Bill Burgess / Research & Analysis / Players
[From Bill Burgess'
Ty Cobb Memorial
Did Ty Cobb Once Kill A Man?
How Racist Was Ty?
DID LEO DUROCHER ONCE GIVE TY COBB THE HIP?
By Bill Burgess III
In 1928, there appeared a book, named "Babe Ruth's Own Baseball Book", by Babe Ruth. From the title, one
would presume that none other than the famous Babe Ruth had written that book. But subsequent research
has shown that the over-whelming circumstantial evidence appears to show that the actual author of that
book was none other than Ford Frick, the later Commissioner of Baseball, and formerly a NY baseball
writer, personal friend, and huge fan of Babe Ruth.
One of the minor anecdotes from this book involves Leo Durocher and Ty Cobb. Although the record books
don't show it, at the end of the '26 and '27 seasons, Durocher was called up to sit in the Yankees dugout,
although he got into no games, hence receives no credit for being on the Yankees for either year. Leo was
a slick-fielding, but puny hitting shortstop. In the book, Ford Frick purports that once, as Ty Cobb was
rounding 2nd base, headed for third, that Leo was adept enough to have given Ty the "hip", knocking Ty down,
and allowing Ty to be an easy out. So we must bear in mind that the alleged incident is being claimed by
Ford Frick, and not the Babe.
Ty, in his 1961 autobiography, by Al Stump, always denied this incident happened. Here is what Ty had to say
about this alleged incident. "the same goes for the much-circulated account of how Leo Durocher knocked me
sprawling when I rounded second base. As it's peddled, Durocher said, "that'll hold you, you old goat!"
Leo gets all kinds of credit for having slyly slammed a hip into me and put me flat on my face.
He never saw the day he could do it. In 1928, when this play supposedly happened, I knew a few too many
tricks to be caught by some skinny infielder's hip. What makes the lie all the more obvious is that the story has
me out on the play. Had Durocher clipped me, I'd have been entitled to the next base on interference.
(My Life in Baseball - the True Record; Ty Cobb with Al Stump, Sept., 1961, pp. 142)
The story finally got relegated to the trash can, by none other than Leo himself. Here is his edition of the alleged
incident. "Many stories have been written about the "fight" I had with Ty Cobb the first time I ever played against
him, and I always read them with great interest because no fight ever took place. What happened was that Cobb,
who was just finishing out his career Connie Mack's Athletics, was on first base, and Tris Speaker, who was also
finishing out his career in Philadelphia, hit a line drive through the pitcher's box. I dove for the ball, got my glove on
it and slowed it down enough so that it stopped in short centerfield just off the dirt. While I was scrambling after it
I happened to get in Cobb's way -- accidentally, of course -- forcing him to pull up just enough so that I was able
to throw him out at third to end the inning.
Now, in those days, the Yankee dugout was behind third base - not first base as it is now and as I'm passing Cobb
on the way in, he says to me, "You get in my way again, you fresh busher, and I'll step on your face."
I hadn't said a word to Cobb, and I still didn't. Hell, this is Ty Cobb. But Ruth, who was coming in from left field,
wanted to know what Cobb had said. "Well, kid," Ruth said - he called everybody kid - "the next time he comes to
bat call him a pennypincher."
I'd never heard that word before, but just from the way everybody on the bench started to laugh I had a pretty good
idea what it meant. What I didn't know was that Cobb had a reputation for being a very tight man with a dollar and had
been ready to fight at the drop of a "pennypincher" for years.
Well, naturally, I can't wait for him to get up again so I can go to work on him and, holy cow, he turns in the batter's box,
pointing his finger, and the umpire has to restrain him. Now, the game is over and the umpires don't care any more.
Both clubs have to use the third-base dugout to get to the locker room, and Cobb races over to cut me off. He's out to
kill me and I'm looking for a place to run because I am not about to tangle with Mr. Cobb.
Finally, Babe came running in and put his arm around Cobb, and he's kind of grinning at him and settling him down.
"Now what are you going to do? You don't want to hit the kid, do you?" And while Babe has his attention - boom - I'm
up the stairs like a halfback and into the locker room." (Nice Guys Finish Last, by Leo Durocher, 1975, pp. 48-50)
Email Bill Burgess