“He was the strangest of all our national sports idols. But not even his disagreeable character could destroy the image of his greatness as a ballplayer. Ty Cobb was the best. That seemed to be all he wanted.”
– Jimmy Cannon
“Baseball is a red-blooded sport for
red-blooded men. It’s no pink tea,
and mollycoddles had better stay out.
It’s a struggle for supremacy, a
survival of the fittest.”
In one of the most awkwardly headlined stories I’ve read (THIS WEEK IN MICHIGAN HISTORY: Detroit Tigers legend Ty Cobb died) the Freep notes that Detroit Tiger legend Ty Cobb died on July 17, 1961 in Atlanta. Besides, tomorrow (July 18) is the 80th anniversary of Cobb’s 4000th hit.
Because that’s just about all the excuse I need for a baseball story, especially one about perhaps the greatest player ever to over-sharpen his spikes, here goes.
This article on Ty Cobb we did last summer does a decent job of presenting Cobb’s body of baseball work: lifetime .367 average, over 4,000 hits, the all-time record for runs scored and being the first player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame are just a few of Cobb’s accomplishments. While Wikipedia’s Ty Cobb entry provides the Reader’s Digest look at the career of one of baseball’s greatest (and most controversial) players, James Kossuth’s Ty Cobb Page is the unquestioned resource for all things Cobb.
He was able to hit the way he did by working himself into a hateful frenzy before each at bat. If he could hate the pitcher, then he would go up to bat ready to humiliate the pitcher in front of all the fans in the stands. To further annoy and irritate pitchers, he would sometimes act as if he didn’t care about or even notice the pitcher. He would bend over to pick up a handful of dirt when the pitcher was beginning his delivery, frazzling the pitcher. One time, with Eddie Cicotte pitching, he kept his back turned and talked to Sam Crawford, waiting in the on-deck circle. Cicotte did not know how to react to this and was unable to throw a strike, walking Cobb on four pitches. Not only that, Cobb claims, but his little stunt so infuriated Cicotte that he had to be taken out of the game.
This Ty Cobb biography has some nice pictures I hadn’t seen, here’s a link to the Ty Cobb museum and you may also want to see Ty Cobb’s page at the Baseball Hall of Fame and the official Ty Cobb page.