“Cobb is Essentially an Individual Player”

29 Feb

In February of 1913, The Associated Press (AP) reported that Detroit Tigers second baseman Oscar “Ossie” Vitt had requested a raise from owner Frank Navin.  The AP said:

“Navin wrote Vitt that he was more than satisfied with his work last year, and would be ordinarily glad to increase his salary, but owing to the necessity of meeting the demands of (Ty) Cobb for $15,000.”

Ossie Vitt

Vitt

The Detroit Free Press disputed The AP’s, and Vitt’s account:

“Mr. Vitt did receive a letter from Mr. Navin, and this letter did pointedly refuse to add anything to the Vitt emoluments for 1913.  So far the story from the golden West is true.  But the reasons given  Oscar for not granting him an increase had nothing whatever to do with Mr. Cobb, nor was the star athlete’s name even mentioned.  Vitt was informed that he is mighty lucky to receive a contract for 1913 with as much money mentioned as the document recently sent him calls for.”

Whether Vitt believed Cobb was responsible for his lack of a raise is unknown, but he did take the opportunity 10 months later to take a swipe at Cobb in the pages of his hometown paper, The San Francisco Call.  Vitt wrote an article for the paper about the best player he had seen:

“I am picking the man who does most to win games for the club he represents.  That man is unquestionably Eddie Collins…Here is one player who is willing to sacrifice all personal gain to help his club.  When he is on the field it is the Athletics he is trying to help, and not Eddie Collins.”

 

Collins

Collins

Vitt said:

“Collins is great whether he is playing the defensive or offensive.

“In few departments of the game is he excelled.  He is a brilliant fielder, who thinks quickly, and he makes but few mistakes.  At the bat he has few superiors.  He has a wonderful eye, and when he hits the ball he meets it fairly, usually sending it away from the plate on a line for a clean drive.  He can lay down a bunt with equal skill, and it is hard to figure him when he faces a pitcher.

“The point that I admire in Collins is the fact that he never plays to the grandstand.  He adopts the play that will help his club and not the one that will win him applause from the spectators… I don’t think there is another player in the game today who wins as many games for his club than this fellow Collins.”

After lavishing praise on Philadelphia’s Collins, Vitt said of his teammate:

“Cobb is a remarkable ballplayer. I have been with him for two seasons, and while I consider him greater than Collins in many respects, I do not think he is as valuable to a club as Collin… His spectacular style of play is popular with the fans, and while the Tigers were rather lowly in the pennant race, they were good drawing cards, because the crowds would go out to see Cobb bat and steal bases.

Cobb

Cobb

“If Cobb would play the game like Collins I think he would be the greatest of them all, but he does not.  Cobb is essentially an individual player.  He is unlike Collins in this respect.  However, the fans like to see Cobb, and they must be pleased.”

While Vitt equivocated, calling his teammate an “individual player,” while at the same time putting, at least, some of the blame for it on the fans who “must be pleased,” he took his biggest swipe at his teammate in another passage without ever naming him:

“You take a great player like Collins, who is so sincere in his work, and he naturally becomes a prime favorite with the other members of the club, because of his efforts to help them.  He gets them all in that stride, and I attribute (Connie) Mack’s success to that reason.”

Cobb’s only public reply came weeks later in The Detroit News:

“I think Vitt might help the team if he would accumulate a little better individual average and not attack his fellow players.”

Vitt hit .243 over seven seasons in Detroit.  He and Cobb remained teammates through the 1918 season.

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4 Responses to ““Cobb is Essentially an Individual Player””

  1. Gary Trujillo February 29, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    Amazing…great post.

  2. Seymour Wampler March 11, 2016 at 10:22 pm #

    I loved it. Ty Cobb is my favorite baseball player and reading stories about him as a kid helped me to fall in love with the game.

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