Ty Cobb

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Ty Cobb : biography

18 December 1886 – 17 July 1961

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."

Cobb as player/manager

Tiger owner Frank Navin tapped Cobb to take over for Hughie Jennings as manager for the season, a deal he signed on his 34th birthday for $32,500 (equivalent to approximately $ in today’s funds). The signing surprised the baseball world. Although Cobb was a legendary player, he was disliked throughout the baseball community, even by his own teammates; and he expected as much from his players since he set a standard most players couldn’t meet.

The closest Cobb came to winning another pennant was in , when the Tigers finished in third place, six games behind the pennant-winning Washington Senators. The Tigers had also finished third in , 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.

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 of service in professional baseball.

At the end of 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 Brownie player-manager George Sisler each pitched in the final game, Cobb pitching a perfect inning. Also that season (see also above), on May 5–6, he tied a major league record hitting five home runs over two games, a feat also achieved by Cap Anson in 1884, which not even Babe Ruth ever managed.

Move to Philadelphia

Cobb finally called it quits after a 22-year career as a Tiger, in November 1926. He announced his retirement 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.

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 Judge 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.

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.