Search results for 'ty cobb'

“The Ty Cobb of Trapshooters”

15 Jul

Lester Stanley “Les” German broke into professional baseball with a bang in 1890.  The 21-year-old played for Billy Barnie’s Baltimore Orioles, a team that had dropped out of the American Association and after the 1889 season and joined the Atlantic Association, a minor league.

German was 35-9 in August when the American Association’s Brooklyn Gladiators folded in August, the Orioles returned to the association, and German returned to Earth; posting a 5-11 record for the big league Orioles.

German was a minor league workhorse for the next two and a half seasons.  He was 35-11 for the Eastern Association champion Buffalo Bisons in 1891; he appeared in 77 games and pitched 655 innings for the Oakland Colonels in the California League in 1892, and was 22-11 for the Augusta Electricians in the Southern Association in July of 1893 when his contract was purchased by the New York Giants.

Les German, 1894

Les German, 1894

German would never win in double figures again; In five seasons in the National League he was 29-52, including a 2-20 mark with the 1896 Washington Senators.

It was German’s next career that earned him the most notoriety.  A crack shot, German became one of the most famous trapshooters in the country for the next thirty years.  He won numerous championships and was often featured in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with Annie Oakley.

A National Sports Syndicate article in 1918 said “Lester German is the Ty Cobb of trapshooters.”  The article said that beginning in 1908, when official records were first kept, German had maintained a “remarkable average,” shooting a t a better percentage than any other professional marksman.

Les German, 1918

Les German, 1918

As German’s reputation as a shooter grew, his legacy as a pitcher became inflated.

A mention of his baseball career in a 1916 issue of “The Sportsmen’s Review”, credited German, and his 9-8 record,  with “leading the Giants,” to their 1894 Temple Cup series victory over the Baltimore Orioles, there was no mention of Amos Rusie’s two shutouts .  A 1915 article in The Idaho Statesman inexplicably said German “headed the National League in both pitching and fielding” in 1895—German was 7-11 with a 5.54 ERA and committed 2 errors in 45 chances on the mound; he also made eight errors in 11 games he filled in for the injured George Davis at third base.

German operated a gun shop and continued to organize and participate in shooting tournaments until his death in Maryland in 1934.

Ty Cobb, Joe Jackson, Harry Hooper and Quackery

15 Feb

Baseball history is full of stories of products that have been routinely used in the belief they give players an edge.  Some, like steroids and amphetamines have obvious benefits; others like Power Balance bracelets provide none.

In 1916 advertisements began to appear in newspapers and magazines across the country for a new miracle drug from DAE Health Laboratories in Detroit: Nuxated Iron.

An ad featuring Ty Cobb said “Greatest Baseball Batter of all time says Nuxated Iron filled him with renewed life after he was weakened and all run down.”

Cobb said in the advertisement:

“At the beginning of the present season I was nervous and run down from a bad attack of tonsillitis, but soon the papers began to state ‘Ty Cobb has come back, he is hitting up the old stride.’ The secret was iron—Nuxated Iron filled me with renewed life.

“Now they say I’m worth $50,000 a year to any baseball team.”

cobbnux

Other ads for Nuxated Iron began to appear, featuring boxer Jess Willard, cyclist Freddie Hill and baseball stars Harry Hooper and Joe Jackson.  Hooper said:

“Since I have made Nuxated Iron a part of my regular training, I have found myself possessed of strength, power and stamina to meet the most severe strains.”

Jackson said:

Nuxated Iron certainly makes a man a live wire and gives him the ‘never-say-die strength and endurance.”

The illiterate Jackson added: “When I see in the papers ‘Jackson’s batting was responsible for the Chicago victory,” I feel like adding to it—‘Nuxated Iron puts the power behind the bat and gives the needed punch to every play.’”

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The Journal of the American Medical Association took notice of the Nuxated Iron ad campaign and in October of 1916 had this to say about the “miracle drug:”

“Newspapers whose advertising ethics are still in the formative stage have, for some months past, been singing—at so much a song—the praised of “Nuxated Iron.”  The public has been that this nostrum is what makes Ty Cobb, “the greatest baseball batter of all time,” a “winner” and is what helped Jess Willard “to whip Frank Moran” besides being the “untold secret” of Willard’s “great triumph over jack Johnson.”

All that DAE would say about the ingredients were:

“Formula—The valuable blood, nerve force and tissue building properties of this preparation are due to organic iron in the form of ferrum peptonate in combination with nux vomica (strychnine) phosphoglycerate and other valuable ingredients.

But alas, The AMA Journal was not impressed with the claims made by Nuxated Iron’s endorsements:

“The Journal felt that it owed it to the public to find out just how much iron and nux vomica there were in ‘Nuxated Iron.’  Packages of the nostrum…were subjected to analysis.”

What the analysis found was that the formula that made Ty Cobb a “winner,” offered no health benefits:

“There is only one-twenty-fifth of a grain of iron in each ‘Nuxated Iron’ tablet, while the amount of nux vomica…is practically negligible…In a dollar bottle of ‘Nuxated Iron’ the purchaser gets, according to our analysis, less than 2 ½ grams of iron; in 100 Blaud’s Pills, which can be purchased at any drug store for from 50 to 75 cents, there are 48 grains of iron.”

To sum up their analysis The Journal called the claims made by Nuxated Iron “the sheerest advertising buncombe.”

Contemporary sources said Cobb earned as much as $1000 for his endorsement of Nuxated Iron; there is no record of what Hooper or Jackson were paid, but all three disappeared as paid spokesmen for the product by early 1917.

Nuxated Iron stayed on the market, and stayed in the crosshairs of the AMA until at least 1921.  But by then, the company no longer used baseball players to sing their players.

The 1921 ad campaign for Nuxated Iron sought a higher authority to promote the product’s benefits, and featured a picture of Pope Benedict XV under the headline:

“The Vatican at Rome Recommends Nuxated Iron.”

pope

Moriarty and Cobb

5 Feb

While the Detroit Tigers captain “jinx” almost cost George Moriarty his captaincy in 1912, he was also nearly traded to the Cleveland Naps in December of 1911.  The reason given for the Tiger’s desire to trade Moriarty was an alleged fight with Tigers star Ty Cobb.

Whether the fight actually took place is questionable, and an oft-told story about Cobb and Moriarty that grew out of the fight rumor is almost certainly untrue.

George Moriarty

George Moriarty

In December of 1911, The Associated Press reported the “Real reason for proposed trading of Moriarty.” The wire service said:

 “A battle royal between George Moriarty and Tyrus Cobb one day late in the season of 1911, is the reason why Detroit now wishes to dispose of the star third sacker.  Moriarty and Cobb started their argument upon the field at Detroit, and followed it up with an angry controversy at the club office.  Finally Cobb grabbed a bat and threatened to hit the big third baseman.  The latter armed himself in a similar manner, and they started to beat each other up.”

Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb

The story said the fight was broken up by teammates, and “Cobb then issued his ultimatum which was that he would not play with the Tigers if Moriarty was on the team, unless Moriarty apologized to him.”

Within days, both players and Tigers management denied that there had been any fight.  Cobb said:

“There has been a lot of talk that Moriarty and I almost had a fight in the clubhouse last season.  George and I are the best of friends.  We roomed together in the spring and were on the friendliest terms throughout the season.  The story that I put it up to (Tigers owner Frank) Navin to sell or trade George is a fabrication.  In the first place I had no grounds for such action, and in the second place I wouldn’t take such a step if I did have.  I wouldn’t put the Detroit club in a compromising position.”

While the story of a fight was told and retold over the next twenty years, Cobb and Moriarty always denied it happened.

The story that is still included in nearly every mention of Moriarty is that as he and Cobb were preparing to fight, Moriarty said “A fellow like you needs a bat to even things up when fighting an Irishman.”

The quote first appeared in a 1932 column by New York World-Telegram sportswriter Joe Williams when, as an American League umpire, Moriarty’s reputation as a fighter was renewed.  The Associated Press said after a double-header sweep by the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox catcher

Charlie Berry followed the umpire into the runway of the clubhouse, accusing him of ‘missing’ a third strike on Earl Averill just before the Indian broke up the second game with a ninth-inning triple.

“Berry challenged Moriarty to a fight…Milt Gaston, Chicago pitcher, advanced himself.  The umpire felled Gaston…Then Berry, Frank Grube and Lew Fonseca rushed Moriarty, beating him until he was rescued by the Indians.”

In response to mentions of a fight with Cobb in the reports of the 1932 fight, Moriarty renewed his denial of a fight with Cobb, a denial he had also made in 1927 when he replaced Cobb as Detroit manager:

“Say anything else you like about me, but don’t spread the report that Ty and I fought.  We were roommates, and while we may have disagreed we never came to blows.”

Cobb and Moriarity relished their reputations as fighters, the fact that both continued to deny they fought long after it mattered would indicate that they often retold story is more wishful thinking than fact.

One more bit of trivia about Moriarity:  His grandson Michael Moriarty starred as Henry Wiggen in one of the greatest baseball movies, “Bang the Drum Slowly” with Robert De Niro.

Moriarty and De Niro in "Bang the Drum Slowly"

Moriarty and De Niro in “Bang the Drum Slowly”

“Cobb can Bend ’em Some”

11 Dec

The Detroit Times declared “The ball player is a queer duck,” in 1910

The paper based on the conclusion on how many players they observed who preferred to play out of their usual position while warming up before games.  And, that:

“Constant appearance in the public gaze, continual work in the profession the every act of which is the subject of comment on the part of the thousands, no doubt tends to bring out the peculiarities which lurk in the disposition of all men.”

The Times when Ty Cobb came out before the game the previous Sunday:

“(He) did not go to center.  Instead he pitched to (Tigers teammate Charles) Chick Lathers.  The utility man was armed with a big mitt and Cobb went through the motions of a man preparing to go into the box.  Cobb can bend ‘em some and nothing delights him more than to curve a ball unexpectedly and have a regular catcher fight it.”

cobb

Ty Cobb

Cobb was not alone:

“Go to the park early any day and you can see Oscar Stanage engaged in (fielding bunts as an infielder)…  Stanage wears a finger glove and assays fancier stunts than the regular fielders can pull off.  He gets behind the regulation catching outfit only when he has to.”

As for visiting players:

“Addie Joss, of the Cleveland club aspires to be a first baseman.  Day after day he stands at the bag during practice periods and grabs wild throws and hot grounders.  If he could hit Joss would be a star at that position.”

addiejosspix

Addie Joss

One National Leaguer in the group, was Orval Overall of the Chicago Cubs:

“(He) would be a catcher…And so it goes all down the line.  If you can catch you would rather pitch, and if you can field you aspire to catch.

“But, there’s one thing none of them overlook—hitting.  A man might as well try to tip over the Majestic Building (Detroit’s second skyscraper built in 1896) as crowd his way out of turn up to that plate during batting practice.”

“The Twenty Greatest Fever”

2 Oct

In November of 1911, an interviewer asked industrialist Andrew Carnegie to name the 20 greatest men of all time.  Within days, Carnegie’s list was parsed and picked apart, and led to what The Chicago Daily News called “The twenty greatest fever.”

Lists of the twenty greatest everything appeared in papers across the country for the next year.  Of course, the question was put to many baseball figures and led to a number of interesting lists and quotes.

One of the first to weigh in was Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, in The Daily News:

  • Buck Ewing
  • King Kelly
  • Cap Anson
  • Charlie Ferguson
  • Fred Pfeffer
  • Eddie Collins
  • Honus Wagner
  • Jack Glasscock
  • Harry Lord
  • Ty Cobb
  • Fred Clarke
  • Willie Keeler
  • Tom McCarthy
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Charles Radbourn
  • Bobby Caruthers
  • Christy Mathewson
  •  Clark Griffith
  • Ed Walsh
comiskeypix

Charles Comiskey

Comiskey said Eddie Collins, who would acquire for $50,000 three years later, was the best current player:

“He’s got it on all the others in the game today.  I don’t know that a good lawyer went to waste, but do know that a mighty good ballplayer was found when Eddie decided to give up the technicalities of Blackstone for the intricacies of baseball.   There isn’t much use saying anything about Connie Mack’s star, everybody knows he is a wonder as well as I do.”

Cy Young was asked by The Cleveland News to name his 20 greatest:

“I guess we’d have to make a place for old Amos Rusie, ‘Kid’ Nichols should be placed on the list too, ‘Kid’ forgot more baseball than 90 percent of us ever knew.  And there was Bill Hutchinson, just about one of the greatest that ever lived.  You can’t overlook Walter Johnson, and, by all means Ed Walsh must be there.  The same applies to Mathewson.  Then comes my old side partner, Bill Dinneen.  Bill never was given half enough credit.”

amosrusie

Amos Rusie

Young rounded out the battery:

“I’d pick old Lou Criger first of all the catchers.  George Gibson of the Pittsburgh team, to my way of thinking, stands with the leaders.  Give the third place to Oscar Stanage of Detroit, and I feel safe in saying that I have chosen a really great catcher.”

Young said:

“Doping out the infields is comparatively easy.  Without hesitation I would name Hal Chase, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Hans Wagner, Bobby Wallace, Jimmy Collins, Herman Long, and Charlie Wagner.”

Young said of his infield choices:

“You can’t get away from Bobby Wallace for a general all round gentlemanly player, he has never had a superior at shortstop unless that man was Honus Wagner.  Maybe Johnny Evers is entitles to consideration, but I never say him play.”

As for his outfielders, Young said:

“Ty Cobb’s equal never lived, according to my way of thinking, and I doubt if we will ever have his superior.  Say what they will about Cobb, but one who is true to himself must acknowledge his right to rank above all other players.

“I chose Cobb, Fred Clarke of Pittsburgh, Tris Speaker of Boston and Bill Lange for the outfield, and regret that the limitations prevent me from choosing Jim McAleer.  McAleer was the best fielder I have ever seen.  I say that with all due respect to Cobb and other competitors.

“Tris Speaker is a marvel, and only because of his playing at the same time as Cobb is he deprived of the honor of being the greatest outfielder…Many fans of today probably don’t remember Bill Lange.  Take my word for it, he was a marvel.  He could field, bat, and run bases with wonderful skill.  No man ever had the fade-away slide better than Lange.”

The reporter from The News noticed that Young had, “chosen his twenty greatest players without mentioning his own great deeds,” and asked Young whether her felt he belonged on the list.  Young said:

“Oh, I’ve heard a whole lot of stuff about myself as a player, but I was but ordinary when compared to the men I name as the greatest in the game.”

cy

Cy Young

When Ty Cobb presented his list of the 20 greatest current American League players to The Detroit News, the paper noted his “Very becoming modesty” in leaving himself off of his list.  Cobb’s picks were:

  • Ed Walsh
  • Bill Donovan
  • Walter Johnson
  • Jack Coombs
  • Vean Gregg
  • George Mullin
  • Billy Sullivan
  • Oscar Stanage
  • Ira Thomas
  • Hal Chase
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Eddie Collins
  • Jack Berry
  • Owen Bush
  • Frank Baker
  • Harry Lord
  • Sam Crawford
  • Clyde Milan
  • Joe Jackson
  • Tris Speaker
cobb

Ty Cobb

Cobb included Bobby Wallace, Russ Ford, and Heinie Wagner as honorable mentions.

More of the lists and quotes from “The twenty greatest fever,” on Thursday

“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.

The Definitive Cobb Biography

11 May

Myths.  Baseball books are full of them.

Perhaps the most enduring myths are about Ty Cobb.  A prototype of a villain in spikes from central casting:  Dirty player– check, virulent racist—check, miserly and bitter in old age—check.

That is the Ty Cobb cemented into our consciousness.

So much so in fact, it is difficult to find a discussion on the internet regarding the merits of Pete Rose’s case for the Hall of Fame without a member of the pro-Rose faction, at some point, making the “Yeah, but Ty Cobb did (fill in the blank)” argument.

Or, as Charles Leerhsen puts it, in “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty” (which will be released tomorrow), “This Cobb was someone (fans) could shake their heads at, denounce, and feel superior to.”

cobb

 

The clues were there that Cobb might just be more than the sum of the single-dimensional parts previous biographies claimed to reveal.

Not long ago, I wrote about Cobb’s embrace of fellow Royston, Georgia native, and former Negro League player and newspaperman Fred Downer at Wrigley Field in 1953—the same day Cobb spoke glowingly to reporters about Dodgers’ catcher Roy Campanella.

No less an authority than Wendell Smith—the legendary reporter from The Pittsburgh Courier who by then had joined The Chicago Herald-American as the first black sportswriter at a white-owned paper—said after that day at Wrigley that reports of Cobb’s racism were always “merely a matter of hearsay,” and “He gives no indication today of intolerance.”

Yet, the hearsay has always outpaced the reality; until now.

Through exhaustive research and a compelling narrative, Leerhsen demonstrates that the one-dimensional Cobb of lore is, at best, a caricature.   The stories that have been told and retold for years about racially motivated physical attacks were poorly sourced and greatly exaggerated.  Statements like the one about Campanella and several that Leerhsen has compiled were ignored.

The author even manages to add context to the often told stories of the death of Cobb’s father and Cobb’s relationship with mascot Ulysses Harrison (bonus points here because unlike many of the versions of this story elsewhere he gets Harrison’s name correct).

Leehrsen’s three-dimensional Cobb is more interesting than the one presented previously.  This Cobb was quick to anger, perhaps overly sensitive, certainly no less flawed than many of his contemporaries, but more complex, more introspective and much more difficult to shake our heads at.

An excellent read, well worth your time.

“Brain Counts More Than Slugging”

6 Sep

Amos Rusie’s return to the Seattle area to purchase a farm in 1929 made his briefly as interesting to West Coast baseball writers and his arrival at the Polo Grounds eight years earlier had briefly made his reminiscences of great interest to the New York scribes.

There is some disagreement about whether Rusie enjoyed his time in New York. What’s certain is his eight years caused him to retract his opinion from 1921 that the game had not substantially changed.

Rusie

When he arrived in Washington, The Associated Press asked the former pitcher/ballpark superintendent turned farmer for his views on the game and  to select his all-time team.

Rusie said he couldn’t understand how modern pitchers “don’t pitch to sluggers,” enough:

“None of the pitchers in my day were afraid to pitch to the best of them. You didn’t find us walking the slugger almost every time he came to bat, as they do nowadays. We figured we would either make him hit the ball or sit down. That’s what he was up there for.”

Rusie said “brain counts more than slugging,” and selected an all-time team that included just one (barely)  active player:

Pitchers: Christy Mathewson, Kid Nichols, Cy Young

Catchers: Buck Ewing, Roger Bresnahan, John Kling

First base: Dan Brouthers, Fred Tenney

Second base: Napoleon Lajoie, Eddie Collins

Third base: Jimmy Collins, John McGraw

Shortstop: Honus Wagner, Hughie Jennings

Left field: Ed Delahanty, Joe Kelley

Center field: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker

Right Field: Willie Keeler, Fred Clarke

Eddie Collins appeared in just nine games in 1929 and three in 1930 while coaching for the Athletics. Babe Ruth, who made such an impression on Rusie when eight years earlier he watched major league baseball for the first time in two decades, didn’t make the cut.

“I Know I Made a Bum Play”

4 Jun

Harry George “H.G.” Salsinger spent nearly 50 years as sports editor of The Detroit News and was posthumously honored with the J. G. Spink Award in 1968.

In a 1924 article he said:

“Baseball historians, setting down how a pennant was won, often point to one series that was the break in a season’s race. One can point to a certain game as the deciding one of that particular series and that game probably had one play that was the break of the game and that one play came on a certain pitched ball.”

Salsinger said in the Tigers 1907 pennant winning season:

“All who studied the matter were agreed that one series decided the pennant, a series between Detroit and Connie Mack’s crack Philadelphia machine, played late in the season (September 27 and 30). And one game decided that series, a 17-inning tie that broke the Athletics.”

The pennant, he said, was won because “that game was snatched from Philadelphia” when Ty Cobb hit the game-tying home run off Rube Waddell in the ninth.

“The most important hit of the season of 1907,” was “because Cobb outguessed” Waddell.

The story of how the pitcher was “outguessed” was told to him by Waddell himself:

“Up comes this Cobb, and I feeds him a fast one on the inside where he wasn’t supposed to particularly like to see ‘em pitched. I always figured that if this fellow had any weakness is was on a ball pitched close in. The way he stood at bat made him shift too quick to get a good hold of the ball.

“Well, I shoved the first one in over the inside corner of the plate an’ he never looks at it. The umpire calls it a strike, but he pays no attention to it. I immediately figures this bird is looking for a certain ball, thinking I’d give him just what he wanted on the next one or the one after that. He figures I’m going to be working him. So, I see my chance to cross him up. I says to myself, ‘I’ll feed this cuckoo on in the same spot an’ get him in a hole then guess what’s coming.’”

Rube

Waddell threw the next pitch:

“Once more I shoots a fast one for the inside corner an’ the second the ball leaves my hand I know a made a bum play. This Cobb, who didn’t seem to have noticed the first one, steps backlike he had the catcher’s sign, takes a toe hold and swings on her. I guess that ball is going yet.”

Waddell told Salsinger he talked to Cobb about the pitch:

“Later on, I meets this Cobb on the street, and I says to him, “Listen here Cobb, it’s all over an; everything, an’ there ain’t no hard feelin’ or nothin’, so tell me, why don’t you swing at that first one, the fast one I sends over. You don’t give it a look an’ you’re all set for the same thing when I repeats. Did you have the catcher’s signal or something.”

“An’ this Cobb says to me: ‘Why I figures if I lets the first one pass and makes out I don’t notice it and is lookin’ for somethin’ else, you’ll try to cross me up and shoot the next one over the same spot, feeling sure you double crosses me. I feel so sure that so soon as the ball leaves your hand I jumpback, take a toe hold an’ swing. Sure enough I was right. You hand me the same thing back.’

“An’ I says to this Cobb, ‘Kid you had me doped 100 percent right, an sure enough the lucky stiff did.”

Cobb

Cobb, Salsinger said, “made this observation,” to the reporter, about outguessing pitchers:

“Most pitchers follow a set system of pitching to you. You can get them once or twice. If they throw you a fast ball, slow ball, curve, fast one, in that order the first time at bat it is almost certain that they will throw you the same thing in the same order the next time you come up. Few pitchers vary from the system, and the few that do are the leading pitchers.

“Knowing what is coming is one thing but hitting the ball is another. You often know just where the ball will be pitched, but often it carries so much stuff that you cannot get the proper hold on the ball and you fail to hit safely even when you have the advantage of knowing what it is.”

“Most of These Kids Today Can’t Take it”

17 May

Grantland Rice of The New York Herald interviewed Ty Cobb on a fairly regular basis when the retired star was living on the West Coast.

In 1940, after the two met in San Francisco, he said, “Cobb was the bluebird harbinger of spring,” and recalled when, in 1904, “Cobb kept writing me letters, signing Smith, Jones, Brown, and Robinson—all telling me what a great player young Tyrus Raymond Cobb was.”

Rice

Rice said he “fell for the gag,” and thanked Cobb for making him, “quite a prophet” for writing about him based on the letters.

Rice asked Cobb about his famous batting grip:

“It shows what habit will do in sports. I began playing baseball with much older and bigger kids.” I couldn’t grip the big bats that they had near the handle. I had to spread my hands to poke at the ball.

“I couldn’t swing the big bats any other way. After that I couldn’t change. But I was probably better off as a place hitter than I might have been as a slugger. I never believed in slugging anyway.

“I believe in getting on—and then getting around. Today they only believe in hitting a fast ball out of the park.”

Cobb said he was “still for speed and science,” over power:

“Base stealing today is a lost art. It seems to be gone forever. Did you know that several high-class ballplayers last season failed to steal a base? I remember one year I had 96 steals. That’s almost the same as 96 extra base hits, for those steals put me in a position to score.”

Rice asked the 56-year-old Cobb what the biggest difference between the “present crop” and the players of his era was:

“Stamina, I mean legs and arms. I’ve lived on my legs most of my life. As you may remember in 24 big league years, I never spared my legs. I’ve played many a game with almost no skin on either thigh.

“I believed then and I believe know in toughening up your system—not sparing it. Between seasons I hunted all winter, eight or ten hours a day. That’s what Bill Dickey has done—and you know where Bill Dickey stands in baseball.”

Cobb

Cobb had little use for current pitchers either:

“The modern crop has weak arms. Look at Cy Young, winning 512 ball games. Show me a pitcher today who can even pitch 400 games. Remember Ed Walsh? One year Ed won 40 games and saved 12 others [sic, 6]. He worked in 66 games that year, around 1908. And then pitched through a city series, working in almost every game.

“Most of these kids today can’t take it. They have come up the easy way. They have to be pampered. A lot of them need a nurse. We had to come up the hard way. What a difference that makes—in any game.”

Cobb lamented that any current pitcher “is almost a hero” for winning 20 games:

“Can you imagine Cy Young, who averaged over 20 games for wee over 20 years, out there today.

“The kids today rarely use their legs. They ride in place of walking. I always had to walk.  Maybe five miles—maybe 20 miles. The old-time pitchers had to work in 50 or 60 games. Maybe more. I’ve seen them come out long before the ball game was scheduled to start in order to get the kinks out of their tired arms, working out slowly for over 30 minutes. But not today.”

Cobb said he believed Dizzy Dean would be “a throwback” until he hurt his arm:

“He always wanted to pitch. To be in there. But there are not many left like that. They’d rather be resting up.

“In my opinion, a real pitcher should be good for at least 45 ball games—maybe 50 if he is really needed. I mean men like Walsh, Cy Young, Alexander, Matty, Chesbro, Joe Wood—the top guys. They could take it—and they loved it. Not this modern crowd. At least most of them. They haven’t the stamina needed to go on when there is no one to take their place.”

Cobb had good things to say of two other modern stars:

“I’ll say this for Babe Ruth. He could always take it—and like it. So could Lou Gehrig. You never had to pamper Ruth or Gehrig. They were ballplayers of the old school. So was Matty. So was Alexander, drunk or sober. What a pitcher.”

Cobb said what mattered in all things was stamina, fortitude, brains and speed:

“They still count. When they don’t then you haven’t either a game or civilization. You haven’t anything worthwhile.”

Note: As indicated below, Cobb conflated Walsh’s 1908 regular season performance and his 1912 post-season work in Chicago’s City Series. I failed to include that note and this link in the original post: https://baseballhistorydaily.com/tag/chicago-city-series/

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