Cobb had many flaws: pettiness, jealousy, temper, cheapness, prejudice, and pride among them. But he was also generous with his money and advice to those who needed it, a southern gentleman, and a cunning businessman. He became baseball’s first millionaire – investing his baseball earnings wisely and building an empire that still benefits children in his native Georgia today with educational scholarships.
The prototypical Deadball Era ballplayer, Cobb was a master at manufacturing runs with his mind and his feet. As one sportswriter said of him, “He seems to have brains in his feet.” When he retired, no other player had stole home as many times, and Cobb performed many daring baserunning plays, including scoring from first on a single, scoring from second on fly ball outs, and stealing second, third, and home on successive pitches.
Cobb remains one of the best center fielders to ever play the game, and he rates among the top 5-10 players ever after all these years. Before the ascension of Babe Ruth and the power game in the 1920s, there was no question that Cobb was the greatest player of all-time. In 1936, when the National Baseball Hall of Fame held their first election, Cobb received more votes than any other player.
A Chronology of Ty Cobb’s Life and Career
Born Tyrus Raymond Cobb in The Narrows, Georgia, on December 18.
Cobb’s family moves to Royston, Georgia, where his father, William Herschel Cobb, takes a teaching job.
At the age of 10, Cobb plays for his first baseball team, the Royston Rompers.
At the age of 14, Cobb earns a promotion to the Royston Reds, playing with and against boys 3-10 years older than him.
Cobb leaves home to play for the Augusta Tourists of the South Atlantic League. He is quickly released, but latches on with a professional team in Anniston, Alabama. He plays his first professional game on May 16. After the Anniston team folds later that year, Cobb’s contract is purchased by Augusta. He plays for Augusta the balance of the 1905 season, and begins the 1905 campaign there as well.
On August 8, Cobb’s father is killed by his mother in a shooting accident at their home in Royston, Georgia. On August 19, Cobb’s contract is purchased by the Detroit Tigers. He reports to the Tigers on August 30, and makes his major league debut that day, collecting his first hit.
Cobb’s mother is acquitted on charges of voluntary manslaughter in the death of her husband.
Cobb wins his first batting title and leads the Detroit Tigers to the American League pennant.
On August 4, Cobb marries Charlotte Lombard in Augusta, Georgia.
Cobb wins his third consecutive batting title, and the Tigers earn their third straight pennant, but lose the World Series for the third time also.
Cobb wins his fifth straight batting title and enjoys his greatest season, batting .420 with a league record 248 hits and 147 runs scored.
Cobb sets a major league record with 96 stolen bases, and wins his ninth consecutive batting title.
With the United States at war in Europe, Cobb reports for duty in the Chemical Warfare Service on October 1, in New York City. A few weeks later, Lt. Cobb sailed to Europe, where he served for less than a month when the war was ended on November 11.
On December 18, his 34th birthday, Cobb is named manager of the Detroit Tigers, signing a ,000 contract, the largest in baseball.
After telling reporters that he would try to hit home runs for the first time in his career, Cobb slugs three home runs in St. Louis on May 5, setting a league record for total bases in one game. The next day he blasts two more homers before returning to his base hitting style of play.
After six seasons as their manager, Cobb resigns from the Detroit Tigers and announces his retirement from baseball, on November 4. On December 21, he would be implicated in a gambling scandal with Tris Speaker and Joe Wood. The following spring, the charges would be dropped.
Cobb returns from his brief retirement and signs a contract with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s, in February. In July he collects the 4,000th hit of his career.
In his 24th and final major league season, Cobb hits .323 for the A’s. He retires with the highest batting average in baseball history, as well as the most hits, runs scored, RBI, and games played.
Cobb is among five players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by baseball writers. He receives 222 votes, more than any other player, including Babe Ruth.
Cobb, along with the other inductees from the first four years of voting, is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, in Cooperstown, New York, on June 12.
Cobb and his wife Charlotte are divorced.
Cobb marries his second wife, Frances Fairburn, of Buffalo, New York. They will divorce in 1956.
Wealthy from his investments in Coca-Cola, General Motors, and other stocks, Cobb contributes 0,000 for the creation of the Cobb Memorial Hospital in Royston, Georgia.
At the age of 74, Cobb dies on July 17, 1961, at a hospital in Atlanta. Later that year, his autobiography, Ty Cobb: My Life in Baseball, is released.
Cobb is selected the greatest player in Detroit Tigers history in balloting by fans.
Pete Rose eclipses Cobb’s career hits record.
The motion picture Cobb, which portrays Cobb’s final few months of life, is released. It features Tommy Lee Jones in the title role. A dark film which portrays Cobb in a negative light, it proves unsuccessful at the box office.
Cobb is selected as a member of the All-Century Team by Major League Baseball.