By Glen Sparks
Ty Cobb played 24 seasons in the major leagues, 3,034 games. Every game was a battle, every season a war. “Cobb was pursued by demons,” MLB historian John Thorn has said.
Born Dec. 18, 1886, in Narrows, Ga., Tyrus Raymond Cobb grew up the son of a school-teacher dad and wealthy mom. Young Ty idolized his dad, who wanted his son to study law or medicine, not play baseball.
The game fascinated young Cobb, though, and he began trying out for various semi-pro clubs. He figured to make it big as a ballplayer and make his dad proud. On Aug. 8, 1905, Amanda Cobb fatally shot her husband, William Herschel Cobb. Charged with murder, Mrs. Cobb was later acquitted of the charge.
W.H. Cobb had suspected his wife of adultery. He left home one night and hoped to sneak back and catch his wife in an act of infidelity. Amanda Cobb shot her husband when she saw a silhouette in the window.
“He never got to see my play,” Ty Cobb always said.
One of the greatest players ever—maybe the greatest ever—competed with a sense of fury in large part because of what happened on that humid August night in 1905.
This is a summary of the life of Ty Cobb.
- “A ball bat is wondrous weapon.” – Ty Cobb
- Cobb batted .240 (150 at-bats) in his rookie season of 1905. He hit at least .316 in every season after that.
- The Georgia Peach won 12 batting titles over his 24-year career (1905-23). He topped the A.L. in hitting every year from 1907-15 and from 1917-19.
- Cobb took home the Triple Crown in 1909. He led the league with nine homers, 107 RBI and a .377 batting average.
- In 11 seasons, Cobb drove in at least 90 runs without reaching double digits in homers. His single-season high mark in home runs was 12 (1921 and 1925).
- Cobb always played the game hard. He famously cut the arm of Philadelphia A’s third baseman Frank “Home Run” Baker after sliding on a close play. Death threats from riled-up A’s fans followed.
- “The great American game should be an unrelenting war of nerves.” – Ty Cobb.
- “He lived on the field as though it was hit last day.” – Branch Rickey
- Cobb committed several violent assaults. He held some detestable racial views, especially early in his career. Once, he went into a rage when a black groundskeeper tried to shake his hand. Later, his racial views reportedly mellowed. He called Willie Mays “the only player I’d pay to see.”
- Cobb put together his lone MVP season in 1911. That year, he led all A.L. players in runs scored (147), hits (248), doubles (47), triples (24), RBI (127), batting average (.420), slugging percentage (.621), OPS (1.088), OPS+ (196) and total baes (367). He finished second in homers (eight) and on-base percentage (.467).
- “I never saw anyone like Ty Cobb. No one even close to him. He was the greatest all-time ballplayer.” – Casey Stengel
- Cobb’s regular-season heroics did not extend into the post-season. He hit .200 (4-for-20) in the 1907 Series, .368 in 1908 (7-for-19) but just one extra-base hit, and .231 (6-for-26) in 1909. The Tigers lost all three Series.
- Cobb served as player-manager for Detroit from 1921-26. His squads compiled a 479-444 (.519) mark and finished as high as second place (83-71-1) in 1923.
- When he retired, Cobb held the major league records for games played (3,035), at-bats (11,434), runs scored (2,246), hits (4,189), total bases (5,854) and batting average (.366). He held the 20th century mark for most career stolen bases (892).
- All told, Cobb led the league in OPS 10 times, hits and slugging percentage eight times, on-base percentage seven times and stolen bases six times.
- Cobb left baseball a wealthy man. He owned thousands of shares of Coca-Cola, along with three bottling plants. He helped build the Cobb Memorial Hospital in Royston, Ga., (now part of the Ty Cobb Regional Medical Center) and the Cobb Educational Fund for needy college-bound students.
- In 1936, Cobb received more votes than any other player on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s inaugural ballot. Writers gave him 222 of 226 possible votes (98.2 percent).
- “You’ve got to remember, I’m 73.” – Ty Cobb later in life, explaining why he might hit just .300 against the day’s pitchers.
- Cobb died July 17, 1961, at the age of 74. He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Royston, Ga.