Ty Cobb

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Ty Cobb : biography

18 December 1886 – 17 July 1961

Cobb played regularly in 1927 for a young and talented team that finished second to one of the greatest teams of all time, the 110–44 1927 Yankees, returning to Detroit to a tumultuous welcome on May 11 and doubling his time up to the cheers of Tiger fans. On July 18, Cobb became the first member of the 4000 hit club when he doubled off former teammate Sam Gibson, still pitching for the Tigers, at Navin Field.

1927 was also the final season of Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson’s career. With their careers largely overlapping, Cobb faced Johnson more times than any other batter-pitcher matchup in baseball history. Cobb also got the first hit ever allowed by Johnson. After Johnson hit Detroit’s Ossie Vitt with a pitch in August 1915, seriously injuring him, Cobb realized that Johnson was fearful of hitting opponents. He used this knowledge to his advantage by standing closer to the plate.

Cobb returned for the 1928 season, but played less frequently due to his age and the blossoming abilities of the young A’s, who were again in a pennant race with the Yankees. On September 3, Ty Cobb pinch-hit in the ninth inning of the first game of a doubleheader against the Senators and doubled off Bump Hadley for his last career hit although his last at-bat wasn’t until September 11 against the Yankees, popping out off Hank Johnson and grounding out to shortstop Mark Koenig. He then announced his retirement, effective the end of the season., after batting .300 or higher in 23 consecutive seasons (the only season under .300 being his rookie season), a major league record not likely to be broken.

He also ended his career with a rather dubious record. When Cobb retired, he led AL outfielders for most errors all-time with 271, which still stands today. (Nineteenth-century player Tom Brown holds the major league record with 490 errors committed as an outfielder, while the National League record is held by nineteenth-century player George Gore with 346 errors. Cobb ranks 14th on the all-time list for errors committed by an outfielder.

Regular season statistics

Both official sources, such as Total Baseball, and a number of independent researchers, including John Thorn, have raised questions about Cobb’s exact career totals. Hits have been re-estimated at between 4,189 and 4,191, due to a possible double-counted game in 1910. At-bats estimates have ranged as high as 11,437. The numbers shown below are the figures officially recognized on MLB.com.

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG TB SH HBP
3,035 11,429 2,246 4,191 723 297 117 1,938 892 1,249 357 .367 .433 .513 5,859 295 94

The figures on Baseball-Reference.com are as follows. Other private research sites may have different figures. Caught Stealing is not shown comprehensively for Cobb’s MLB.com totals, because the stat was not regularly captured until 1920.

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG TB SH HBP
3,035 11,434 2,246 4,189 724 295 117 1,938 897 212 1,249 680 .366 .433 .512 5,854 291 94

Early life and baseball career

Ty Cobb was born in Narrows, Georgia in 1886, the first of three children to William Herschel Cobb and Amanda Chitwood Cobb. He played his first years in organized baseball for the Royston Rompers, the semi-pro Royston Reds, and the Augusta Tourists of the South Atlantic League who released him after only two days.Stump (1994), page 57 He then tried out for the Anniston Steelers of the semipro Tennessee-Alabama League, with his father’s stern admonition ringing in his ears: "Don’t come home a failure!"Stump (1994), p. 63 After joining the Steelers for a monthly salary of $50,Stump (1994), p. 64 Cobb promoted himself by sending several postcards written about his talents under different aliases to Grantland Rice, the sports editor of the Atlanta Journal. Eventually, Rice wrote a small note in the Journal that a "young fellow named Cobb seems to be showing an unusual lot of talent."Cobb & Stump, page 48 After about three months, Ty returned to the Tourists and finished the season hitting .237 in 35 games.Stump (1994), p. 69 In August 1905, the management of the Tourists sold Cobb to the American League’s Detroit Tigers for $750 (equivalent to approximately $ in today’s funds).