Tag Archives: Ty Cobb

“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.”

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

“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:

cobbchalmers

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:

cobb1

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:

wagner

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

cobb

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.

westonoatmeal

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.”

cobb

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.

harrycoveleski

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

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.

 

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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?

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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.”