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Ty Cobb

 

Tyrus Raymond Cobb was born in the Narrows area of Georgia on December 18, 1886, and grew up working on a farm in Royston, Georgia. His father was a teacher, principal, and politician. He taught Ty the value of hard work and perseverance. Ty’s grandfather taught him to hunt and appreciate the outdoors. One day, Ty leaned his .22 rifle against a tree; it fell, went off, and shot him in the shoulder. That slug was embedded in his shoulder for the rest of his life because doctors couldn’t find it. Despite this mishap, Ty was a lifelong hunter. Ty was bright but didn’t have much interest in schoolwork. He was very competitive and would stop at nothing to win. Ty’s first team was the Royston Rompers. When he was older, he played for the semi-pro Royston Reds. His nickname was the “Georgia Peach.”

In 1904, he played in the minor leagues and was signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1905. Ty played for the Detroit Tigers from 1905-1926, and for the Philadelphia Athletics from 1927–1928. Ty’s career statistics are among the most impressive ever amassed by a major-league player.

   
Career Batting Average: .367
Number of Consecutive Batting Titles: 9 (1907 – 1905)
Career Hits: 4,191 (2nd all-time)
Games Played: 3,035
Stolen Bases: 892 (4th all-time)
Stolen Bases (Home): 54 (all-time record)
Walks: 1,249
Seasons in which batting average was above .300: 23 (all-time record)
Seasons in which batting average was above .400: 3
Runs Scored: 2,246 (second all-time)
Inside-the-park Home Runs in a Career: 46 (all-time record)

Ty was an amazing athlete, but he was a loner who was often angry and ready to argue. He was a racist, and he was a bully on and off the field. His teammates tolerated him because of his value as a player. Ty was a mentor for Charlie Gehringer when he first joined the Tigers. At that time, Charlie said of Ty, “He was like a father to me.” Later he described Ty as “a real hateful guy.”

Some say that Ty’s fiercely competitive personality was related to his desire to please his father who was fatally shot by his mother just weeks before Ty joined the Tigers. She mistakenly thought he was an intruder outside the house.

Ty wrote three books: Busting ‘Em: And Other Big League Stories, Memoirs of Twenty Years in Baseball, and My Life in Baseball. Busting ’Em can be read online. He was also an authority on the Civil War. In 1917, he became the first athlete to star in a silent movie, Somewhere in Georgia. During World War I, Ty enlisted in the US Army Chemical Corps in 1918 and was sent to France.

After his career, Ty was one of the first five players (Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, and Babe Ruth) elected to the Professional Baseball Hall-of-Fame in 1936. He received the most votes of any player on the ballot with 222 out of a possible 226 votes. Ty played before players had numbers, so he was honored by the Detroit Tigers in 2000 when they put his name (COBB) next to retired numbers of other players on the wall at Comerica Park and a statue of him outside the park.

Following baseball, Ty invested wisely, mostly in General Motors and Coca-Cola stock, which made him very wealthy and probably baseball’s first millionnaire. His estate was reported to be worth at least $11,780,000 (equivalent to $91,600,000 today). Upon his death in 1961, one-fourth of his estate was bequeathed to the Cobb Educational Fund, which gives college scholarships to needy students in Georgia. He also built hospitals in Georgia that are collectively known as the Ty Cobb Healthcare System, including a hospital in Royston which is a memorial to his parents.