Monday, May 2, 2016

The Real Ty Cobb

So what comes to your mind when you hear the name Ty Cobb? I don't know that much about baseball history or trivia, but when I hear that name, I think rotten guy/racist. Remember the reference made to him in Field of Dreams? Cobb wasn't invited to the ghostly cornfield reunion of old time ballplayers because, according to the Shoeless Joe Jackson character, "No one liked liked that son of a bitch."

Before I go on, if you've never heard of Ty Cobb, here's a snippet of who he was from Wikipedia:

Tyrus Raymond "Ty" Cobb (December 18, 1886 – July 17, 1961), nicknamed "The Georgia Peach", was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) outfielder. He was born in rural Narrows, Georgia. Cobb spent 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, the last six as the team's player-manager, and finished his career with the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1936 Cobb received the most votes of any player on the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, receiving 222 out of a possible 226 votes (98.2%); no other player received a higher percentage of votes until 1992. In 1999,editors at The Sporting News ranked Ty Cobb 3rd on their list of "Baseball's 100 Greatest Players"

Rumors have abounded about Cobb being a murderer, racist and all around bad guy, but author Charles Leershen has finally set the record straight with his new book, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. 


Cobb's memory was bastardized soon after his death by a sports writer named Al Stump, who wrote several sensationalized articles and books about Cobb. When Leershen dug beyond the writings of Stump, he discovered the truth about this extraordinary ballplayer.

I'll only address the issue of racism in today's post, and this quote is from a speech Leershen presented during a program at Hillsdale College on "Sports and Character":

How could someone born in Georgia in 1886 not be a racist? What I found...is that Cobb was descended from a long line of abolitionists. His great-grandfather was a minister who preached against slavery and was run out of town for it. His grandfather refused to fight in the Confederate army because of the slavery issue. And his father was an educator and state senator who spoke up for his black constituents and is known to have once broken up a lynch mob.


Cobb himself was never asked about segregation until 1952, when the Texas league was integrating, and Sporting News asked him what he thought. "The Negro should be accepted wholeheartedly and not grudgingly," he said. "The Negro has the right to play professional baseball and whose [sic] to say he has not?" By that time he had attended many Negro league games, sometimes throwing out the first ball and often sitting in the dugout with the players. He is quoted as saying that Willie Mays was the only modern-day player he'd pay to see and that Roy Campanella was the ballplayer that reminded him most of himself. 

I was quite surprised to read that! For more on the real Ty Cobb, check out Charles Leershen's Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. 

Is this news to you about Ty Cobb? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

4 comments:

William Kendall said...

That I didn't know!

Maria McKenzie said...

I was quite surprised;)!

Norma Beishir said...

I'd heard of him, of course, but I didn't know much about him.

Maria McKenzie said...

Me too;).