Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things: Ty Cobb Edition

25 Jul

“I didn’t make any bets but we won the Game”

After Swede Risberg and Chick Gandil alleged in late 1926 that the Detroit Tigers had thrown four games to the Chicago White Sox late in the 1917 season—a story that was contradicted by more than two dozen former Tigers and White Sox players—Ty Cobb told Bert Walker of The Detroit Times that the St. Louis Browns likely threw the final three games of the season against the Tigers in 1923.



Walker said before the first game of the series on October 1, Browns players approached Cobb and said:

“’You are going to win today’s game.  We will not try to take it.  Those damned —–, meaning the Indians, have insulted us all season and we hope you beat them out.’”

Cobb told Walker:

“’I was in uniform at the time, and went to the office of (Tigers President Frank) Navin and told him the whole thing.  There was still more than an hour in which to get down bets on a sure thing.  I do not know if any bets were made or not.  I didn’t make any bets but we won the game.’”

The Tigers swept the season-ending series three game series with the Browns while the Indians split a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox, resulting in Detroit finishing a half game ahead of Cleveland.

“The Percentage of Those Whom I Have Spiked”

Cobb talked to The Dayton Herald in 1915 about why baseball was not a profession for everyone:

“It is hard to succeed in baseball, not because the game is hard in itself, but because of the rebuffs that a player receives from all sides…Several years ago when I broke into the big show, I was a target for all the remarks sport writers could not fire at anyone else.


“It was simply because when I slid into a base and would put all the force I possessed into my slide, they said I was a rowdy and that I was trying my best to spike the other fellow.

“Well, if the records were kept, it would be shown that the percentage of those whom I have spiked would be no higher than that of any other major leaguer in the game.”

“Sure, I’ll hit, Watch me”

In 1925, Frank G. Menke of The New York Daily News marveled that Cobb was, at age 38, still one of the game’s best hitters—he was hitting above .400 when the article appeared in June and ended up fourth in the American League with a .378 average:

“No man can think of Ty Cobb without gasping over his bewildering ability as a ballplayer.

“There never was a player like him—none remotely approached.  And so long as the game endures there shall not be another like him because Cobb is superlative, peerless, and alone.”

Cobb hit 12 home runs that season, tying his highest career output.  Menke told the story behind Cobb’s biggest power outburst of the season:


Ty Cobb

“Out in St. Louis (on May 5) some rabid fans proceeded to ‘bait’ Cobb.  They jeered him, called him a ‘has-been’—and dared him to do some hitting.  Scoffing and sneers take the fight and the heart out of some men; they serve merely as spurs to greater endeavor within others.  And Cobb is the latter type.

“’Want me to hit, hey’ sneered back Cobb at the hooting throng.  ‘Sure, I’ll hit.  Watch me.’

“And within two playing days Cobb banged out five home runs.”

8 Responses to “Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things: Ty Cobb Edition”

  1. Dino Wright July 26, 2018 at 6:38 am #

    Ty Cobb was an avowed racist and bigoted individual. His accomplishments should be p purged from baseball record books. Disgraceful and hateful statements on Negro League ball players were common with him.

    • Thom Karmik August 15, 2018 at 1:44 pm #

      I would recommend Charles Leerhsen’s book “Ty Cobb A Terrible Beauty,” he makes a great case for the major flaws in previous Cobb biographies. A flawed man, yes. The monster he has been portrayed as, probably not:

    • oddsoxx January 31, 2020 at 12:03 pm #

      Many people still feel that way….but do you have a source other than Al Stump — or those who cite him as a source? Stump has been widely discredited as a journalist, but the fruit of his poisoned tree has been widely circulated.
      Truth is Cobb was not a racist in his time or in ours. Much evidence to support this. If the names Fred Downer, Alexander Rivers and Bobby Robinson don’t mean anything to you, they should.
      1929 – Negro League infielder Bobby Robinson, claims that while he was a member of the Negro League team, the Detroit Stars, 1929-31, Ty (Cobb) once paid them a visit, and sat next to him on the bench, and talked baseball the whole time. Here’s the quote from the book.
      “Former semipro and Negro League infielder Bobby Robinson (1916-44) told the author [Nick C. Wilson] that on one occasion he was surprised by a visit from Ty Cobb. He remembered that Cobb came to watch a game played by the Negro League Detroit Stars in the 1920s. Before the game was over Cobb had migrated down in to the Stars’ dugout and sat next to Robinson, talking baseball the entire time. Robinson recalled that there wasn’t a hint of prejudice in Cobb’s attitude that day. They were just two ballplayers sharing stories.” (Voices from the Pastime: Oral Histories of Surviving Major Leaguers, Negro Leaguers, Cuban Leaguers and Writers; 1920–1934, Nick C. Wilson, 2000, pp. 113.)
      In addition to Leerhsen’s book, highly recommended (see below), take a listen to what Buck O’Neil said about Cobb. You can see that on youtube.
      O’Neil has a few of his facts wrong, but always a gentleman. Cobb would have appreciated and valued that highly.
      And, if you care to, visit the Ty Cobb Legacy facebook page.
      Hope to see you there, or feel free to reply here.
      Happy reading and good luck!

      • Thom Karmik January 31, 2020 at 12:07 pm #

        You might want to read the post about Fred Downer and the one about Charles Leerhsen’s book before schooling me, but nevertheless, thanks for the comment.

      • oddsoxx February 27, 2020 at 11:30 pm #

        Thom Karmik, my remark above was meant in reply to Dino Wright, not to you, good sir.

      • Thom Karmik February 27, 2020 at 11:44 pm #

        I’m an idiot, sorry. The day I saw your comment it was showing as the only comment on the post–and it was obviously a bad day and I was bit over the top in my response.


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