Tag Archives: Ty Cobb

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #26

5 Nov

Val Haltren’s Off-Season

Despite having hit .331, .340, and .351 in the three seasons since the New York Giants bought him, The New York Telegraph said one of his teammates did not approve of George Van Haltern returning home to California to play winter ball:

“One of the members of the New York team said the other day if Van Haltren would stay one winter where the weather was cold enough to brace him up , it would do him more good than a spring trip to get him is condition.”

National League President Nick Young told the paper, no player should play winter ball:

“Ball players should have the benefit of six months’ rest in the year. The strain of the long championship games is a severe tax, though few players realize it. They ought to save enough money to last through the winter, and take things easy.”

Van Haltren hit .301 or better for the next five years, even though he spent each winter in California—until he broke his ankle sliding during a game in 1902 all but ended his career.

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George Van Haltren

The Color Line, 1932

When the New York Yankees swept the Cubs four games to none in the 1932 World Series, Dizzy Dismukes, writing in The Pittsburgh Courier, said the series reignited talk of baseball integration:

“With the World Series over in four straight wins, fans who think little of the playing abilities of race ballplayers are now prophesying as how the Grays, the Crawfords, Black Yankees, Black Sox and any number of race clubs would have made a better showing against the Yankees.”

Nope

When the New York Yankees lost their first game of the 1938 season, in the midst of Joe DiMaggio’s holdout—he did not return until the 13th game—a reporter from The Associated Press tracked him down at his restaurant, Joe DiMaggio’s Grotto, on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco:

“Joe ‘was sorry’ to hear that the Yankees lost…but covered the holdout situation in eight flowing words…

“Have you contacted (Yankees owner Jacob) Rupert? He was asked.

“’Nope,’ was the reply.

“Will you accept $25,000?

“’Nope.’

“Will you appeal to Judge Landis?

“’Nope.’

“Will you play for anybody?

“’Nope.’

“Has Rupert contacted you recently?

“’Nope.’

“Is any settlement looming?

“’Nope.’

“Are you doing anything about the situation?

“’Nope.’

With that, DiMaggio returned to “selling fish dinners.”

DiMaggio appeared in his first game for the 6-6 Yankees on April 30. They went 93-57 the rest of the way, he hit .324 with 32 home runs and 140 RBI.

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With Ed Barrow looking on, Joe DiMaggio ends his holdout and shakes hands with Jacob Rupert

Cobb’s Stolen Bats

A small item in The Detroit Times in December of 1915 said the home of Frank J. Brady, the “property man” of the Detroit Tigers had been robbed.

Among the haul:

“(T)wo of Ty Cobb’s favorite bats, Catcher (Oscar) Stanage and shortstop (Donie) Bush also lost equipment which they valued highly.”

Also stolen was “the glove worn by George Mullin” when he pitched his no hitter. There was no record of the items being recovered. The paper valued the loss at “several hundred dollars.”

“I bet I’ll add a hundred points to my batting average”

24 Oct

Walter “Christy” Walsh was Babe Ruth’s agent and also operated the Christy Walsh Syndicate which employed several well known sportswriters, including Damon Runyon, Bozeman Bulger, and Ford Frick, to ghost write articles for Ruth and other players.

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Christy Walsh

In 1927, an article under Ruth’s byline appeared in several newspapers during the summer of 1927, as Ruth was in the process of hitting 60 home runs:

“Here’s a tip to hitters.

“Take it from one who knows.  There’s no percentage in going up there to the platter and swinging from your heels trying to park the ball over the fence.

“Home run hitting is fine and it gives you a real kick when you smack one, but 99 out of a hundred hitters ruin themselves when they try too hard.”

Ruth, or the Ruth surrogate, compared it to “pressing in golf.”

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Babe Ruth

And he said:

“The real hitter is the chap who steps up there with a short swing and plenty of wrist, and meets the ball.”

Don’t emulate him, he said:

“When you’re trying to improve your hitting take your tip from chaps like Eddie Collins, Joey Sewell, or Ty Cobb.  These fellows have real hitting form.”

Ruth said:

“I get paid for making home runs and hitting balls a long way.  So I have to stay up there swinging.  But if I didn’t, I’d change my form tomorrow.  I’d go up there flat footed like Eddie and Joey and I’d take a short swing instead of a long one.

“I wouldn’t make so many home runs but I bet I’ll add a hundred points to my batting average for the season.”

He concluded the lesson:

“Home runs are pretty things to watch and now and then they win ball games, but the real hitter is the chap who can step up there and get his two singles every game.  He’s the one to take as your example.”

“A Catcher is the Most Important man on a Team”

16 Oct

Lou Criger was very confident when he joined the St. Louis Browns in 1909.  He spoke to S. Carlisle Martin, the cartoonist for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who occasionally interviewed notables and published the story with a series of drawings:

“A catcher is the most important man on a team…a poor catcher can spoil the good work of any pitcher and a live, brainy catcher can make an ordinary pitcher look good…Another point:  The catcher has the whole game in front of him.  Besides tipping the pitcher off on the different batters as they come up—signaling for a high or low one, one close in and one away out, the catcher must keep one eye on the runner all the time.  And there’s where many a game is lost, letting the runners go wild.”

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Criger as drawn by Martin

Then, Criger decided to take on Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers:

“Why they tell you that Ty Cobb is a great base runner.  Maybe he is, but I never had any trouble with him.  Why he only got away with me twice in the two years that I have been playing against him>  Most of his good base running I call bone-headed work.  And one of those two times he tried the delayed steal, that is, starting when he thought I was going to return the ball to the pitcher, and then I had him by 20 feet, but the second baseman was away from the bag and waited for him, and Cobb slid away round and stuck his foot on the bag.

“No, I’ve got his ‘goat’ and I’ve got the rest of the Tiger bunch, too.  Cobb tried to block me last summer and I went after him and have been after him ever since.  I used to say to him: ‘Look out, Ty, this fellow is as wild as hawk and he’s liable to crack you on the head.’  And then I’d signal for one right at his head.  Bing!  Down he’d drop and when he’d get up the fight was all out of him, he couldn’t hit a stationary balloon.

“You know you can kid a batter until he won’t know where he’s at.  I pestered (the Tigers) so much that they came around and begged me to let up.  They said we had nothing to gain and they might lose the pennant.

“You see, (Boston) made the Tigers look like 30 cents last fall in Detroit when we beat ‘em three straight ( Detroit went from being in second place, a half game out to third and two and a half back after losing a three-game series to the Red Sox September 21-23, 1908) (Hughey) Jennings wouldn’t even get off the bench.”

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Criger said he had ‘Ty Cobb’s Goat”

Criger was just as cocky concerning the Browns prospects for 1909; he said it was likely his final season and he could go out a winner:

“If we got an even break in the luck and our best players are not injured, they’ll have to go some to beat us out…and I feel that we will hang in on Jennings’ bunch.”

Criger’s handicapping was off.  The Tigers went 98-54 to win the pennant—including beating the Browns18 out of 21 games—Cobb hit .351 against the Browns and stole bases. The Browns finished 61-89 in seventh place.  Criger hit just .170 in 74 games and was traded to the New York Highlanders after the 1909 season.

“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
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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.”

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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
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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

“I knew but Little, but Schaefer Taught me.”

19 Sep

Ty Cobb had a dilemma in the fall of 1910.  After being presented with a new Chalmers automobile (along with Napoleon Lajoie) for leading the league in batting.  Ed Grillo of The Washington Evening Star said he found a solution:

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Cobb in his Chalmers

“Ty Cobb has presented Herman Schaefer with his old automobile.  The car which he has been using will be of no further use now that he has received the one offered for the best major league batsman.

“In giving Schaefer the machine Cobb is repaying ‘Germany’ for the many kindly turns he did for Cobb.”

Cobb told Grillo:

“If it were not for Schaefer’s interest in me I would not have made myself the ballplayer I am…When I joined the Detroit club (in 1905) I knew but little, but Schaefer taught me.  The very first day he got after me because I did not pick my feet up and run as he thought I should.  Then he told me to turn toward second when going to first so that if anything happened to the ball I could take another base.”

Schaefer told Grillo his most difficult task was teaching the 18-year-old Cobb to slide—Cobb agreed:

germany

Schaefer

“I thought it was too dangerous in those days and would not try.  But one day in an exhibition game at Indianapolis I saw Schaefer slide away from the baseman holding the ball, and I made up my mind that I would learn the trick.  I asked Schaefer to teach me, and for the next two weeks we would go to the park every morning and he would go through the motion of catching and touching me with the ball.  He would tell me just when and how to slide, and if I made a mistake he would change places and he would do the sliding.

“In that way I learned everything I know about base running, and I owe it all to Schaefer, and I gave him my machine in appreciation of the many kindnesses he has shown me.”

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.

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Cobb

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.

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“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:

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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.”

“None of Them Were Slick Enough to Carry the Dutchman’s Glove”

20 Jul

Chester L. Smith, sports editor for The Pittsburgh Press recalled several stories about Honus Wagner after the Hall of Fame shortstop died in 1955:

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Wagner

Cy (Young) once said that Ty Cobb, Wagner, Napoleon Lajoie, Ed Delahanty, and Cap Anson were the best all-around hitters he ever faced.:

“’Ty was the most resourceful,’ Young went on. “’He could push, pull, or bunt.  Odd thing though, he never could pull an outside pitch, while Wagner could.’”

Smith said:

“Of course, there will never be an end to the argument as to which was the better—Ty or Honus.  By why debate it? There’s room for both of them in the game’s Valhalla

“As a carrier of the Wagner standard pointed out: ‘The best hitting shortstop of recent years was Joe Cronin, yet Cronin couldn’t hit within 30 points of him.  The best fielding shortstops have been Leo Durocher, Marty Marion, and Lou Boudreau.  None of them were slick enough to carry the Dutchman’s glove.  Travis Jackson had a rifle arm.  Wagner had a better one. No shortstop was ever much of a base-stealer.  Old Honus stole 50 or more bags for five straight seasons with a top mark of 61.”

Smith said Wagner told him a story about “the harsh days when he broke in.” Wagner said during his third season (1899), in a game versus the Giants:

“(O)ne of their men smashed a home run.

‘”Nice hit,’ Honus said when the Giant passed by.

“’Go to hell,’ snapped the New Yorker.

“’I felt real good about that,’ Wagner said afterward.  ‘He was the first major leaguer who ever spoke to me.’”

The Record

15 Jun

Edward Payson Weston became famous in 1861, after he made a bet that he would walk from Boston to Washington D.C. if Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election—for the next five decades “The Pedestrian” became well-known for his endurance walking feats, and for popularizing competitive walking.

Grantland Rice—sportswriter and poet–of The New York Tribune, paid tribute to Weston in one of his baseball poems in 1916:

grantlandrice

Grantland Rice

The Science of Batting

There are more than many ways

To teach a bloke to bat;

To teach a bloke the way to swing

And make his average fat

But of the many styles

That bring a thrill or throb,

One always plays it fairly safe

To hit the ball like Cobb

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Cobb

The Science of Pitching

There are also many ways

To pitch a baseball right;

To hold the hits to three or four

And bag a winning fight.

And yet the safest is.

Bereft of any fuzz,

To put the same stuff on the ball

That Walter Johnson Does

walterjohnsonpix

Walter Johnson

The Record

Weston has walked for many a mile

Giving all records a wrench;

But he never struck out and had to walk

From the home plate back to the bench.

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Weston

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #22

24 Apr

Ty Cobb Rates American League Fans

In 1907, The Washington Evening Star asked Ty Cobb was asked how he was treated by fans in all of the American League cities:

“All ballplayers coming in sometimes for a little guying, but that is what makes the game.  If the fans did not do this it would show they had lost interest and baseball would soon die.  The fact that I am a Southern man has never made any difference in the way I have been treated by the public in the North.  The fans all over the American League have always been kind to me.”

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Cobb

However, Cobb said, fans in some cities were tougher on visiting players:

“Take Philadelphia, for instance, old Philly is sometimes rough with the visiting clubs, and we have been treated to a little warm reception once or twice.

“Chicago is not as kind to visiting players as some of the other cities. They are so loyal to their city and their clubs that sometimes a go too far with the guying.

“In New York the people are fair and clever, and so is Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Boston.  St. Louis is somewhat like Chicago.

“I am sure that the fact that I am from the South has never influenced the fans in the slightest.  If it has, it has been in my favor.”

The not as Smart Coveleski

Billy Murray managed Harry Coveleski during the pitcher’s three years with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1907-1909.  Years later, he told Bozeman Bulger of The New York World, that Harry was not as bright as his brother, Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski, who was “Smart as a whip” according to Bulger.

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Harry Coveleski

“Coveleski got out of a tight predicament mostly by luck and came back to the bench to face an enrages Murray.

“’What do you mean by taking that wind up with men on bases, especially on first and second?’

“’I didn’t know there were any men on the bases. Nobody told me,’ Coveleski replied

“’Now listen men,’ Murray turned to the players on the bench, don’t let this happen again.  When there are runners on the bases you go out and tell ‘Covvie’—you hear me?  We’ll have no more secrets on this club.’

“’That’s right, Billy,’ agreed the unperturbed Coveleski, oblivious to Murray’s biting sarcasm.  ‘Keeping secrets always hurts a ballclub.’”

An Umpire’s dilemma

The Associated Press reported in 1912 about an umpire’s dilemma during a game played in an unincorporated town near Boulder, Colorado called Canfield:

“Albert Billings kicked his cork leg across the home plate yesterday afternoon in the ninth inning, the score a 5 to 5 tie, the umpire called the runner safe.  Then the last baseball game of the season broke up in a row.  However, umpire Jerry Carter consulted the rule book, declared that there was no precedent, and held to his decision.

“Billings had knocked a beautiful two-bagger.  He stole third and started home when the batter tapped one to the infield.  The ball was thrown to the catcher in time to get Billings out by at least ten feet.  Billings cork leg flew off, however, and hit the plate.  The catcher tagged Billings as he lay on the ground ten feet from the plate.  The umpire ruled that the foot at the end of the cork leg touched the home base first.  Billings was therefore called safe with the winning run.”

Lost Pictures–Ty Cobb by Oscar Cesare

5 May

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A sketch of Ty Cobb by Oscar Cesare of The New York Evening Post.

The picture accompanied a feature story by Homer Croy, of the International Press Bureau about Ty Cobb published in the Winter of 1911.  Croy would later become a well-known novelist and screenwriter, best known for writing “They had to See Paris,” Will Rogers’ first sound film.

“Residents of Royston, Georgia say this world has produced three great men: Shakespeare, Napoleon–and Ty Cobb.  The bearded bard of Avon may have written a few plays that now give employment to Julia Marlowe and E.H. Sothern, but what did he know about the fall-away slide?  The bow-legged little man who always wore his hat crossways may have won a war or two, but what sort of batting average did he have.

But speaking of real men whose names will go resounding, reverberating and re-echoing down the corridors of time, there is Mr. Tyrus R. Cobb who was born right in this town, sir!”

______

“He is the master of the slide, being able to coast in between the ankles of a knock-kneed man and never gets touched…He never gets hurt.  If he went into the aviation business or become an auto racer he would still live to be as old as Shem, who carpentered on the ark for Noah at a hundred and twenty years.  Ty needing only a package of court plaster or so every decade.  In coming down in an aeroplane he would always hop out at the fourth floor, come in on the hook slide on his hip, and then get up as sound as a simoleon to see if the umpire had called him safe.

“In the time the Empire state Express of baseball lives in Augusta, sells automobiles and talk about the new baseball phenom he has discovered—Tyrus Jr.”  (Cobb’s son—Tyrus Raymond Cobb Jr. was born the previous year.”