Ty Cobb


"Baseball," Ty Cobb liked to say, "is something like a war...Baseball is a red-
blooded sport for red-blooded men. It\'s not pink tea, and mollycoddles had
better stay out of it. It\'s...a struggle for supremacy, a survival of the
fittest" (Ward and Burns 64). Although Ty Cobb was possibly the greatest player
in baseball history, many people would consider him its worst person. Tyrus
Raymond Cobb was born December 18, 1886 in The Narrows, Georgia. His parents
named him after the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre, which stubbornly refused to
surrender to Alexander the Great. From the very beginning, he took after the
city and became one of baseball\'s most stubborn and hated men. The Georgia Peach,
so-called, was a creature of extremes. Ty Cobb is, by bald statistics,
measurably the greatest hitter ever; he was, by the reckoning of virtually
everyone who met him, personally the most despicable human being ever to grace
the National Pastime (Deford 56). Cobb\'s playing career, with the Detroit Tigers
and the Philadelphia Athletics, was arguably the best anyone ever had. He won
twelve batting titles in thirteen years, including a record nine in a row. He
also holds the records for the most runs scored with 2,245 and the highest
lifetime batting average at .367, a number nearly unreachable even in just one
season by today\'s standards. Other records he set that have since been broken:
3,034 games played, 4,191 hits, 892 stolen bases, 392 outfield assists, 1,136
extra base hits, and 1,961 runs batted in. He also struck out just 357 times in
11,429 times at bat, a phenomenal achievement. After his career ended, in 1936,
he was the leading vote-getter of the first class of the Baseball Hall of Fame,
beating even Babe Ruth. However, Cobb\'s career was marred with controversy and
scandals. He was hated by nearly every player in the league, including his own
teammates. When he was first called up to play with Detroit, he was extremely
unpopular with his teammates. They locked him out of the bathroom, tore the
crown out of his straw hat and sawed in half the bat that had been especially
fashioned for him by his hometown coffin maker. He did not take any of it with
good humor and could not bear to be the target of the mildest joke. He fought
back with his fists, refused to speak to his tormentors, developed ulcers, took
to sleeping with a revolver under his pillow, and soon began to display an
obsessive animosity toward blacks. One day when a black groundskeeper tried to
shake his hand, Cobb slapped him, chased him into the dugout and then tried to
strangle the man\'s wife when she came to his aid (Ward and Burns 64). In 1926
retired pitcher Dutch Leonard told American League president Ban Johnson that
near the end of the 1919 season, Leonard and Tiger teammate Cobb, along with two
Cleveland Indians, had arranged to throw a game and bet on it. According to
Leonard, Cobb was planning to bet $2,000 on the game, but apparently didn\'t get
his money down on time. Therefore, when Johnson turned the case over to
commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Landis exonerated all parties involved,
stating the case to be "rather old" and sensing overwhelming public support for
Cobb and Tris Speaker, another Hall-of-Famer involved in the incident ("The Cobb
Gambling Scandal" 20). One day, after a crippled New York heckler called Cobb "a
half-nigger" in 1912, he climbed into the stands and savagely beat the man.
When an onlooker pleaded that the heckler had no hands, Cobb replied, "I don\'t
care if he has no feet" (Wulf 45). When Cleveland catcher Nig Clarke kidded Cobb
that he had once applied a phantom tag to nail him at the plate, Cobb grabbed
Clarke\'s throat with such fury that it took three men to pull him off (Wulf 45).
Before he even reached the majors, Cobb tried to attract interest in himself by
writing false pseudonymous letters and postcards to famous sportswriter of the
time Grantland Rice, praising himself in an effort to be noticed and get called
up to the majors (Wulf 45). Cobb knew he was hated by most players around the
league, and on October 9, 1910, he found out just how much. Cobb and
Cleveland\'s Nap Lajoie were in a dead-heat tie for the American League batting
title. Cobb sat out that day\'s doubleheader. His teammates were angry at him,
knowing he was just trying to keep his average high by sitting out. Nearly all
players in the league were rooting