April 21, 2020
Tyrus Raymond Cobb nicknamed The Georgia Peach, was born in rural Narrows, Georgia. Cobb spent 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, the last six as the team’s player-manager, and finished his career with the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1936 Cobb received the most votes of any player on the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, receiving 222 out of a possible 226 votes (98.2%); no other player received a higher percentage of votes until Tom Seaver in 1992. In 1999, editors at the Sporting News ranked Ty Cobb third on their list of “Baseball’s 100 Greatest Players”.
Ty Cobb got his pro start in his home state of Georgia. On April 21, 1904, he started his .366 career batting average playing for the minor league Augusta Tourists. The team was part of the Southern Atlantic League from 1904-1910 and again from 1914-1917. This was the beginning of a pro career marked by both excellence and a fierce temper. As Ty Cobb famously said of himself, “I had to fight all my life to survive. They were all against me… but I beat the bastards and left them in the ditch.”
Fourteen months after his pro debut, Ty Cobb’s dad, an educator and politician, was shot by his stay-at-home wife. She maintained that she mistook her husband for a burglar.
A month later Cobb was sold to the Tigers, an American League team. The incident and grief dogged Cobb for a bit, but by 1907 he had hit his stride and earned the first of 12 batting titles.
Cobb is widely credited with setting 90 MLB records during his career. His combined total of 4,065 runs scored and runs batted in (after adjusting for home runs) is still the highest ever produced by any major league player. He still holds several records as of the end of the 2019 season, including the highest career batting average (.366 or .367, depending on source) and most career batting titles with 11 (or 12, depending on source).
He retained many other records for almost a half century or more, including most career hits until 1985 (4,189 or 4,191, depending on source), most career runs (2,245 or 2,246 depending on source) until 2001, most career games played (3,035) and at bats (11,429 or 11,434 depending on source) until 1974, and the modern record for most career stolen bases (892) until 1977. He still holds the career record for stealing home (54 times) and for stealing second base, third base, and home in succession (5 times), and as the youngest player ever to compile 4,000 hits and score 2,000 runs. Cobb ranks fifth all-time in number of games played and committed 271 errors, the most by any American League (AL) outfielder.
Cobb played a quality game for a long, long time. More than 24 years after his debut, in 1928, he stole home for the 50th (and last) time, for example. He was 41. In 1936, he was one of the first class of players ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. It would be 1985 before Pete Rose would overcome Cobb’s career hit record, 24 years after Cobb died of prostate cancer in Atlanta at age 74.