirley Marion, Herschel Roswell, James Howell and Beverly.
At the age of 62, Cobb married a second time in 1949. His new wife was 40-year-old Frances Fairbairn Cass, a divorcee from Buffalo, New York. Their childless marriage also failed, ending with a divorce in 1956. At this time, Cobb became generous with his wealth, donating $100,000 in his parents' name for his hometown to build a modern 24-bed hospital, Cobb Memorial Hospital, which is now part of the Ty Cobb Healthcare System. 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 (equivalent to approximately $955,597 in current year dollars ).
Stories of Cobb's racial intolerance during his playing days were embellished and falsified by his biographers Al Stump and Charles Alexander. Recent research on his life has clarified a number of stories about Cobb. Five years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, Cobb publicly supported blacks and whites playing baseball together, adding, "Certainly it is okay for them to play. I see no reason in the world why we shouldn't compete with colored athletes as long as they conduct themselves with politeness and gentility. Let me say also that no white man has the right to be less of a gentleman than a colored man; in my book that goes not only for baseball but in all walks of life." Using even stronger language, Cobb told the Sporting News in 1952 that "the Negro should be accepted and not grudgingly but wholeheartedly." In 1953, black newspapers cited his praise for Brooklyn Dodgers' catcher Roy Campanella, who Cobb said was "among the all-time best catchers" in baseball. Following Campanella's accident that left him paralyzed, the Dodgers staged a tribute game where tens of thousands of spectators silently held lit matches above their heads. Cobb wrote the Dodgers owner to show appreciation "for what you did for this fine man". Cobb also stated that Willie Mays was the "only player I'd pay money to see". In the obituaries that ran in the black press following Cobb's death, he was praised for "[speaking] in favor of racial freedom in baseball".
He knew that another way he could share his wealth was by having biographies written that would both set the record straight on him and teach young players how to play. John McCallum spent some time with Cobb to write a combination how-to and biography titled The Tiger Wore Spikes: An Informal Biography of Ty Cobb that was published in 1956. In December 1959, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and Bright's disease.
He was taken to Emory University Hospital for the last time in June 1961 after falling into a diabetic coma. His first wife, Charlie, his son Jimmy and other family members came to be with him for his final days. He died there on July 17, 1961, at age 74.
Some historians, including Wesley Fricks, Dan Holmes, and Charles Leerhsen have defended Cobb against unfair portrayals of him in popular culture since his death. A noted case is the book written by sportswriter Al Stump in the months after Cobb died in 1961. Stump was later discredited when it became known that he had stolen items belonging to Cobb and also betrayed the access Cobb gave him in his final months. As a result of the movie Cobb which starred Tommy Lee Jones, there are many myths surrounding Cobb's life, including one that he sharpened his spikes to inflict wounds to opposing players.
In 1977, a statue of Ty Cobb, designed by the sculptor Felix de Weldon, was installed outside the Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium. It would later be relocated to his hometown of Royston in 2017.
It was also during his final years that Cobb began work on his autobiography, My Life in Baseball: The True Record, with writer Al Stump. Later Stump would claim the collaboration was contentious, and after Cobb's death Stump published two more books and a short story giving what he claimed was the "true story". One of these later books was used as the basis for the 1994 film Cobb (a box office flop starring Tommy Lee Jones as Cobb and directed by Ron Shelton). In 2010, an article by William R. "Ron" Cobb (no relation to Ty) in the peer-reviewed The National Pastime (the official publication of the Society for American Baseball Research) accused Stump of extensive forgeries of Cobb-related documents and diaries. The article further accused Stump of numerous false statements about Cobb in his last years, most of which were sensationalistic in nature and intended to cast Cobb in an unflattering light.
Currently, Ty Cobb is 135 years, 6 months and 8 days old. Ty Cobb will celebrate 136th birthday on a Sunday 18th of December 2022.
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