Ty Cobb

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Ty Cobb : biography

18 December 1886 – 17 July 1961

1915–1921

In 1915, Cobb set the single-season record for stolen bases with 96, which stood until Dodger Maury Wills broke it in 1962. Cobb’s streak of five batting titles (believed at the time to be nine straight) ended the following year when he finished second with .371 to Tris Speaker’s .386.

In 1917, Cobb hit in 35 consecutive games, still the only player with two 35-game hitting streaks (including his 40-game streak in 1911). He had six hitting streaks of at least 20 games in his career, second only to Pete Rose’s seven.

Also in 1917, Cobb starred in the motion picture Somewhere in Georgia for a sum of $25,000 plus expenses (equivalent to approximately $ today ).Stump (1994), pp 254-255 Based on a story by sports columnist Grantland Rice, the film casts Cobb as "himself", a small-town Georgian bank clerk with a talent for baseball. Broadway critic Ward Morehouse called the movie "absolutely the worst flicker I ever saw, pure hokum."

In October 1918, Cobb enlisted in the Chemical Corps branch of the United States Army and was sent to the Allied Expeditionary Forces headquarters in Chaumont, France. He served approximately 67 days overseas before receiving an honorable discharge and returning to the United States. He was given the rank of captain underneath the command of Major Branch Rickey, the president of the St. Louis Cardinals. Other baseball players serving in this unit included Captain Christy Mathewson and Lieutenant George Sisler. All of these men were assigned to the Gas and Flame Division, where they trained soldiers in preparation for chemical attacks by exposing them to gas chambers in a controlled environment, which was eventually responsible for Mathewson’s contracting tuberculosis which led to his premature death on the eve of the 1924 World Series.

On August 19, 1921, in the second game of a doubleheader against Elmer Myers of the Boston Red Sox, Cobb collected his 3,000th hit. Aged 34 at the time, he is still the youngest ballplayer to reach that milestone, and in the fewest at-bats (8,093).

By , Babe Ruth, newly sold to the newly named New York Yankees from the Boston Red Sox, had established himself as a power hitter, something Cobb was not considered to be. When his Tigers showed up in New York to play the Yankees for the first time that season, writers billed it as a showdown between two stars of competing styles of play. Ruth hit two homers and a triple during the series, compared to Cobb’s one single.

As Ruth’s popularity grew, Cobb became increasingly hostile toward him. He saw the Babe not only as a threat to his style of play, but also to his style of life. While Cobb preached ascetic self-denial, Ruth gorged on hot dogs, beer and women. Perhaps what angered him the most about Ruth was that despite Babe’s total disregard for his physical condition and traditional baseball, he was still an overwhelming success and brought fans to the ballparks in record numbers to see him challenge his own slugging records.

After enduring several years of seeing his fame and notoriety usurped by Ruth, Cobb decided that he was going to show that swinging for the fences was no challenge for a top hitter. On May 5, 1925, he began a two-game hitting spree better than any even Ruth had unleashed. Sitting in the Tiger dugout, he told a reporter that, for the first time in his career, he was going to swing for the fences. That day, he went 6 for 6, with two singles, a double and three home runs. The 16 total bases set a new AL record, which stood until May 8, 2012 when Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers hit four home runs and a double for a total of 18 bases. The next day he had three more hits, two of which were home runs. The single his first time up gave him nine consecutive hits over three games. His five homers in two games tied the record set by Cap Anson of the old Chicago NL team in 1884. Cobb wanted to show that he could hit home runs when he wanted, but simply chose not to do so. At the end of the series, the 38-year-old veteran superstar had gone 12 for 19 with 29 total bases and then went happily back to his usual bunting and hitting-and-running. For his part, Ruth’s attitude was that "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."