The Baseball Uniform of a Georgia Peach
He was “The Georgia Peach,” and no one in the world of baseball could, or ever has, matched up to this man’s legacy. If Ty Cobb was wearing his baseball uniform and hit the ‘diamond,’ his team was always guaranteed the win.
Cobb spent twenty-two seasons with the Detroit Tigers – one of the most dedicated and loyal American League Baseball players ever to be seen in the amazing sport of baseball. In the last six years of his Tigers run, this “Georgia Peach” was also the team’s player-manager, making sure that each and every uniform on that incredible baseball field would do everything perfectly for the loyal Tiger’s fans.
It is no over-exaggeration to say that Ty Cobb was one of the best baseball players of all time. In fact, in 1936 Cobb received the most votes of any player on the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame ballot – in order to get his name placed for all time in the history books. There is no way to describe this man. 90 – NINETY – Major League Records were set by Ty Cobb during his reign in the world of baseball, proving that there was no player who would ever follow that could duplicate, imitate, or break the standards that he brought to the ‘diamond’ Even now, in 2011, Ty Cobb’s records still stand – including the highest career batting average (.367), and most career batting titles (12). Of course, not all records were sparkling; Ty Cobb also committed the most errors (271) of any outfielder in the game. And, Ty Cobb will always be remembered for his less-than-stellar temper, as well.
This “Georgia Peach” was no peach at times. He could’ve given Billy Martin and many others a run for the angriest man in baseball. He played baseball with so much heart, wisdom, and strength that he was called truly aggressive, as if he should’ve donned the uniform of a wrestler or fighter instead of an outfielder. The Detroit Free Press at the time, constantly reported on Cobb’s diehard ways on the field, saying that when he played he was “daring to the point of dementia.”
As a young man, Cobb played in Georgia where, at the time, his monthly salary came in at $50.00. He promoted himself as publicists do for the athletes of today – even sending various postcards that he’d written about his talents out to sports editors everywhere. This young man knew about branding far before 2011- where it is now the biggest subject in the world.
With the Detroit Tigers, Cobb pulled down a salary of $750.00, a good start for such an awesome player. But Cobb’s anger issues certainly affected his life and his game, and stemmed from a very tragic place. In 1905, Ty’s mother fatally shot his father. In a turn of events for society, Ty’s father believed that his wife had committed an act of infidelity, and was sneaking past his own bedroom window to catch her in the act. As any frightened woman would do, she saw the silhouette of what she assumed to be a burglar and, acting in self-defense, shot and killed her own husband. There were many who would never believe it was an accident. However, once Mrs. Cobb was charged with murder, she was acquitted for it as well.
Even Ty was known later to bring up the incident in a round-about-way by telling people that the reason for his temper and ferocious play was all do to the death of his father, saying, “I did it for my father. He never got to see me play but I knew he was watching me, and I never let him down.”
It was only three weeks after his mother killed his father, that Cobb debuted in the center field for the Detroit Tigers, and he was the youngest player in the league, at the age of eighteen. He did so well, in fact, that he landed an extremely lucrative contract with the Tigers paying him $1500.00 in 1906 – two years later that was raised to $5,000.
This was one rookie who could not be touched, and if any of his own teammates attempted hazing or playing tricks on ‘the new guy’ this was soon squashed, as each and every member quickly realized that Cobb was a ball of anger and ready to explode. Good humor wasn’t one of Cobb’s gifts – however, seeing as that he had a ton of others, this was overlooked.
The glory hit full-force when Cobb moved to right field and led the Tigers to three consecutive American League pennants from 1907–1909. Of course, the World Series would constantly remain out of their grasp…all THREE times. Cobb made a great number of ‘firsts’ to make up for those losses, including being the first to steal second, third, and then home, as well as becoming the youngest player in history to win a batting championship. Ty Cobb had a great deal of awesome memories with the Tigers, but this ‘Peach’ – after retirement – told a famous newspaper reporter that his biggest thrill, came from a game against the Athletics in 1907. “The Athletics had us beaten…they were two runs ahead in the 9th inning when I happened to hit a home run that tied the score. This game went seventeen innings to end in a tie…a few days later we clinched our first pennant. You can understand what it meant for a twenty-year-old country boy to hit a home run off the great Rube Waddell in a pennant-winning game with two outs in the ninth.”
For all these amazing feats, Cobb was still no stranger to controversy off the ‘diamond.’ He even fought a groundskeeper over the condition of the Tigers’ field, and ended up choking the man’s wife when she intervened to try and stop the argument
But, one of the most beloved American companies didn’t seem to mind his anger. In walked Coca-Cola in 1907 and Cobb would become their spokesperson until he actually passed on. By the time he died, he owned over 20,000 shares of the stock and three bottling plants – no one ever would become a better celebrity spokesman for their product.
Yes, there were more controversies like in 1912, when Cobb assaulted a heckler in the stands in New York. This uniform and fan had traded insults with each other through the first three innings, and the situation climaxed when Lueker called Cobb a not very nice slur. At the end of the sixth inning, after being challenged by his own teammates to do something about it, Cobb climbed into the stands and attacked Lueker, who it turned out was handicapped. When onlookers shouted at Cobb to stop because the man had no hands, Cobb reportedly replied, “I don’t care if he got no feet!”
It seems that the moment Cobb felt the worst, however, was when Babe Ruth came along and his popularity seemed to grow overnight. Cobb saw Ruth not only as a threat to his style of play, but also to his lifestyle. Cobb preached while Ruth gorged on hot dogs, beer, and women. Ruth had a total disregard for his physical condition and traditional baseball, but he was still an overwhelming success and brought fans to the ballparks in record numbers.
Later Cobb became the manager of the Detroit Tigers, but after a 22-year career he announced his retirement and headed home to the land of the Georgia peaches. In the end, whether controversial, a young boy with a murderous home life, or a truly outstanding player who the crowds streamed into the ballpark to see, Ty Cobb was one baseball uniform that will never be forgotten!
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