Bill Burgess / Research & Analysis / Players
[From Bill Burgess'
Ty Cobb Memorial
Did Leo Durocher Once Give Ty Cobb the Hip?
Did Ty Cobb Once Fix a Game?
Was Cobb the greatest all-around baseball player who ever lived? PART I
DID ALL OF TY COBB'S TEAM MATES HATE HIM?
By Bill Burgess III
One of the accepted axioms of Ty Cobb's public persona is that all his baseball team mates hated him. One runs into this "truth" constantly.
This perceived "truth" is so universally accepted that few, if any, take the trouble to investigate further. And while there is a lot of
"truth" in that belief, there is also a very interesting, deeper story interwoven with it, that bears a re-telling. As usual, there are 2 sides,
and often more, to every story. And also, as usual, the truth is often more interesting, than the sloppily-cobbled together distortions.
Let's go slow. When Ty arrived in Detroit on August 30, 1905, he was 18 yrs., 8 months old. He was 6'1, 160 lbs., optimistic, eager to
please. It had only been 3 weeks, since his mother had accidentally killed his father, on Aug. 9. So, his emotional balance was precarious,
to say the least. Since it was understood that he was only called up as a temporary replacement for injured OF, Jimmy Barrett, Ty
wasn't seen as threatening anyone else's job. He only got into 41 games, and hit .240. Looked to all as if he was simply just another
one of thousands of undistinguished rookies, who would not be seen or heard from again. So, 1905 passed without incident, nor
That winter, the Tigers sent Barrett to the Reds, acquired OF Davey Jones, and extended an invitation to young Cobb to attend their
spring training tryouts. That meant that he'd have to compete with Crawford, Jones and McIntyre for an OF slot. And that was where
his problems began.
When Ty arrived at spring training, March 9, 1906, at Augusta, GA, he was not looking for any trouble, but neither was he in any
frame of mind to take anything off of anyone else, seasoned vet or not.
If Ty could have seen the lack of chivalrous culture the season held for him, he'd have wanted to turn around & boarded the train back to Royston.
But that option wasn't one he could exercise. His father's unexpected death had left the family in dire straights.
At the age of 18, the responsibilities of the family fell squarely on his shoulders. He had to stay on the Tigers, make the team, and start
sending payments back home. His mother was in real jeopardy of losing the family homestead. All through 1906, his 1st full season,
it was 1 incident after another. The anti-Cobb clique intended to deny him a starting slot. They may have felt that their initial "pranks"
were innocent. Little did they know of Ty's family situation, the circumstances of his father's death, and of his steely resolve to fight them
to a standstill at every point along the line. His enemies no doubt believed that he'd defer to older players, accept their grossly ignorant abuse
with the same forced laughing it off, that other rookies did when hazed out of the MLs. Man, were they wrong. The ring-leaders of the
anti-Cobb clique were:
Matty McIntyre: He joined the Tigers in '04, was 26 in '06, and had some allies. Let go in 1910, due to problems with Ty.
Twilight Ed Killian: He was McIntyre's room mate, was 30 yrs. old and a pitcher. Tigers let him go in 1910 due to his problems with Ty.
Ed Siever: Was 29 yrs. old in 1906, let go in 1908, due to his problems with Cobb.
Sam Crawford: He was a team leader. What he did, influenced the whole team.
George Moriarty: Another of the toughest of the league. With Detroit, 1909-15.
Charlie Schmidt: Fought Ty 3 times. With Detroit, 1906-11.
At first, it started with throwing wet wads of newspaper at him from behind, then smashing the crowns out of his hats. When they
sawed his home-made ash bats in two, it hurt him deeply. He had spent a lot of time boning those bats. But when he would snarl back,
challenge them to fist-fight him, they escalated into fights. They goated their catcher, Bossman Charlie Schmidt into fighting Ty.
Schmidt had the reputation of being the toughest guy in the league. He had sparred with Jack Johnson, who later became the world's
heavy-weight champion, drove spikes into the clubhouse floor. He weighed over 200 lbs.
Ty arrived in Augusta, GA, for spring training, 1906, on March 9, but on Friday afternoon, March 30, Ty boarded a train for Lavonia, GA
to attend his mother's murder trial. Late the next afternoon, the all male jury found his mother not guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
Ty spent a few days with his mother and rejoined the Tigers in Birmingham, AL, April 7, 1906.
Right after that, he developed a bad case of tonsillitis, and had his tonsils removed, without anesthetic, by a physician who the next
year, was committed to an insane asylum. Then back to his team.
Few rookies have ever had to endure the severity of the hazing Cobb did in 1906. The harassment and fighting among Cobb,
Killian, Siever and McIntyre continued unabated. Ty finally took to carrying a pistol out of fear of further beatings. One day that
summer, he was timed with a stopwatch at 100 yds. His 10 flat sprint in uniform and BB cleats, wasn't bad, considering the world
record of 9.6 of world record holder Dan Kelly's in track shorts, track spikes, and specialized training.
His BA plunged from .348 in late June, to .318 in mid-July. Suddenly, he disappeared from the Detroit lineup. Not even his team mates
were told of his whereabouts. He had been sent back to a sanitarium in the suburbs of Detroit. He had suffered a nervous breakdown.
So the Detroit management had sent him there to rest and recover from the hazing of his team. He was out of the lineup from July 18, 1906
to September 3, 1906, 44 days. Which proves that even Cobb had a threshold of tolerance for stress.
And even throughout that hellish rookie season of 1906, Cobb still led his team in BA. of .318. The rest of the season, Cobb still had the
3 ringleaders of McIntyre, Killian, and Siever to contend with. And throughout the seasons of 1907-10, Ty still had conflicted relations
with his team mates. They didn't like him and he became comfortable as a loner. He was friends with Wild Bill Donovan and Davey Jones.
Ty's troubles with his team mates culminated with an incident at the end of the 1910 season. When it seemed as if Lajoie had won the BA.,
8 of Ty's team mates sent a congratulatory telegram to Lajoie for winning the BA title. That hurt Ty deeply, but he covered up by saying,
"That was to be expected." Supposedly, McIntyre, Crawford, Jones, Bush, and Schmidt signed the telegram. They did not deny it.
That telegram to Lajoie was an unnecessary, snide, cheap shot at Ty. But that mean-spirited gesture, around Oct. 1, 1910, was followed
by another gesture only 5 weeks later, of a different kind. In early Nov., the Detroit Tigers received an invitation to visit Havana, Cuba,
for a 12 games series of games. The Tigers had gone there the previous Nov., 1909, and lost 4-8 to the Havana black team, which was
strengthened by a few US black superstars of the Negro L. The Tigers had lost before, and this time asked Cobb to join them, so they
could win their series this time. So, those mean-spirited Tigers of 5 wks. ago, now were asking Cobb for a favor.
Although Ty initially refused on racial grounds, he relented when the Cuban promoters added a $1,000. bonus for him. "I broke my own
rule for a few games." Ty went down there, but missed the 1st 5 games. When he arrived, the Tigers were 3-3-1 with the blacks.
With Ty, they finished the series at 7-4-1. With Ty, they did 4-1.
Ty never tried to even the score for the Lajoie telegram. He let it pass, and kept trying to help his team win. He concentrated on getting
his hits, runs and winning games. His incidents with his team mates dropped and they eventually came to see him in another, different,
better light. They saw he was helping them win, with every sinew, drop of blood, fiber of his being. The team had gotten rid of Ty's
tormentors along the way. They had let go of both McIntyre & Killian in '10, Siever in '08, and Schmidt in '11. So that no doubt helped
team cohesion / morale. So things can and often do get heal with time. The anti-Ty clique, without its ringleaders, quietly subsided.
For one thing, Ty had so achieved superstar status, that to continue to haze him would no longer work on a fully grown,
matured player, like it would on an isolated 19 yr. old. It was a bizarre incident a yr. and a half later, which would put an end to all team disharmony
One day at Hilltop Park, NY May 15, 1912, Ty's team showed him just how far they had come in terms of backing him. This one day, a
heckling fan went WAY too far with respect to player abuse. He and Ty had known each other in GA, and disliked each other even then.
This fan, Claude Lueker, had dogged Ty whenever the Tigers visited the New York Highlanders. He had a foghorn voice and could be
heard above the roar of the crowd. And he made no bows to discretion this day. At 1st, Ty shouted back into the crowd, then tried to
avoid the heckler. He requested the park ushers and security to remove the offending violator, and they refused. Ty tried not coming
in to the dugout if he wasn't going to bat. But when he had to come in, it started over again.
All this time, it gave Ty's team mates a unique, rare chance to see how Ty was trying his honest best to deal with his oppressor. It
HAD to let them ponder how they too had treated him in the past. And now, they saw how, he was being systematically persecuted.
They saw how he tried to keep his cool. Tried to work through the system and asked the ushers to do their jobs, and how he had
absented himself to the extent he could. And how he was being hurt and couldn't defend himself.
It might even have reminded them of their old mean-spirited telegram, and how he had not fought back. And even had went with them
to Cuba to help them win their series. But most of all, they had seen how he had never spared himself in his quest to help his team
to the very best of his ability, of which they knew to be supreme. So, now they shifted into gear to support their team mate.
They all went up to Ty and told him that, whatever he decided to do, they would back him up, come what may. And now, Crawford,
always their team leader, led the way. The team saw how Crawford, went up to Ty, and told him, "If you don't stand up for yourself,
and your family, we won't think much of you. Do what you must. We're here behind you every step of the way."
Well, you can imagine how that put iron in his veins. Steeled by his team's support, the next time, the heckler cut lose with his racial
profanity, Cobb hopped the railing, sprinted up the grandstand, and seeing Lueker, beat the living snot out of his sad ass. And when
he did, the other fans cheered. Ty went back down the steps towards his dugout, to find his team mates, holding bats, lining the field,
in case any fans charged the field.
That one incident was so shocking to Ty that he couldn't quite fathom that his team had backed him to the hilt. When he was suspended
they struck. That astonished Ty even more. And touched him in a way that he never thought would happen. That was their way of
telling him, that they'd changed their attitude towards him, and appreciated his contributions to team winning.
That incident went a long way to unifying a previously divided team. And gave Ban Johnson a chance to clean up the abuse of players.
Park security was tightened up so that offending fans of the future would be escorted out of the park. Tossing glass soda bottles
would no longer be tolerated either. An ump had be hit in the head on one occasion. Heckling is one thing, and is a traditional part of
the sport. But profanity, drunkenness, and racial slurs were off limits. So it led to a healthy result.
Boss Schmidt died in 1932 as one of Ty's close friends. They even wept a few times to remember how it'd been. Grew to love each other.
Wild Bill Donovan: Was always one of Ty's friends. Died: Dec. 9, 1923, Forsyth, NY.
Matty McIntyre: Died in 1920, never having made his peace with Cobb or shaking hands.
Twilight Ed Killian: Wrote Ty one day yrs after his career ended. Worked in Studebaker plant in Detroit & hoped there might be enough
left in his old arm to pick up a few bucks in an industrial league. "tee, it's been tough for me. If I had a pair of shoes and a glove, I could
make this team and it would help."
"Ed," Ty wrote back, "present yourself at the Spalding's sports good store in Detroit and order the best--anything you need. I'll phone
them and make sure your order is filled. I hope you win every game." So Ty was able to bury the hatchet with one of his old opponents.
Ed Killian died July 18, 1928 in Detroit, MI, age 52, cancer
ED Siever: Died: Feb. 4, 1920, Detroit, MI, age 43, tuberculosis
Matty McIntyre: Died: April 2, 1920, Detroit, MI, age 40, tuberculosis
Charlie Schmidt: Died: Nov. 14, 1932, Clarksville, AR, age 52, intestinal disorder
Bill Donovan: Died: Dec. 9, 1923, Forsyth, NY, age 47, train wreck
George Moriarty: Died: April 8, 1964, Miami, FL, age 80
Strangely, it looks as if most of Ty's former hazers died very early in life.
So ends an explanation for Ty's relations with his early team mates. Part I.
Later in his career, Ty was made the manager of his team, and that brought a whole new chapter to his relations with his team mates.
Mostly, his problems arose from his inability to communicate with his pitchers. As a CF/ manager, he'd trot in from CF to confer with
his pitchers, and man would they hate that. So would the fans, since it slowed up the game. But he didn't know any other way.
There were of course those who did get along with Ty and supported him throughout. Fred Haney, his little 2nd
basemen was one such player.
Fred Haney - 1929 " I personally know of many attempts Cobb made to help players out -- veterans who were slipping both professionally
and financially, -- but, in each case the player coached by some of the soreheads, would be warned off. On one occasion, Cobb
offered to invest $3,000. for a player about to be waived out of the league. The player wanted to accept the generous offer, but some
other player, among them one who has since come to disrepute, advised him strongly against it, and he took their advice,
only to be sorry later. This talk about his not being for his players was pure bunk, There was nothing he didn't try to do to make everyone
happy. As I said, there were those who just wouldn't or couldn't see anything good in Ty. He had his share of
battles, on and off the diamond, did Ty, but, in all of them, he was a square shooter and a square fighter." (Sporting News, April 25, 1929)
Fred Haney - 1961 - "Ty Cobb was a great manager. He took a bunch of punks and finished third in 1922, second in '23 and third in '24,
when he should have been deep in the second division. He was a wonderful fellow to play for --if you hustled and did your best
all the time. He was very demanding, but quick to give you a pat on the back, too. (Sporting News, Nov. 8, 1961, pp. 10, column 3)
Bert Cole - 1970 - But, As Cole says, he got along better with Cobb than most. He discounts the stories about Cobb's being penurious,
mean and selfish. "Cobb wasn't inherently mean or really stingy. He was just fanatical about winning. When we won, nothing was
too good for us. There was steak for everybody. When we lost, he wouldn't even give you conversation. .
When I broke in, he and Harry Heilmann were having a helluva race for the batting title, and suddenly Harry went into a
month-long slump. "Ty had Harry off in the corner of the park everyday for hours before each game trying to figure out ways to break
him out of that slump. Well, Ty was a tremendous batting instructor, and he pulled Harry out of it." That was the year
Heilmann hit .394, Cobb .389, and Heilmann took the batting title.
Frank Baker - 1961 - "The burning desire to excel. That was Ty Cobb, the greatest ball player who ever lived." Upset by a magazine
writer's (Alvin Stump) bitter presentation of Cobb's last days, Baker wanted to go on record that "there wasn't a mean bone in Ty's body."
Cobb had a fiery temper, sure. And there was that overpowering urge to win that brought him into violent contact with opponents and
sometimes teammates. But always there was an underlying decency that quickly brought praise and kind words after he had
chewed you out. That even prompted him to help recruits quietly in a day and time in baseball when they got little assistance in winning
away jobs from old regulars. There'll never be another Cobb, Anybody who saw him or knew him will agree with that."
(Sporting News, Jan. 10, 1962, pp. 14, column 4)
Rip Collins, - 1929 - Ty's teammate, 1920-26; AL P, 1920-27, 29-31
1929 - "Ty Cobb and I are supposed to be enemies. That might have been true once; but it's not true now. We've had our share of differences,
I'll admit. There were times when I couldn't even see Ty's face through the red haze that sprung up between us. I hated to work for him, and I am frank
to say I wouldn't like to work for him now. But working for Ty and recognizing his good points on another ball club are two different things. . .
There's a pretty general impression, I think, that Cobb was not an able manager. It is true he never won a pennant. But now that I'm no longer
with the club, I'll go on record that if Connie Mack had managed the Tigers, with John McGraw for his coach and Joe McCarthy for his bat boy,
he wouldn't have done any better than Ty. . . Cobb was not a failure as a manager. He was not a bad manager. In many ways he was a brilliant manager.
He knew more baseball than anybody I ever saw. And chain lightning was no faster than the working of Ty's mind. He was always a fighter
and he had a fighting ball club. that's what the public wants. He was as full of tricks as a coyote is full of fleas. they weren't parlor tricks, either.
Ty was out to win ball games. . . Ty was a great coach. I doubt if his equal has ever lived. . . he did as well, with the material they gave him,
as anybody could have done. So why call him a bad manager?. . . Ty never had a good pitching staff. His outfield was bad defensively),
and his infield was worse. As a fielding combination, the Tigers were like an old sieve.
But how those boys could hit and score runs? Ty coached them and he kept them on their toes.
They were about as dangerous a team to stop as the New York Yankees. As for pennants, it makes little difference how many
runs you score, as long as the other fellow scores more. But I haven't noticed many pennants waving from that old flag pole at Detroit
since they gave Ty the gate. He drove the boys up as high as second place one year. They haven't roosted in that berth since.
So why not give Ty his due? Why saddle him with a failure that was not his, or blame him for something that nobody could help?
Ty is entitled to get sore at that kind of criticism. Frankly, I don't blame him." (Baseball Magazine, April, 1930, pp. 493)
Ty Cobb was supremely successful as a baseball player. He achieved supreme financial success after his career ended. It has been
said that he who laughs last, laughs best. If there is any relationship between admiration and affection, Ty was sucessful there. Ty
was called the best by the following of his team mates.
Ty's Detroit teammates who called him the Greatest.
Hughie Jennings, ML SS,1B, 1891-1902 Detroit manager, 1907-20, Giants coach,'21-25
"Wild Bill" Donovan, (Ty's teammate, '05-12, 18); NL P ( 1898-02),; AL P ('03-12, 15-16, 18) NL man. 1921, AL man. '15-17, Det. c '18, Player's L. ump. 03, 06
Red Corriden, (Ty's teammate, 1912); AL SS, (1910, 12); NL SS,1913-15; White Sox manager, 1950; NL coach, 1932-46, AL coach, 1947-48, 50
Ralph Works, (Ty's teammate,'09-11); AL P, 1909-12, NL P, 1912-13
Oscar Vitt, (Ty's teammate, '12-18, 21); AL 3B (1912-21), Cleveland. manager (1938-40)
Jack Coombs, (Ty's coach, 1920); AL P, 1906-14, Detroit coach, 1920
Ed Ainsmith, (Ty's teammate,1919-21)
John Bogart, Detroit P, 1920
George Cutshaw, (Ty's teammate, 1922-23); NL 2B, 1912-21, Tigers 2B, 22-23
Johhny Bassler, (Ty's teammate, '21-26); AL catcher, 1913-14, '21-27
Charlie Gehringer, (Ty's teammate, 1924-26); Detroit 2B, (1924-42), Det. coach,('42), Det. GM & VP, (1951-59)
Donie Bush, (Ty's teammate, '08-21); AL SS, 1908-23, AL manager, 1923, 27-31, 33
George Moriarty, (AL 3B, 1906-17) AL ump (1917-41, except for Detroit manager,1927-28)
Johnny Neun, (Ty's teammate, 1925-26); Yankee coach (1944-46), Yankee manager (1946), Reds manager (1947-48); NL 1B (1930-31), Reds manager (1947-48
George Henry Burns, (Ty's teammate 1914-17); AL 1B, 1914-29
Harry Heilmann, (Ty's teammate, '16-26), AL OF, 1914-29; (Cinc. coach, '32), (Detroit announcer, '33-50)
Eddie Wells, (Ty's teammate, 1923-26); Det. P, 1923-27, Yankees P, 1929-32, Browns P, 1933-34
Bert Cole, (Ty's teammate, 1921-25); AL P, 1921-1925, 27
Heinie Manush, (Ty's teammate, 1923-26); AL OF ('23-36), NL OF ('37-39)
Del Baker, (Ty's teammate,1914-16); Detroit catcher, 1914-16; Detroit manager 1936-42, Det. coach, 1933-38; Cleveland coach, 1943-44; Red Sox coach , 1945-48, 53-60
Dan Howley, (Ty's coach,1919, '21-22); Browns' manager, 1927-29; Phillies catcher, 191
Fred Haney, (Ty's teammate,1922-25); AL 3B,2B, 1922-27, NL 3B, 1927,29; Browns manager, 1939-41; Pirates manager, 1953-55; Braves manager, 1956-59
George McBride, (Ty's teammate,1925-26) AL 3B ('08-20), NL 3B ('05-06); Wash. manager ('21), Det. coach ('25-26, 29)
Ira Thomas, (Ty's teammate, 1908); AL catcher, 1906-15; Phil. A's coach, 1925-28
Ty's Athletics teammates who called him the Greatest.
Mickey Cochrane, (Ty's teammate,1927-28); AL catcher (1925-38); Detroit Manager, (1934-38), A's coach (1950), Detroit VP (1961-62); Yankee scout (1955), Detroit scout (1960)
Al Simmons, (Ty's teammate,1927-28) AL OF, 1924-41, 43-44
Bing Miller, (Ty's teammate, 1928) AL OF, 1921-36, AL coach, 1937-53
Max Bishop, (Ty's teammate, 1927-28) AL 2B, 1924-35; (Ty's teammate, 1927-28)
Eddie Collins, (Ty's teammate,1927-28)
Tris Speaker, (Ty's teammate,28) (AL OF,07-28)(Clev.man.19-26)
Kid Gleason, (Ty coach, 1927-28) NL pitcher (1888-11,exc.,'01-02); AL coach ('12-17, 26-32, exc.15), AL manager, '19-23) NL 88-11,exc.01-02
Connie Mack, (Ty's manager,1927-28) NL catcher (1886-96) Philadelphia Athletics' manager, 1901-50
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