Old School: The Georgia Peach

For my second foray into ‘Baseball past’ I’ve decided to take a look at one of the most controversial, and arguably one of the greatest, figures to ever play the game – Tyrus Raymond Cobb!

To say that Ty Cobb was one of Baseball’s more complex characters would be a bit of and understatement to say the least! Credited with setting 90 MLB records in his career, a number of which still stand today, Cobb’s prowess on the diamond was often overshadowed by his foul temperament and aggressive playing style, and his legacy as the game’s greatest player has been tarnished over the years by allegations of violence and racism.

Cobb epitomised the Dead Ball Era style of play – the strategy of the ‘small ball’ game with the emphasis placed on base stealing and hit-and-run tactics over power! However his career, which spanned 21 years with the Detroit Tigers from 1905 to 1926 and a further two years from 1927 to 1928 with the Philadelphia Athletics, is so rich and storied that I couldn’t even begin to do it justice here.

So instead I’ll employ a similar tactic that I used with a post I put together about Stan Musial shortly after his death in January this year, and let the words of writers and other ballplayers tell you all about the man, and the legend, that is Ty Cobb. And while we’re at it we’ll take a look at some of the early cards that Cobb featured on.

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“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.”

– Ty Cobb, The Early Years (1989)

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“Cobb is a prick. But he sure can hit. God Almighty, that man can hit.”

– Babe Ruth

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“Every time I hear of this guy again, I wonder how he was possible.”

– Joe DiMaggio

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“I have observed that baseball is not unlike a war, and when you come right down to it, we batters are the heavy artillery.”

– Ty Cobb, Baseball As I Have Known It (1977)

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“He was still fighting the Civil War, and as far as he was concerned, we were all damn Yankees. But who knows, if he hadn’t had that terrible persecution complex, he never would have been about the best ballplayer who ever lived.”

– Tigers’ Teammate Sam Crawford

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“The greatness of Ty Cobb was something that had to be seen, and to see him was to remember him forever.”

– George Sisler

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“The base paths belonged to me, the runner. The rules gave me the right. I always went into a bag full speed, feet first. I had sharp spikes on my shoes. If the baseman stood where he had no business to be and got hurt, that was his fault.”

– Ty Cobb, Giants Of Baseball (1975)

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“The greatest ballplayer of all time? … I pick the Detroit man because he is, in my judgement, the most expert man in his profession and is able to respond better than any other ballplayer, to any demand made on him. I pick him because he plays ball with his whole anatomy — his head, his arms, his hands, his legs, his feet — and because he plays ball all the time for all that is in him. … he loves the game. I have never seen a man who had his heart more centered in a sport than Cobb has when he’s playing. There never was a really good ball player who didn’t think more of the game than he did of his salary or the applause of fans. … I believe Cobb would continue to play ball if he were charged something for the privilege, and if the only spectator were the groundskeeper.”

– Charles Comiskey, The Chicago tribune (1910)

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“The more his fires burned the more that provoked him on the field and I suppose one could say that the happy byproduct was the extraordinary baseball that he gave the fans at the time, but … uh, there’s a moment when you have to say it’s not worth it. I think that Ty Cobb in his totality is an embarrassment to baseball.”

Daniel Okrent, Ken Burns’ Baseball (1994)

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“I think if I had my life to live over again, I’d do things a little different. I was aggressive, perhaps too aggressive. Maybe I went too far. I always had to be right in any argument I was in, I always had to be first in everything. I do indeed think I would have done some things different. And if I had I believe I would have had more friends.”

– Ty Cobb, in one of his last interviews before his death in 1961

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Most of Ty Cobb’s earliest cards are well beyond the price range of your average collector! Any of the above T206, T205, Cracker Jack and Sport Kings can fetch thousands of dollars on the secondary market, even in poor condition! Such is the draw of this Baseball icon!

Luckily for us Cobb does feature heavily in a number of modern releases due to his ongoing popularity amongst collectors! You’ll frequently see his cards appear in Topps’ retro-themed products and he also features heavily in Panini’s Baseball output as well.

cobb_gq

Ty Cobb may well have been an odious human being, but his skill and tenacity on the field were without peer. Collectors have responded to this throughout the years, making his cards, especially the early ones, some of the most highly sought after in the Hobby!

I know that if I managed to ever get my hands on one of those Cracker Jacks or the T206’s I’d consider myself one lucky SOB!

Let’s hope my numbers come up in the lottery this weekend 🙂

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