Cobb, Ty (1886–1961)

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Ty Cobb (1886–1961)

Beginning in 1905, Tyrus Raymond Cobb—nicknamed the Georgia Peach—enjoyed a record-breaking twenty-four-year career as a major league baseball (see entry under 1900s—Sports and Games in volume 1) player. He compiled a lifetime batting average of .367, which has never been and may never be equaled. He hit over .300 for twenty-three consecutive seasons. Cobb led the American League in hitting an astounding twelve times. For decades, he held the major league record for the most hits—4,189, since eclipsed by Pete Rose (1941–)—and the modern-era stolen base record—892, since eclipsed by Lou Brock (1939–) and Rickey Henderson (1958–). In 1936, he was the first player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

However, Cobb's career and legacy have been tainted by his vicious temper and violent mode of play. He may have been brilliant and unrelentingly aggressive on the playing field, but he was despised by his fellow players—including his teammates—for his humorless demeanor, stiff Southern formality, and inclination to spike infielders for no reason.

Perhaps the key to understanding Cobb is his relationship with his father William, who wished his son to become a doctor, a lawyer, or a military man, rather than a professional ballplayer. That William was killed, accidentally or otherwise, by a shotgun blast fired by his wife Amanda on the eve of Ty's major league debut only added fuel to Cobb's explosive personality.

Ty Cobb was an early advocate of unionizing ballplayers and was a vocal opponent of the Reserve Clause, which bound a player for life to the team that owned his contract. In his retirement, he also supported impoverished former ballplayers. But he continued squabbling with others in the game. When he died in 1961, no one representing major league baseball—and only three ballplayers of his era—bothered to attend his funeral.

—Rob Edelman

For More Information

Jacobs, William Jay. They Shaped the Game: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1994.

Macht, Norman L. Ty Cobb. New York: Chelsea House, 1993.

The Official Web Site of Ty Cobb. (accessed December 14, 2001).