Face of Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb

1886 - 1961

Tyrus Raymond Cobb was born in Narrows, GA. on December 18, 1886. He was the first son of William Herschel Cobb, and his 15 year-old wife, Amanda Chitwood Cobb.

It is not known for certain how W.H. and young Amanda met and courted, three years prior to Tyrus' birth. Logic dictates that W.H., as the local principal and schoolmaster, decided to take Amanda as a wife while teaching her in the local one-room schoolhouse. Despite modern taboos, this was not entirely uncommon in that day, particularly in small communities. However, some family sources say that Captain Caleb Chitwood (Amanda's father) was not thrilled by W.H.'s decision. He eventually relented, but only grudgingly. Amanda's young age probably was the cause of this.

Ty and family lived only a few years in The Narrows before the wanderlust bug again bit his roaming father, and the new family settled in nearby Royston. It was a step up in the world for them. The Narrows, a small farming community was known (or not known) for its population of roughly 60-80 people. Royston, by contrast, was a much more sophisticated little town of about 500-600 citizens. The 23 year old senior Cobb began as a teacher there, but quickly became respected in the area, earning himself the title of superintendent of schools, and founder, chief author, and editor of the local newspaper. Roystonites and the like nicknamed him "The Professor".

It wasn't long before the ambitious Professor Cobb decided that political office would suit him. Using ties culled from his stint as the area's superintendent of schools, he first became the little burg's Mayor, then was later able to procure a seat in Georgia's Senate House.

In studying these goals and accomplishments of W.H. Cobb's, it becomes clear where Tyrus learned some of his own personality traits. A young boy who was awed by and worshipful of his sucessful father, Ty observed the things he loved about the Professor (his ambition and his tenacity, foremost) and tried to emulate them throughout his own life. Nowhere is it more apparent than in his baseball career. Had William Herschel Cobb lived longer, it is possible he would have gone on to higher political offices. There is no telling where a man so driven might have stopped. Tyrus had the benefit of a full lifetime, and he did not rest until he reached the top of his field. Like father, like son.

It is in this time frame that we find Tyrus playing his first organized baseball with the local junior team, the Royston Rompers against his father's wishes. For the most part, Ty was able to explain off physical injuries as playing around with his friends, or from his job bailing hay. He played on the Rompers until he was 14, then he received a lucky breakthrough. The men's team, the Royston Reds, were out their shortstop, and needed a replacement. Tyrus was selected and he was able to field eight balls without error, he also managed three hits, not bad for a young boy playing against men in their 20's and 30's.

Bob McCreary, the manager and catcher for the Reds, and a Masonic brother of W.H. Cobb's talked the Professor into allowing Ty to play again against the neighboring town of Elberton. The senior Cobb allowed Tyrus to go, and the boy racked up three more hits during the Elberton game, including the winning RBI. He stayed on the team throughout the summer, and later in the season made a diving catch in the centerfield to save the game. Royston fans threw change on the field, and T.C. scraped together about $10 worth of money. Things were definitely going the boy's way on the baseball front, although the season had brought about a shameful incident involving Ty and his father.

Ty's playing glove was a sorry piece of work. The one he owned at the time was old, made from leather he'd sewn up himself. It was time for a new mitt, but he had no money with which to purchase one. There was a particular model of glove being sold at the dry goods store. It was new, and good quality, judging by the looks of it. The youth ached for the mitt, and after some thought, he came up with a way to get the cash for it. He lifted two books from his father's library, and pawned them at a local shop. Ty's mistake was trying to make the deal in town, where everyone new W.H. Cobb personally. The fellow to whom Ty had given the books told the Professor of the incident, and Ty was given a ear-ringing lecture which ended in the boy's tears. W.H. was not swayed by Tyrus's show of emotion, and he gave Ty a two-part punishment. Part one consisted of Ty's banning from baseball for the rest of the summer. Part two was extra farm work, which the boy despised. He toiled for what seemed endless hours in the hot, muggy Georgia fields and dreamt miserably of returning to the game.

By September, the elder Cobb returned from his political meetings across the state, and was ready to spend some time at home. No doubt he was pleased to discover his eldest son, a little bigger and stronger, proudly displaying his summer's worth of toil. The fields looked good, and were growing well. For some reason, this brought about a change in the older man's attitude toward Ty, one that the young man never forgot. W.H. began to confide in Tyrus about the market for cotton, the work animals, and the crops. Thrilled with the sudden change in treatment from his father, Ty hurried out and won himself a job at a local cotton factory. He ate up the information about growing, baling, processing, and marketing the crop and shared all that he learned with his father. In turn, the Professor was happy with the boy making an effort to mature, and their bond strengthened.

When Ty went off to play professionals baseball, his father sternly warned him "Don't come home a failure." It is unlikely that any one can beat his life time batting average. In his 24 seasons of playing baseball he toped the .300 barrier 23 times. Cobb's first great season came in 1907, and the Tigers rode success all the way to the World Series. That season the centerfield's batting average was .350. Other league best include 212 hits, 119 RBI's, and 49 stolen bases. Cobb did not stop there. He won nine connective batting tittles starting in 1907. Cobb might be remember best for his intimidating and harsh playing stile. He was never afraid to go to extremes to win a game. He could take pain, as well as hand it out. "I recall when Cobb played a series with each leg a mass of raw flesh," Grantland Rice wrote. "He had a temperature of 103 and the doctors ordered him to bed for several days, but he got three hits, stole three bases, and won the game. Afterward he collapsed at the bench." Cobb looked for every possible way to win. He used his great speed and precision hitting as the best weapons available in the dead-ball, strong-pitching era. Cobb studied pitchers and took advantage of their weaknesses. Against Walter Johnson, the great Washington right-hander who was afraid of hitting batters with fastballs, Cobb crowded the plate. Johnson worked him outside, fell behind in the count, and finally threw show pitches over the plate. Cobb clobbered ball after ball.

His best years were 1911 he led the league in every major offensive category but homers and batted a career high .420, and in 1915 when he stole 96 bases.

Ty paid the price for success. He would practice sliding until his legs were raw. He would place blankets along the base and practice bunting a ball on the basket. During the winter he hunted through daylight hours in weighted boots so that his legs would be strong for the upcoming campaign. He overlooked no opportunity to gain an edge over his opponents, most of whom admired his drive to succeed.

Cobb appreciated the value of a dollar and engaged in annual haggles with Detroit executives before signing his contract. Cobb's earnings were invested wisely, mostly in General Motors and Coca-Cola stock, which made him very wealthy and probably baseball's first millionaire.

A 1942 survey of former major league managers pointed the finger towards Ty Cobb as the greatest baseball player of all time. Many great players have surfaced on the diamond, but none out-hit, outplayed, or out-hustled the man they called "The Georgia Peach". Over 24 seasons, most with the Detroit Tigers and a couple with the Philadelphia Athletics, Cobb compiled a .366 batting average, the highest in the history of the game. He is the leader in runs scored with 2,245, and was the all-time hit leader until the mid-1980s when Pete Rose eclipsed him. In 1936, Ty Cobb became the first inductee of baseballís Hall of Fame, earning 222 out of a possible 226 votes, a 98.23% and the highest in history of baseball.