Cobb: A Biography
In Cobb had been arrested for assaulting an automobilist in a road rage incident, and in he pummeled a ticket taker at Shibe Park ; in each case Cobb claimed that his African-American victim had "insulted" him. In recent years, Cobb's racial attitudes have seemed to diminish his reputation. Cobb certainly did not oppose racial segregation in baseball or elsewhere, and all evidence shows that his attitudes were typical of his times and Georgia upbringing. Years later he took a somewhat different view, however. In an Associated Press article dated January 29, , Cobb came out in favor of integration in baseball, stating "Certainly it is O.
I see no reason in the world why we shouldn't compete with colored athletes as long as they conduct themselves with politeness and gentility.
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Cobb's style of play relied more on strategy, daring, and quick thinking than pure talent. He was always one step ahead of the opposition, doing the unexpected, especially on the base paths. He outthought them! Runs were hard to come by, and Cobb was always looking for an edge.
At bat, he studied pitchers, learning their weaknesses. On the base paths he was always the aggressor, trying to create opportunities. Cobb later told of how he sometimes ran the bases recklessly in one-sided games to plant fear in the minds of the opposition, which led to errors in close games where a momentary hesitation by an opposing fielder could prove decisive. When on the bases, Cobb would kick the bag -- not because it was a habit, which everyone assumed, but because by kicking it toward the next base he could pick up a few precious inches if he decided to steal a base.
By Cobb was recognized as the biggest star in the American League. However, he remained unpopular with his teammates and opposing players for his attitude and rugged style of play. This led to another major controversy--an attempt to fix the American League batting title. Cobb sat out the final two games of the season in order to preserve his lead.
Louis and Cleveland, by ordering rookie third baseman Red Corriden to "play back on the edge of the [outfield] grass. Cobb's teammates wired Lajoie their congratulations, but the press railed against the obvious fraud.
Jewel Plummer Cobb Biography | Infoplease
American League President Ban Johnson investigated the matter but, in typical fashion for baseball officials of that day, decided to sweep the scandal under the rug. However, the official figures showed that Cobb had won the batting championship, thanks to one game's results being counted twice.
The clerical error was discovered years later, and who should be considered the A. Lajoie has the higher average, but Cobb is still recognized by Major League Baseball as the official batting champion. Another major controversy in Cobb's career occurred in , and this led to the first players' strike. During a game in New York on May 15 of that year, Cobb was subjected to vicious and unrelenting heckling from the fans, especially a disabled man named Claude Lueker, who for several years had made sport of heckling Cobb whenever the Tigers visited Hilltop Park.
Finally, unable to stand the abuse and urged on by his teammates, Cobb went into the stands and attacked Lueker, who had lost one hand and most of the other in a printing press accident. When he was informed of the incident, Ban Johnson suspended Cobb indefinitely. Despite their dislike for Cobb, his teammates were outraged, and announced that they would not play again until Cobb was reinstated. After a one-game farce in which the Tigers fielded a team of semipro players, the matter was resolved when Cobb's suspension was reduced to ten days. Cobb continued to excel on the field throughout the decade, clearly becoming the game's dominant player, and in the opinion of most contemporaries the greatest player in baseball history.
The season was one of his finest, as he batted. He regularly led the league in batting, and was at or near the top of most offensive categories. In addition to his success on the field, the second decade of the twentieth century brought economic affluence to Ty Cobb. He was the game's highest paid player, aided by his almost annual holdouts and the Federal League war. Cobb made money on investments also, including investing in cotton in the commodities market, and became an early investor in Coca-Cola and United Motors which later merged with General Motors.
Cobb's investments made him a rich man.
Despite Cobb's continued excellence, the Tigers generally finished far out of first place after Detroit fans and management wanted Cobb to succeed his long-time friend and boss, Hughey Jennings. Finally, in Cobb accepted, and became the player-manager of the Tigers. The team improved under Cobb, but other than in the Tigers were not a real factor in the pennant race under his leadership.
However, he did have a great deal to do with the development of Tigers hitters, especially future Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann. In the Tigers fell to sixth place in the American League, but they had a respectable record. So it was a surprise when, on November 3, , Cobb announced that he was stepping down as manager of the Tigers and retiring from baseball.
Soon thereafter, player-manager Tris Speaker of the second place Cleveland Indians announced that he was also stepping down, and retiring from the game. A few weeks later, the reason was made public--former Detroit pitcher Hubert "Dutch" Leonard claimed that he, Cobb, Speaker, and Cleveland outfielder Joe Wood had fixed a game between Detroit and Cleveland on September 25, Had it only been the word of Leonard, it is unlikely that the charge would have been taken seriously.
Cobb, who was supposed to benefit from the fix, went only 1-for-5, albeit with two runs scored and two steals, while Speaker, supposedly throwing the game, had three hits in five trips to the plate, including two triples.
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Wood and Leonard did not play. However, Leonard supplied two letters written to him in the fall of , one from Wood which clearly indicates that bets were placed, although he states that Cobb did not bet, and one from Cobb himself, indicating that an attempt to bet was made, but that it didn't work out.
While there was strong evidence that bets were placed or, in the case of Cobb, a bet was attempted, there was no evidence of a fix other than Leonard's word, and he refused to travel to Chicago to face Cobb and Speaker at a hearing. It was also common knowledge that Leonard nursed a grudge against the two stars. On January 27, , Landis ruled that Cobb and Speaker were not guilty, stating "These players have not been, nor are they now, found guilty of fixing a ball game.
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Leerhsen: The idea that he was a racist. All of the Cobb-was-a-terrible-human-being myths started after his death in , and none of them is based on fact. In the s author Charles Alexander wrote a biography of Cobb in which he mistakenly identified as black several white men whom Cobb famously fought with. Besides that, people assume that because Cobb was born in in Georgia, he must be racist.
His great-grandfather was a preacher who got run out of town for preaching against slavery. His grandfather refused to fight in the Confederate army because of the slavery issue. Indeed in he threw out the first ball at a Negro League game. It was shocking for me to discover that Cobb was actually progressive on race.
Markusen: Your book does good work in debunking much of the Al Stump mythology that was created in the mids. Leerhsen: His motivation was money.
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He was completely unscrupulous. Who, if anyone, among the Tigers was he particularly close to? What was his relationship like with his wives and children? One of his daughters said he was excessively stern, to the point of being scary. One of his sons said he was strict but loving, giving out a lot of hugs.