Ty Cobb

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Ty Cobb : biography

18 December 1886 – 17 July 1961

On August 8, 1905 Ty’s mother fatally shot his father, who had suspected her of infidelity and was sneaking past his own bedroom window to catch her in the act; she saw the silhouette of what she presumed to be an intruder and, acting in self-defense, shot and killed her husband. Mrs. Cobb was charged with murder and then released on a $7,000 recognizance bond. She was acquitted on March 31, 1906. Cobb later attributed his ferocious play to his late 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."Stump (1994), p. 27

Rivalry with Sam Crawford

Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb were teammates for parts of thirteen seasons. They played beside each other in right and center field, and Crawford followed Cobb in the batting order year after year. Despite the physical closeness, the two had a complicated relationship.

Initially, they had a student-teacher relationship. Crawford was an established star when Cobb arrived, and Cobb eagerly sought his advice. In interviews with Al Stump, Cobb told of studying Crawford’s base stealing technique and of how Crawford would teach him about pursuing fly balls and throwing out base runners. Cobb told Stump he would always remember Crawford’s kindness.Stump (1994), pp. 58–60

The student-teacher relationship gradually changed to one of jealous rivals. Cobb was not popular with his teammates, and as Cobb became the biggest star in baseball, Crawford was unhappy with the preferential treatment given to Cobb. Cobb was allowed to show up late for spring training and was given private quarters on the road – perks not offered to Crawford. The competition between the two was intense. Crawford recalled that, if he went three for four on a day when Cobb went hitless, Cobb would turn red and sometimes walk out of the park with the game still on. When it was initially (and erroneously) reported that Nap Lajoie had won the batting title, Crawford was alleged to have been one of several Tigers who sent a telegram to Lajoie congratulating him on beating Cobb.

In retirement, Cobb wrote a letter to a writer for The Sporting News accusing Crawford of not helping in the outfield and of intentionally fouling off balls when Cobb was stealing a base. Crawford learned about the letter in 1946 and accused Cobb of being a "cheapskate" who never helped his teammates. He said that Cobb had not been a very good fielder, "so he blamed me." Crawford denied intentionally trying to deprive Cobb of stolen bases, insisting that Cobb had "dreamed that up."Stump (1994), pp. 190–191

When asked about the feud, Cobb attributed it to jealousy. He felt that Crawford was "a hell of a good player," but he was "second best" on the Tigers and "hated to be an also ran." Cobb biographer Richard Bak noted that the two "only barely tolerated each other" and agreed with Cobb that Crawford’s attitude was driven by Cobb’s having stolen Crawford’s thunder.Bak (2005), p. 38

Although they may not have spoken to each other, Cobb and Crawford developed an uncanny ability to communicate non-verbally with looks and nods on the base paths. They became one of the most successful double steal pairings in baseball history.Bak (2005), p. 177

After Cobb died, a reporter found hundreds of letters in Cobb’s home that Cobb had written to influential people lobbying for Crawford’s induction into the Hall of Fame. Crawford was reportedly unaware of Cobb’s efforts until after Cobb had died.Bak (2005), p. 176 Crawford was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1957, four years before Cobb’s death.

Reputed violence and racism

As Smithsonian magazine has stated, "Violent confrontations were a recurring theme in Cobb’s life" while "stories of Cobb’s racial intolerance were well-documented." In recent decades these facts have tarnished his reputation. However, the reputation of Cobb as an extremely violent man was fanned by sportswriter Al Stump, his first biographer, whose veracity has been called into question. Stump greatly exaggerated or outright lied about the violence Cobb had committed.

And while Cobb was often "painted a racist" during his baseball career, and engaged in a number of well-documented fights with African-Americans,Pennington, Bill (January 8, 2012). . The New York Times. after he retired from baseball Cobb’s views changed. In 1952, he publicly supported blacks and whites playing baseball together, adding "Let me say also that no white man has the right to be less of a gentleman than a colored man, in my book that goes not only for baseball but in all walks of life."

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