Hall of Fame: Ty Cobb (1936)

The “Georgia Peach” wasn’t so peachy.

Before I start, I would like to explain what follows. This is going to be a brief biography of Ty Cobb, mainly focusing on his baseball career. It is not meant to be extensive, innovative, and incredibly exhaustive. It is meant to educate and give a general idea about an important person in baseball history. While I realize most of you know who Ty Cobb is, not everyone does, and not everyone knows a whole lot about him. Furthermore, this is the beginning of a series of such posts about important people in baseball history, and you may not know who all of them are. This post on Ty Cobb begins the series on Hall of Fame players. I’ll begin with the initial class and move forward chronologically until I run out of Hall of Fame players to write about. Future series will include mini-bios on Negro Leaguers (I’m giving them a special series even though some are in the Hall because I may include more than who is in the Hall) and important executives (I plan to mix these up even though the first several will be Hall of Fame players). Again, these are meant to be educational. I’ll do more specific and detailed posts on things such as certain seasons, events, World Series, etc. As for the link, it is brought to you by Baseball-Reference, your home for anything regarding baseball statistics.

 Year Ag Tm  Lg  G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG *OPS+  TB   SH
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
1905 18 DET AL 41 150 19 36 6 0 1 15 2 10 .240 .288 .300 86 45 4
1906 19 DET AL 98 358 45 113 15 5 1 34 23 19 .316 .355 .394 131 141 14
1907 20 DET AL 150 605 97 212 28 14 5 119 49 24 .350 .380 .468 167 283 12
1908 21 DET AL 150 581 88 188 36 20 4 108 39 34 .324 .367 .475 169 276 14
1909 22 DET AL 156 573 116 216 33 10 9 107 76 48 .377 .431 .517 194 296 24
1910 23 DET AL 140 506 106 194 35 13 8 91 65 64 .383 .456 .551 206 279 16
1911 24 DET AL 146 591 147 248 47 24 8 127 83 44 .420 .467 .621 196 367 11
1912 25 DET AL 140 553 120 226 30 23 7 83 61 43 .409 .456 .584 200 323 8
1913 26 DET AL 122 428 70 167 18 16 4 67 51 58 31 .390 .467 .535 194 229 11
1914 27 DET AL 98 345 69 127 22 11 2 57 35 17 57 22 .368 .466 .513 190 177 6
1915 28 DET AL 156 563 144 208 31 13 3 99 96 38 118 43 .369 .486 .487 185 274 9
1916 29 DET AL 145 542 113 201 31 10 5 68 68 24 78 39 .371 .452 .493 179 267 14
1917 30 DET AL 152 588 107 225 44 24 6 102 55 61 34 .383 .444 .570 209 335 16
1918 31 DET AL 111 421 83 161 19 14 3 64 34 41 21 .382 .440 .515 193 217 9
1919 32 DET AL 124 497 92 191 36 13 1 70 28 38 22 .384 .429 .515 166 256 9
1920 33 DET AL 112 428 86 143 28 8 2 63 15 10 58 28 .334 .416 .451 131 193 7
1921 34 DET AL 128 507 124 197 37 16 12 101 22 15 56 19 .389 .452 .596 166 302 15
1922 35 DET AL 137 526 99 211 42 16 4 99 9 13 55 24 .401 .462 .565 170 297 27
1923 36 DET AL 145 556 103 189 40 7 6 88 9 10 66 14 .340 .413 .469 134 261 22
1924 37 DET AL 155 625 115 211 38 10 4 78 23 14 85 18 .338 .418 .450 125 281 15
1925 38 DET AL 121 415 97 157 31 12 12 102 13 9 65 12 .378 .468 .598 170 248 5
1926 39 DET AL 79 233 48 79 18 5 4 62 9 4 26 2 .339 .408 .511 137 119 13
1927 40 PHA AL 134 490 104 175 32 7 5 93 22 16 67 12 .357 .440 .482 133 236 12
1928 41 PHA AL 95 353 54 114 27 4 1 40 5 8 34 16 .323 .389 .431 112 152 2
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
24 Seasons 11434 4189 295 1937 178 357 .366 .433 .512 167 295
3035 2246 724 117 892 1249 5854

Triple Crown in 1909
1 MVP Award (1911)

Tyrus Raymond Cobb was born on December 18, 1886, and he played from 1905 to 1928. When Cobb went out to try for a semi-pro team, his father told him, “Don’t come home a failure.” In August of 1905, he was sold to the Detroit Tigers, but in the same month, his mother killed his father. Supposedly, his father suspected his mother of infidelity and snuck past his own window to try to catch her, but his mother thought he was an intruder and shot him. Cobb would later attribute his play to the memory of his 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.”

Cobb’s playing career was obviously remarkable. At age 20, he became the youngest to win a batting championship until Al Kaline did it in 1955 while a day younger. He apparently cherished winning batting titles so much that he sat out to preserve his average and played mind games with Shoeless Joe Jackson. Cobb also set the single-season stolen base record by stealing 96 bases, which stood until Maury Wills broke it. This style of play caused Cobb to resent the up-and-coming Babe Ruth who hit home runs and refused to be the hit-and-run player Cobb was (Cobb also hated Ruth’s lifestyle), and in order to prove himself, Cobb decided to swing for the fences for a series. In one series, he hit 12 of 19 with five home runs and 29 total bases. Ruth responded by saying, “I could have had a lifetime .600 average, but I would have had to hit them singles. The people were paying to see me hit home runs,” a feeling still present today. In 1921, Cobb would become a player/manager, but he was never really liked and was never really successful. Later that season, he became the youngest and fastest (in at-bats) to 3,000 hits, both records are still intact.

He retired after the 1928 season having hit at least .300 for 23 consecutive seasons, an amazing record not likely to be broken. A dead-ball era legend, the “Georgia Peach” is arguably the best player in baseball history. He received the most votes (222 of 226) in the inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1936.

Off the field, Cobb had a violent temper and was an unabashed racist (albeit, he lived in a much different time with much different values). He stabbed a black man for being “uppity” and choked a black woman when she tried to defend her husband. Cobb also fought with an umpire underneath a grandstand after a game, and the fight was only broken up after Cobb knocked the man down and began to choke him. At the end of his life, Cobb, however, seemed to see some of the error of his ways and supposedly told Joe E. Brown, a comedian, that he regretted having no friends at the end of his life. Cobb died on July 17, 1961.

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2 Responses to “Hall of Fame: Ty Cobb (1936)”

  1. Ron Rollins Says:

    Cobb was a racist, no doubt about it. But there’s a story I remember hearing about how he helped support a black man who lost both his arms in a dray wagon accident, who was trying to save some kids. That might not be the exact story, but something close to it.

    He also provided support to Jimmie Foxx and Pete Alexander, when they fell on hard times and couldn’t support themselves.

    He was obviously a very troubled man who had a lot of issues, but wasn’t quite as bad as made out to be.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    Wow, you were quick. I just notified people like 2 minutes ago.

    As for Cobb, you make a fair point, and it might be worth a later post focusing on Cobb’s racial relations.

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