Tag Archives: Ty Cobb

Lost Pictures–Ty Cobb by Oscar Cesare

5 May

ty

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.”

“Yet, not one of them can Play Ball like Wallace”

3 May

Jack O’Connor needed to vent.  The St. Louis Browns manager had just led his club to one of the worst seasons in major league history—a 47-107 record.

 

oconnorcoke

1910 Coca-Cola ad featuring O’Connor

 

Having just piloted a team that batted .218—the leading hitter was 36-year-old Bobby Wallace, who hit .258, and whose best pitcher, Joe Lake, posted an 11-17 record, O’Connor had reached a few conclusions about the game.  He told a reporter for The St. Louis Republic:

“The only thing every free-born American, with a constitution and public schools, thinks he can do is to play ball and manage a ball club.  Yet playing ball and managing ball clubs are two of the most highly specialized professions in the world.”

O’Connor said of the second-guessers:

“Of some 10,000 boys and men who are playing ball one way or another not 50 can play one position well enough to be called first-class ballplayers.

“One million young Americans see (Ty) Cobb play ball every year; yet not one of them can even imitate him.

“All that Walter Johnson, the greatest of pitchers, has is speed.  Now any strong-armed young man has speed.  Yet in 10,000,000 strong-armed young men not one has speed like Johnson has.

“How do you figure it?

“I guess that 10,000,000 young men and at least 100,000 professional ballplayers have seen Wallace perform in the 17 years he has been playing. Yet, not one of them can play ball like Wallace. Not one can even throw like him.”

And, no doubt, with the Browns’ .218 team batting average on his mind, O’Connor said:

“Batting is simple.  How many boys and men have seen Lajoie in the past 15 years—yet why can’t some one of them bat like Larry?

wallace

Bobby Wallace

And with a 47-win season on his mind, O’Connor concluded:

“I have always held that ballplayers are born, not made…so many smart fellows who have good heads and the ball instinct think that they can take good-looking athletes with legs and arms and eyes and make ballplayers of them.  The smart fellows make the mistake of imaging that the object of their solicitude has the head and instinct that they—the instructors—have…Many boys have everything but instinct.  That is the quality that is hardest to find.”

Despite the Browns’ horrible record, it was O’Connor’s role in trying to assist Lajoie, his former teammate, to win the batting title over Cobb on the final day of the season—ordering third baseman Red Corriden to play so far back that Lajoie bunted in five straight at-bats—that led to his firing.

One Minute Talk: Bill Carrigan

25 Oct

Bill Carrigan, on the verge of leading the Boston Red Sox to a second straight World Championship, had an unusual nominee for the best clutch hitter in baseball:

Carrigan, right

Bill Carrigan, (right)

“With all due respect to (Ty) Cobb, (Tris) Speaker, (Joe) Jackson and all the other sluggers, I would rather see Dick Hoblitzell up there with men on the bases than anybody else in the country.  He almost always hits the ball hard and on a line, and while he doesn’t get them all safe by a long shot, his record for advancing base runners is a wonder.

“You can feel reasonably sure, with Dick up there, that he will not strike out, anyhow.  He seems to have a happy faculty of making many safeties with men on bases than at any other time, which is something I can’t say for a lot of the fellows who are in the front rank every year.

Hoblitzell

Hoblitzell

Jack Barry is another fellow who is more dangerous in the pinches.  He isn’t a heavy hitter, but one of the most valuable.”

Hoblitzell hit .259 for the Red Sox in 1916, striking out 28 times in 489 at bats, and driving in 39 runs for the champions.

One Minute Talk: Joe Jackson

12 Oct

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox, on his way to hitting .341—third in the American League behind Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb—had some advice for pitchers about saving their arms:

joejack

Jackson

“If you want to put your arm on the blink just start fooling with the fadeaway ball.

“I’ve had one experience and it cured me. After pitching four or five fadeaways I developed a kink in my elbow and decided to quit experimenting.

“Some fellows have studied the thing and got it down to a fine art. They tell me it doesn’t affect their arms, but if they pitched it as steadily as some fellows throw the spitter they wouldn’t last long in any league.”

Lost Pictures–Ty Cobb’s “Outburst of Historic Art”

30 Sep

After the 1916 season, Ty Cobb spent four weeks on Long Island shooting the first feature film starring a major league ballplayer.

The story for “Somewhere in Georgia” was written by Grantland Rice, then of The New York Tribune.

Ty Cobb and leading lady Elsie MacLeod

Ty Cobb and leading lady Elsie MacLeod

Rice said of the film:

“For the matter of twelve years Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the first citizen of Georgia, has proved that when it comes to facing pitchers he has no rival…It may have been that facing such pitchers as (Ed) Walsh, (Walter) Johnson, (Babe) Ruth and others has acclimated Ty to facing anything under the sun, even a moving picture camera.  At any rate, when Director George Ridgewell, of the Sunbeam Motion Picture Company, lined Ty up in various attitudes before the camera he was astounded at the way the star ballplayer handled the job.

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

“These paragraphs should be enough to break the news gently that Cobb, wearying of competition with (Tris) Speaker, (Joe) Jackson and (Eddie) Collins through so many years, has decided to go out and give battle to Douglas Fairbanks and Francis X. Bushman.  Not for any extended campaign, but for just one outburst of historic art.”

Director George Ridgeway said of his star:

“The most noticeable thing about Cobb’s work was this:  I’ve never had to tell him more than once what I wanted done.  I had an idea that I would have to take half my time drilling him for various scenes in regard to expression and position. But, on the contrary, he seemed to have an advance hunch as to what was wanted, and the pictures will show that as a movie star Ty is something more than a .380 hitter.  In addition to this, he is a horse plus and elephant for work. Twelve hours a day is nothing to him, and when the rest of us are pretty well worn out Cobb is ready for the next scene. I believe the fellow could work twenty hours a day for a week and still be ready for overtime.”

Rice noted that Cobb balked at just thing during the filming:

“Ty was willing enough to engage in mortal combat with anywhere from two to ten husky villains.  He was willing enough ti dive headfirst for the plate or to jump through a window, but when it came to one of our best known pastimes, lovemaking, he balked with decided abruptness.

“Despite the attractiveness and personal appeal of the heroine, Miss Elsie MacLeod, Ty was keen enough to figure ahead, not what the spectators might think of it, but what Mrs. Tyrus Raymond Cobb of Augusta think. The love making episode, therefore, while more or less thickly interspersed, had to be handled in precisely the proper way to meet Ty’s bashful approval”

The "bashful" star

The “bashful” star

The New York Tribune claimed that “More than 100 motion picture scenarios” were presented to Cobb before he agreed to appear in Rice’s.  The paper said, “(H)e would not, he emphatically stated, appear in anything that was not compatible with both his dignity and his standing in the baseball world.”

The Ty Cobb character in “Somewhere in Georgia” is a bank clerk who plays ball for the local baseball team—he, along with the bank’s cashier are vying for the love of  the banker’s daughter.  Cobb is scouted and offered a contract by the Detroit Tigers but the banker’s daughter tells him he must choose between baseball and her.  At the same time, the cashier, Cobb’s rival for the banker’s daughter, bets against the home team and plots to have Cobb kidnapped by “a gang of thugs.”

Cobb accosted by thugs

Cobb accosted by thugs

After being held hostage in a cabin, Cobb escapes with the help of “a local farm boy,” and:

”Commandeering a mule team, Ty succeeds in reaching home just in time to make a spectacular play and save the game for his team.  He then turns the tables on the cashier, wins the girl and winds things up in a manner appealing to ball fans and picture fans alike.”

Cobb escaping with the aid of a local farm boy.

Cobb escaping with the aid of a local farm boy.

Billed in advertisements as “A thrilling drama of love and baseball in six innings,” no prints of the six-reel film survive, but Cobb received better reviews than most of his brethren who attempted a film career.

After the film’s release in 1917, The Tribune said:

“(A)s an actor Ty Cobb is a huge success.  In fact, he is so good that he shows all the others (in the cast) up.”

When the film premiered at the Detroit Opera House in August of 1917 The Detroit Free Press said:

Ad for the film in Detroit

Ad for the film in Detroit

“(The film) is not only a most interesting baseball picture, but it gives views of “The Georgia Peach” that one does not see at Navin Filed…One seldom gets a chance to take a peep at Ty in civilian clothes and he shows himself to be as much at home in this story of love and romance into which a few baseball surroundings have been woven as he is on the diamond.  He makes a pleasing film hero, wooing and winning the bank president’s daughter and performing other exploits that one would expect from Douglas Fairbanks and his like.”

One Minute Talk: Steve O’Neill

21 Sep

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Steve O’Neill, Cleveland Indians catcher, made the case for the hitting prowess of one of his teammates:

Steve O'Neill

Steve O’Neill

Tris Speaker is better at the hit and run play than either (Joe) Jackson or (Ty) Cobb, for he is like (Napoleon) Lajoie—he can reach out and crack a pitch away on the other side of the plate if it will help the runner.  He does not have to wait for a fast one, a floater or a curve.

“I would sum it up this way; Cobb is the fellow who is most apt to be safe on first on a ball hit anywhere; Jackson hits the ball more savagely, while Speaker is the best all-around player of the lot and this season I think, you will find him on top in the race for batting honors.”

Speaker

Speaker

O’Neill predicted correctly.  Speaker led the American League with a .386 average, Cobb finished second at .371 and Jackson had the league’s third-best average, .341.

The PCL and the Goldsmith Baseball, 1912

24 Aug

In 1912 the Pacific Coast League opted to replace the Spalding cork-centered baseball, which they used the previous season, with the Goldsmith ball which had a solid rubber core.

The decision sparked an advertising war between the two companies in West Coast newspapers.

The Goldsmith ads bragged:

“After severest tests, the Pacific Coast League, with many others all over the country, have officially adopted the Goldsmith baseball…The Goldsmith Guaranteed Baseball will be used in all Pacific Coast League games, beginning with this season.  It is guaranteed for 18 innings against softening, ripping, losing shape or elasticity.”

Spalding countered with ads which said:

The Cork Center Ball is the only Ball recognized by the Official Baseball Rules and the only Ball that can be played with in the World Series games for the next twenty years.  Do you realize this?  Every professional base ball player, every professional base ball manager, every professional club owner should insist upon The Cork Center Ball.  The Official Ball of the World Series.

“Of what value are players’ percentages to compare with the records of the National and American Leagues unless they play with The Cork Center Ball.”

1912spaldingcork

In another version of the ad addressed directly to “Mr. Ball Player,” the Spalding Company asked:

”Don’t you want to compare your playing and the records of your team with the playing of men on National and American League teams, and how can you do so if you do not play with a Cork Center Ball?  Your accurate throwing, your perfect stick work, your long throws, and above all that perfect confidence which all ball players need, all depend upon a standard ball and the real standard ball is the style used in the World Series games.  The Spalding.”

1912spaldingmr

Spalding even warned players in another ad:

“You are shutting the door to your further advancement if you have hopes of getting ahead in professional base ball if you play with anything but a Cork Center Ball.”

1912spalding

While the company’s battled, The (Portland) Oregonian suggested a more sinister reason for the switch during spring training:

“When the czars of the Pacific Coast League adopted a new official ball for a period of five tears at Los Angeles last winter, little did the younger generation dream of an impending disaster.

“The opening of the practice season, however, reveals a deep, dire plot to rob the corner-lot Ty Cobb in embryo of his unlawful spoils, the ‘dollar an’ two-bit’ spheres fouled over the fences and so seldom returned.

“Every ball put out by the new Cincinnati firm (Goldsmith) has the name of the home club indelibly stamped into the horsehide, along with the signature and stamp of approval of President A. T. Baum…This safeguard means that Coast League moguls will be able to identify every ball sneaked away by the crafty kids of the sand heaps.

“When one stops to consider that close to 1000 balls, or approximately $1200, went scampering away to the rendezvous of the juveniles last season in Portland alone, the effect of a crimp in the visible supply can readily be seen at a glimpse.

“Of course a mere Bertillonizing (a reference to the criminal identification system developed by Alphonse Bertillon) of the ball cannot absolutely stop the depredations, but with the penalty of a stiff fine and possible imprisonment hanging over their heads like the sword of Damocles, the magnates believe the small youth will lay off the petty thievery from now on.”

The paper said Portland Beavers Manager Walter McCredie had received seven dozen balls, “and these are expected to last until the start of the season.”

There was no word on how many balls were recovered from young criminals as a result of the stamp.

At the end of the 1912 season The Oregonian said they had not:

“(H)eard any kicks on the Goldsmith ball, which is giving the old-line companies quite a scare all over the nation.”

There didn’t seem to be a significant impact on offense.  Twenty players hit better than .290 in 1911; 24 did so in 1912.  Buddy Ryan led the league with 23 home runs in 1911; Bert Coy led with 19 in 1912.  Six players hit 10 more home runs in 1911; eight did so in 1912.

After the five-year contract with Goldsmith expired, the Reach Baseball, which had a cork center, became the official ball of the Pacific Coast League

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things–Lost Quotes

30 Jun

The Detroit Free Press had no love for Cap Anson of the Chicago White Stockings, and observed in 1888:

“The majority of the Chicago players are courteous, gentlemanly fellows, and as Anson naturally finds no pleasure in their companionship he is generally rather lonesome.”

Cap Anson

Cap Anson

The Cincinnati Enquirer had a similarly low view of the entire White Stockings team in 1879:

“The Boston Herald says the greatest trouble with the new Chicago nine will be able to tell whether it will try to win.  We think its greatest problem will be whether or not it will keep sober.”

Charles Webb Murphy was often asked after giving up his interest in the Chicago Cubs if he regretted leaving baseball for much less glamorous businesses.  In 1914, Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner said Murphy answered the question by telling people:

 Charles Webb Murphy

Charles Webb Murphy

“Well, not one of my gravel pits has jumped to the Federal League.”

Arthur Irwin was one of the best-known scouts of his time, but by 1912, he declared that most of the good players were gone:

Arthur Irwin

Arthur Irwin

“Scouting isn’t like it used to be.  There was a time when a man could go through the bushes and pick up all kinds of men; but times have changed since then.  The scout who is lucky to pick up one really good ballplayer in a season can congratulate himself and feel satisfied he has earned his salary.”

Fred Clarke gave a toast on Honus Wagner’s 42nd birthday.  The Pittsburgh Press quoted him:

“During all the years we played together I never knew him to make a wrong play.”

Wagner

Honus Wagner

The previous year’s celebration of Wagner’s birthday included this quote in a letter from Johnny Evers:

“You hear about ‘second’ Cobbs, ’another’ Lajoie, but you never hear about ‘second’ Wagner’s. Why?  Simply because there never will be a second Wagner.”

Lost Advertisements–Ty Cobb ‘The American Boy”

29 Apr

cobbamericanboy1921

A 1921 advertisement for “The American Boy.”  “The Biggest, Brightest, Best Magazine for boys in all the world.”

The magazine was published from 1899-1941, and at one point had a circulation of nearly 300,000.

The May issue, on sale for .25 at newsstands, featured Ty Cobb:

How Ty Cobb put new thrills in baseball!

“The, bulliest, most inspiring story of the year; the kind that will set your blood tingling and boost your enthusiasm!  Complete with splendid action photographs of Cobb.”

[…]

“Read Cobb’s experiences: how he has blazed a path to greater baseball; how his new standard is being felt in every department of the game.

“Read about the batters Cobb had t beat; how he used his brains at the plate and conquered his fear of southpaws; how he used his brains in base running;  the story of his greatest play; his lightning thinking and running;  how he fooled the fielders;  his nine ways to side; ‘picking up a fly,’ one of Cobb’s great tricks.

“Every line will delight you!”

It appears that no copies of the May 1921 edition are still available.  Below is anther example of a baseball cover from “The American Boy” in 1912:

amboy1912

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #18

7 Mar

Tener on Anson

In 1917, John Tener wrote an article in “Baseball Magazine” about Cap Anson, his former manager with the Chicago White Stockings.

John Tener

John Tener

The former pitcher and outfielder, who went on to serve in the United States Congress and as Governor of Pennsylvania, and who in 1917 was president of the National League said:

“Pop Anson was the Greatest Batter who ever lived.  You may look up his record, compare it with others and draw your own conclusions.  When I say this I am well aware of the claims of Ed Delehanty, Hans Wagner and many other great hitters.  I give them all due credit, but in my opinion, Anson was the greatest of them all.

"Cap" Anson

Anson

“He was, first of all, a free hitter. He loved batting…He had that true eye which enabled him to hit the ball squarely on the nose.  His hits were line drives.  They were solid smashes with the full force of his muscular shoulders behind them.”

[…]

“He was an excellent judge of the precise fraction of a second that he needed to swing that heavy bat of his against the best the pitcher could offer.  He didn’t exactly place his hits, but he contrived to drive the ball behind the base runner about where he wanted to drive it…He was big and strong and heavy.  Some hitters of the present day fatten their averages by their nimbleness in reaching first.  Anson drove the ball solidly into the outfield and took his time in going to first.”

Conte on Mendez

Jose Pepe Conte was a well-known sportswriter in Havana, Cuba. Frank Menke of Heart Newspaper’s International News Service (INS) said of him:

Jose Pepe Conte

Jose Pepe Conte

“Pepe is a fellow who knows heaps and heaps about ancient history, European customs, chemistry, baseball and prize fighting.”

The Pittsburgh Press called him:

“(A) Cuban newspaperman, political personage, and unearther of baseball talent.”

In 1912, the INS distributed an article Conte wrote about the pitcher he thought was the best ever:

“American baseball fans can talk all they want about their (Chief) Benders, (Christy) Mathewsons, (Ed) Walshes and (Mordecai) Browns, but down in our country we have a pitcher that none of the best batters in the country can touch. This is the famous Black Tornado, (Jose) Mendez.  Talk about speed.  Why, when he cuts loose at his hardest clip the ball bounces out of the catcher’s mitt Talk about speed, Mendez has to pitch most of the time without curves because we haven’t a catcher who can hold him.  To make things better, Mendez can bat like (Ty) Cobb.  He has won his own games on various occasions with smashes over the fences for home runs.  He weighs about 154 pounds and is a little fellow.”

Jose Mendez

Jose Mendez

[…]

“No one has been found who can hold him when he really extends himself.  He has shown his skill in the past when he has faced the best batters of the Cubs and Detroit teams when those teams were champions, and when the Athletics went there last year.  Mendez has more curves than any pitcher in America, and if some inventive genius could produce a whitening process whereby we could get the fellow into the big leagues he could win a pennant for either tail-end team in either league.”

Sullivan on Comiskey

In his book, “The National Game,” Al Spink said Ted Sullivan was “the best judge of a ball player in America, the man of widest vision in the baseball world, who predicted much for the National game years ago, and whose predictions have all come true.”

Ted Sullivan

Ted Sullivan

Sullivan was a player, manager, executive, and in 1921, he wrote a series of articles for The Washington Times called “The Best of my Sport Reminiscences.”  He said of Charles Comiskey, who he was crediting with “discovering” at St. Mary’s College in Kansas:

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

“As a player, Comiskey was easily the best first baseman of his time…His intuition in defining the thoughts of his opponents and making his play accordingly placed him head and shoulders over any man that played that position before or after.

“Comiskey was with John Ward and King Kelly one of the greatest of base runners.  I do not mean dress parade base running, either, merely to show the crowd he could run.  Comiskey’s base running was done at a place in the game when it meant victory for his side.  He was far from being the machine batter that Anson, Roger Connor and some others were; but as a run-getter, which means the combination of hitting, waiting, bunting and running, he outclassed all others.  Jack Doyle, when in his prime with Baltimore and New York, was the nearest approach to Comiskey in brainwork.  There are no others.”