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Ty Cobb [From Bill Burgess' Ty Cobb Memorial Collection]
Did All of Ty Cobb's Team Mates Hate Him?
Ty Cobb's Friends: 82 Liked Him, 36 Claimed Ty Played Clean
Was Cobb the greatest all-around baseball player who ever lived?  PART I


By Bill Burgess III

    Every once in a while, in baseball discussion groups, one is asked, "Didn't Cobb once fix a game?",  or "Wasn't Ty accused of throwing a game?"

And I was recently asked about the Leonard/Cobb/Speaker controversy. This was one of the traumas of Cobb's career. Although he & Speaker

were totally exonerated by Judge Landis, there remained many critics, who sneered that Landis had looked past their "misdeeds".

Allow me to give my understanding here. You will find no whitewash here.


Dutch Leonard had been a good pitcher in the AL. Boston, '13-18, and Detroit, '19-21, '24-25. In '14 he had an ERA of 0.96 for 224 innings,

and 19-5. Of course, he had Speaker, Hooper & Lewis performing their circus catches in the OF, to make the whole staff look real good, but still,

0.96 IS startling!  By '25, he was on Cobb's Detroit staff, and not getting along with his manager. He rep was that he ducked the good teams

and loaded up on the weak sisters. Cobb's lost it when Leonard refused to take the mound when ordered to, to help the team.  So Cobb put him on

the market, for $7,500., and no one claimed him. So he passed out of the league. And he blamed Cobb and also Speaker who he hoped would pick

 up his waiver. Speaker had been his teammate and friend on the '13-15 Red Sox. But Tris passed on him. There is no doubt in my mind that Tris

would have called Cobb and gotten Ty's version of why he was trying to unload Dutch.  Dutch burned with frustration and held Ty & Tris responsible

for railroading him out of the league and his career. He was only 33 yrs. old. He withdrew to his home in Fresno, California. 


 In May, 1926, Dutch came East and contacted the office of the Tigers and informed Detroit owner, Frank Joseph Navin, that he held proof that Ty

& Tris had fixed and bet on a game, played on Sept. 25, 1919. He contacted Ban Johnson's office as well.  After traveling back and forth, Navin

& Johnson, believed Leonard's story, and agreed to buy him off for $20,000, the amount that Leonard believed that Detroit owed him. So, Dutch

surrendered his 2 letters to them. They, in turn, notified Judge Landis of the events, as a courtesy.


Next, Johnson contacted the 2 players and called them into his office. Cobb and Speaker denied the charges and Johnson totally thought they were

lying. He told them they had to quit. On Nov. 2, Ty left a letter of resignation at Navin's office. The next day he boarded a train and left for Atlanta,

where he told the press that he had resigned.  On Nov. 29, 1926, Speaker's resignation was announced, with no explanation given.  The BB world

buzzed and wondered what was going on. In the meantime, 2 newspapers had gotten wind of the controversy, and threatened to publish what

they had. Judge Landis had conducted his own investigation. Dutch refused to come back to Chicago, saying pople "got bumped off there", so

Landis went to Cal. He bided his time for the moment. By this time, Cobb & Speaker, who originally had acquiesced to being coerced into the railroad

to keep the story from breaking in the national media, now realizing that the story was going to break anyway, changed their minds and decided to

fight the charges. They hired attorneys and began commencing their legal defense in tandem. They demanded that Landis release whatever he had.

That, on top of the 2 newspapers giving him a deadline to announce everything, forced his hand, and he made the announcement on Dec. 21, 1926.

What a jolt that was to the BB community!!


Leonard's Accusation 

Before he could rule on that case, another case exploded in his face. So he dealt with another big scandal before he got back to the Leonard/Cobb case.

Where Leonard had accused the others (and himself) of fixing the game in question, he had no evidence outside of his word, that there had been a

plan to pre-arrange the results of the game. His only evidence, the 2 letters, strangely never referred in any way to a fix. They only referred to betting.

Leonard's accusation was based on his hope that people would assume that where there is smoke, there is fire. This was his basic charge.

Dutch accusation was based on the hope that people would assume that if there was evidence of betting, then the betters probably fixed the results.

So, that was Dutch Leonard's thinking, and the entire premise of the accusation.  Betting was beyond question. Fix?  His word against 2 teams.

The day before the game in question, Cleveland had clinched 2nd place for the '19 season. On the day of the game in question, Leonard was talking

under the grandstand with Joe Wood and Tris Speaker, and they plotted to fix the game for Detroit to win. Just then, according to Leonard, Cobb

came along, joined the conversation and agreed to plan for Detroit to win, and they all agreed to bet $2,000. on the game.  That was Dutch Leonard's

accusation. The only thing missing is that he had no evidence of anything, except his own word, along with 2 letters, which spoke clearly of a bet,

but not on what the bet was based on. It could have been a bet about anything. And he had no evidence whatsoever of any fixing of anything.

So, Dutch was desperately hoping that others would make assumptions, and draw conclusions based on his version of events.


By January 27, 1927, Landis had finally dealt with & gotten clear of the other scandal, and he announced his verdict in the Leonard/Cobb affair.

He said that he could not find any proof of any fix at all. He exonerated both Cobb & Speaker, completely. He implied that they had bet, when he

said that what they had done was inappropriate & reprehensible, but not corrupt.


Landis vs. Johnson

There were so many sub-plots going on. Ban Johnson had tried to coerce both players out of his league. He said neither would play in the AL ever

again. And when he did that, he didn't know it, but he saved them. Because it was a pre-ordained forgone conclusion, that whatever he proclaimed,

was sure to be reversed by Landis. Landis ordered both men restored to their teams, which instantly gave them their unconditional releases,

making them free agents. Ban Johnson's handling of this affair was so shockingly incompetent, that the other owners voted him out of office.

It ended his career. He had stated that he knew they were innocent of any wrongdoing, but had to be sacrificed due to appearances.  Ban, the

Autocrat, never reticent at flexing his authority, took the draconian extreme of quietly muscling Baseball's 2 most glittering superstars out of BB.

And therein lay his self-created, well-deserved downfall.  For he was running up against Baseball equivalent of a brick wall.  One who was easily

his equal as an arbitrary, autocratic, authoritarian power broker.  Judge Landis.  For whatever Johnson was to decree, Landis was hell-bent to

undecree.  So, it's very fortunate that Johnson tried to coerce them out of BB, without the approval of Landis.


Here is my personal take. When Cleveland clinched 2nd place, they intended to break training and carouse late into the wee hours. Wood told

this to Leonard, and they both felt it would be an opportunity to cash in, due to Cleveland being ill-prepared to contest the next day's battle at

full strength. Cobb also felt no big deal in betting. Although he always claimed to not having bet, I don't believe him. I believe he bet.

I believe that Speaker may or may not have had anything to do with anything. But Joe Wood, his best friend and team mate did accuse Tris & Ty

of having put up part of the betting money.  Leonard lied about everything except the bet.  So, Speaker involvement, if any, isn't clear-cut.  But

Wood's accusation, in conjunction with Leonard's does look as if it tips the balance in favor of Tris betting against his own team.  Which, if true,

would look more damaging than Cob betting on his own team to win.  But Joe Wood's statements in his Lawrence Ritter interview's is inconsistent.

In his letter to Leonard, he wrote that Cobb told him he didn't bet, and that he believed him.  However, in his Ritter interview, he says that both

"Cobb & Speaker had put up some of this money to make the bet".  So, if they had, and Wood was the one holding the betting money, he would

have known this before he wrote his letter to Leonard, in which he seems NOT to have known, whether Cobb put up money.

So, Joe Wood impeaches himself somewhat here.  And that is death as a credible witness.  So, due to this inconsistency in Wood's statements,

I consider Speaker's involvement as unclear & questionable.


Furthermore, at that moment, BB had no rule against betting. So no rule was broken. No fix was ever thought of. And Cobb, not being the manager,

was in no position to direct Tiger pitching.  In '19, Cobb was just another player on Detroit, albeit their supreme star.

So, I don't believe there ever was an attempt to fix a game, only bet on one, upon hearing that the Indians were going to party long into the night.

And no rule was broken.  Leonard took the $20,000. he got for selling his letters, and started a grape vineyard in Fresno, Cal. and became a millionaire

by selling wine. But he died early in life, July 11, 1952, at the age of 60.   These are the main events.  Charles Alexander gives a concise account of

this controversy in his book, Ty Cobb, in the chapter, "Is there any decency left on Earth?", pp. 185-194.


But Landis' problem with that was the simple fact that they had broken no BB law, rule, regulation, whatever. He had no nail on which to hang them,

so to speak, even if he had wanted to.  Which he clearly didn't want to.  Landis had been a lawyer, before he became a Federal judge, and he thought

in legal terms.  And he realized that he had nothing. No club with which to bludgeon them with.  But his problem went much deeper than legalities. 

Judge Landis actually liked both Cobb & Speaker.  And he loved the institution of baseball.  All the way.  In 1915, he had told the Federal League that

he would not look kindly upon anything that harmed the institution of baseball.  He opposed the Federal League because he mistakenly thought that it

was, for some reason, an "outlaw" league.  Apparently, he had forgotten that the American League, in 1901, was once an "outlaw" organization,

according to the National League.  While he had been wrong in his opposition to the Federal L. in '15, he was right about Cobb/Speaker in Dec., '26.

He knew that to hurt them would harm BB. And he would never have done that unless he believed in his heart that they had done something to truly

betray or sell out BB.  Judge Landis "looked past" nothing. It wasn't in his character to protect anyone who betrayed BB. And even though he did really

love and admire Speaker & Cobb, that wouldn't have saved them, if Landis had believed them to have been corrupt. He liked them but he loved BB more.


And what did Landis really have anyway. The word of a man, who had motive to lie. HUGE motive to lie. So much motive, that he incriminated himself

to bring down the objects of his hatred. And his letters, if true, should have mentioned a fix. But they didn't.


An item I haven't mentioned here, it that this bombshell, had caused huge headlines across the land. And it was all pro-players, and anti- Navin,

Johnson & Landis.  Landis may have been high-handed and arbitrary in his rulings before and after, but he wasn't a fool or stupid. He probably

 knew that if he expelled the biggest stars, without good reason, he would have harmed BB in a way that was unacceptable to him.

And lest we forget. To hurt Cobb & Speaker, would have supported Ban Johnson, who had given the 2 players the back of his ungrateful hand.

Landis and & Johnson had nothing but utter contempt for each other. The most helpful thing Johnson did for Speaker and Cobb was to announce that

neither would ever play in his league ever again. And therein laid their salvation! Landis was not about to let that stand.  In some ways,

it appeared as if both Johnson & Landis treated this incident as a canvas on which to play out their personal power struggle for who ruled

baseball, than about the fates of 2 superstars.  And the proof of that, is when McGraw tried to sign Ty, Landis wrote him,

 "Lay off Cobb." Landis was totally in earnest about rubbing Johnson's nose in it. He insisted that they be returned to their teams' reserve lists.


Ultimately, Landis comes out looking much more credible than Johnson.  Landis, at least called in 2 entire teams, and questions them as to

 whether or not the game in question had been played on the up & up.  Johnson did almost nothing. 

Johnson's private detectives would not be able to inform him on whether or not the game was fixed.  Did Johnson care?  Apparently not a whit.


I personally believe that what Ty, Joe and Dutch did was very wrong and should not have been done. It was tasteless, classless, inappropriate,

reprehensible, lamentable, regrettable, unethical, immoral, unprincipled, etc. But not illegal, criminal or corrupt. They tried to turn a quick buck

over inside information. Similar to insider trading today. Like Martha Stewart. One should not try to take advantage, profit, or cash in on

highly classified, inside, secret information.  I would not have fined or suspended them, since they technically broke no rule. Shameful as it was,

 it would be also wrong to enforce retroactively a rule which didn't exist yet.  I believe in the subsequent rule against betting on baseball,

regardless if it's for or against your team. Pete Rose did wrong. There SHOULD have been a rule against betting in Ty's time.


But John McGraw OWNED a gambling casino in Havana. Hornsby was betting on horses every day at the track. Cap Anson had been

 a betting man. In fact, Landis had once called Hornsby into his office and demanded that he stay away from the track and horses and Hornsby

 told him his betting on horses was none of his business and to go to hell. Landis backed down.  What else could he do? Rogers was quite right,

morally and legally.  Morally, Landis was not a stickler for morality. Every day he served as Commissioner, he looked the other way at the owners'

gentlemen's agreement not to allow blacks into the MLs. So he wasn't a stickler on moral issues.


Ty & Tris were initially cowed by Ban Johnson, who sat there behind his big desk, and smugly read them their "Miranda rights".  They were probably

shocked and embarrassed and furious that Johnson refused to believe them. Johnson gave them an ultimatum. Quit quietly and we'll keep this all

hush-hush, and no one will know. Who will believe you after seeing these letters?  The riot act worked.  Ty & Tris were bluffed into going quietly

into the night.  Or so it appeared for a short while.  But not for long.  Because once 2 newspapers caught wind of the story, they threatened Landis

that they'd break the story if he didn't.  And they gave him a deadline to announce whatever he had.  One of them was the Chicago Tribune.


Back to controversy. Later, when the sports community lined up behind Cobb & Speaker, Ban Johnson put out this fantastic message at a press

conference in Chicago, IL, Jan. 17, 1927;


"I don't believe Ty Cobb ever played a dishonest game in his life.  If that is the exoneration he seeks, I gladly give it to him.  But it is from Landis that Cobb

should seek an explanation.  The American League ousted Cobb, but it was Landis who broadcast the story of his mistakes. 


I love Ty Cobb.  I never knew a finer player.  I don't think he's been a good manager, and I have had to strap him as a father straps an unruly boy. 

But I know Ty Cobb's not a crooked ball player.  We let him go because he had written a peculiar letter about a betting deal that he couldn't explain

and because I felt that he violated a position of trust. 


Tris Speaker is a different type of fellow.  For want of a better word I'd call Tris cute.  He knows why he was forced out of the management of the

Cleveland club.  If he wants me to tell him I'll meet him in a court of law and tell the facts under oath. 


The American League is a business.  When our directors found two employees whom they didn't think were serving them right they had to let them

go.  Now isn't that enough?  As long as I'm President of the American League neither one of them will manage or play on our teams."


"I have men working for me, on my personal payroll, whose business it is to report on the conduct of our ball players.  We don't want players 

betting on horse races or ball games while they're playing.  We don't want players willing to lay down to another team either for friendship or

money.  That's why I get these reports.  This data belongs to me, and not to Landis.  The American League gave Landis enough to show why

Cobb and Speaker were no longer wanted by us.  That's all we needed to give him.  I have reports on Speaker which Landis never will get

unless we go to court. 


"Judge Landis need not worry over the correctness of that interview.  I made that statement then, I'm making it again, and I'll make it when he calls

me Monday. 


"I only hope he holds an open meeting.  I want the public to know what the American League did and what Landis did. 


"I sent a detective to watch the conduct of the Cleveland club two years ago.  I learned from him by whom bets were made on horse races and

ball games.  I learned who was taking the money for the bets.  I learned the names of the bookmakers who accepted the wagers and how much

money was won or lost.  I was gathering the evidence.  Now, I watched Ty Cobb, too.  I watched him not because I thought he was crooked, but

because I thought he was a bad manager.  Frequently, I have called him down.  I gave Ty an interview just before he went on his hunting trip last

Fall.  He talked to me for two hours.  He was heart-broken and maintained his innocence in that alleged betting deal which his letter tells about.  I

told him that whether guilty or not, he was through in the American League.  I didn't think he played fair with his employers or with me.  The actual

facts which caused this whole explosion came to me early last Summer. 


"Dutch Leonard had a claim against the Detroit Club.  He threatened to sue for damages.  He asserted that he had sworn statements of five men

stating that Cobb had declared he would drive Leonard out of baseball.  Ty always has been violent in his likes and dislikes.  Those statements of

his, if carried to court, would have been damaging to the Detroit Club.  Frank Navin, the owner, also faced the possibility that, should he refuse to

settle with Leonard, the latter would sell two letters, One, of course, was that one written by Cobb, and the other was that letter of Joe Wood.


"You know the contents.  Both indicate knowledge on the part of the writers of a plan to bet on a framed ball game.  Cob denies he bet, and I don't

think he did.  I say again I think Ty is honest.  But as he couldn't explain the letter satisfactorily, it was a damaging document.  So on that letter alone

the American League would have been forced to let Cobb go.  Now Speaker was implicated in the deal by statements by Leonard.  I also have the 

data of my detective.  I called a meeting of the directors of my league.  My own illness and the pressure of their business delayed the meeting until

Sept. 9, 1926.  We met in a prominent Chicago club.  We wanted secrecy, not because it meant anything to us but because we felt we should

protect Cobb and Speaker as much as we could.  They had done a lot for baseball.  We had to let them out, but we saw no reason for bringing

embarrassment upon their families.  We wanted to be decent about it.  The directors voted to turn the results of the Leonard investigation over

to Landis.  We did that in compliment to him, not to pass the buck.  We had acted.  We thought he ought to know about it.


When Landis released that testimony and those letters, I was amazed.  I couldn't fathom his motive.  The only thing I could see behind that move

was a desire for personal publicity.  I'll tell him that when I take the witness stand.  The American League is a business.  It is a semi-public business

to be sure, and we try to keep faith with the public.  Certainly we had the right to let two employees go if we felt that they had violated a trust.

But Landis had no right to release the Landis charges.  He had taken no part in the ousting of the two men.  It was purely a league, not an inter-

league matter, and there was nothing to be gained by telling the world that we felt Cobb and Speaker had made mistakes which made them unwelcome

employees.  When I take the stand Monday I may tell the whole story of my relationship with the Judge.  If he  wants to know when I lost faith in him

I'll tell him this.  When the Black Sox scandal broke the American League voted to prosecute the crooked players.  Landis received the job.  After several

months had passed I asked him what he was doing, and he replied: 'Nothing'.  I took the case away from him, prosecuted it with the funds of  the

American League and never asked him for help.  I had decided he didn't want to cooperate.  My second break with Landis came over a financial 

matter.  I do not care to discuss it now, but I will tell about it Monday, if he wants him to.  This statement of mine probably means a new fight with

Landis.  But he has chosen to make the public think the American League passed the buck to him on the Speaker and Cobb case.  That's not true,

and I don't intend to let the public keep on thinking that way.


Johnson also said that his observations of the Cleveland club  showed that players as late as 1925 were continually betting on horse racing

during the baseball season.  One report, Johnson said, details the story of a pool by the players that netted a profit of $4,200.  We have no

objections to players attending horse races," Johnson said.  "We do object to them betting on races while they are supposed to be giving their

best efforts to the baseball games."  End of press conference. (New York Times, Jan. 18, 1927, pp. 18, "Johnson Accepts Landis Challenge")

And more self-contradictory, convoluted, hypocritical garbage has not been seen in this part of the world since. And if good luck holds . . .


Bottom line. Johnson was perfectly willing to sacrifice 2 of America's heroes due to appearances.  Well, America wasn't, and let him know in

no uncertain terms!


All throughout the country, since the first announcements were made, support for the 2 players came from every spectrum of the BB community.

On Dec. 23, Dan Howley went on record with this statement.  "I would stake my life on Cobb's integrity, and the same goes for Tris Speaker.  Dan

had been a coach with the Tigers from 1919-22, &  room mates with Dutch Leonard on the road for 2 years.


President Navin also showed himself to not be up to handling anything but bookkeeping with aplomb or finesse. He actually came out and stated that

the reason for his releasing of Cobb as player and manager was due to his bad managing of the team, and that 11 Tigers had come to him and asked

 to be traded.  Sports writers were taken aback at this news. One said that if that were the case, there were a few other managers that were due

to be publicly hung in a town square.  Detroit President Frank Joseph Navin's handling of the whole affair smacked of such Machiavellian

machinations of such epic proportions, that's it's a wonder that the Tigers' fans allowed him to continue to own the team, so crude was his incompetence.

President Navin may have been many things.  A competent keeper of books & records.  Raised frugality in investing in his team to an artistic high.  But

as an adept, adroit manager of a difficult human situation, he was lost, out to sea, over his head, and out of his sedentary element.  His bumbling,

unctuous, supercilious, pedantic, crude manner of conducting this tricky, delicate circumstance left him bewildered, annoyed and at a loss as what to do.

I also have 4 CDs of the Glory of their Times. The CDs give many little tid-bits, such as this discourse on the Cobb/Speaker/Leonard affair,

which never made it into the book, incredibly! One of the men interviewed was Joe Wood, who gave good inside details. He burns Leonard pretty good.

When interviewer Lawrence Ritter tells him about Ty coming clean in his autobiography, Woods acts very surprised. Here is what he has to say, I'm

transcribing the tape here;


Ritter: "The other book I read was a biography by, uh, Ty Cobb, and at the end of the book, he has a whole section, and it was all news to me,

on some mess-up, with him, you, and Tris Speaker & Dutch Leonard. Would you tell me what that was all about?

Wood: "I will. I'm not going to tell you details, because I wouldn't tell you too much about this thing because it stinks. When Dutch Leonard got

through in Detroit, Cobb was manager. And for that reason he had a gripe against Cobb, and then he wanted Speaker to take him on over in

Cleveland, & Spoke wouldn't take him on. For that reason he got sore at both of them. Well, in '20, there was a dispute over some betting, & in

order to get even, Leonard claimed this & that, and so on, and, there was a bet placed on the ballgame, but it wasn't against our club, it was on

our club. I was the guy who bet the . . . I had charge of the money. Well, I handled this through a gate tender, in Detroit, who contacted the

bookies, and the money was bet, the money was collected, & this little son-of-a-gun come down, I know him very well, this gate tender, & brought

this money down to the train as we were leaving Detroit, and I gave him, after keeping equal splits, for 3 fellas, I gave him, the extra money,

which amounted to about $30. or $40. bucks, for placing the bet. This was just the same as betting on a prize fight or anything else. We bet on

ourselves. There was nothing crooked about it on our part.

Ritter: "How often did teams bet on themselves?

Wood: "Never! Never, that's the only bet I ever made in my life. And just because someone else wanted to bet on it & I handled the money. But this

thing in '20 (Black Sox scandal), it wasn't exactly on the up & up, I have to admit that. Because I knew from what Cicotte had told me in

Cleveland that the White Sox didn't dare win. But I didn't know through a couple of other fellas on the Detroit ballclub that they weren't going to

play their heads off trying to beat us. I'm not saying that they were going to lay down and give us the game, (garbled). Well anyhow, I knew

that the White Sox didn't dare win that year. And this got back to Landis, and he had a letter that I had written, and, uh, Landis called me

over to New York says, 'You write that letter', I said I sure did, there was my name on it, and Leonard had black-mailed Navin in Detroit for so

much for that letter, and he still kept copies of it, & then he went ahead and tried to black-mail, I don't know how the hell he, small amount

of money somebody out there, by going after Cobb & spilling this whole story. Which was true. I was at a World Series, with Landis down in NY &

he says, I know Landis very well, Judge says, 'We gonna have any trouble over this thing, Joe', I said 'I don't think so'. 'You let me know and if

ya do, I'll come make a trip up to New Haven.'

Ritter: "What was the letter you wrote?"

Wood: "Leonard. Here he kept this letter that I had written him, after I got home here one winter, I wrote him, out in Fresno, a letter, same as I

write to my brother, I trusted him, I wrote him this letter, he kept it & cashed in on it. I understand he got $12-15,000. the 1st from Navin in

Detroit, then they closed it for awhile and came out with it again. And he kept the letter through all of that.

Ritter: "The letter had that much dynamite in it?"

Wood: "Yeah. The letter quoted me the amount of money was bet, his share was enclosed in the letter. I loaned that son-of-a-bitch $200. to buy his

1st motor-cycle in Boston when he 1st joined us. And he made the crack that he didn't mind what he was doing to Cobb and Speaker but he hated to

hurt Woodie. But never the less he did it. That dirty little son-of-a bitch of a Leonard. He died a millionaire, but he died young (60). A

great little pitcher too. But he was a 1st class . . . crook.

Ritter: "How did Speaker & Cobb get involved on it?

Wood: "Cobb & Speaker put up some of this money to make the bet. And Leonard broadcast this thing, because Cobb let him go, and Speaker

wouldn't take him on.

Ritter: "Is it for this reason that both Cobb and Speaker left their jobs at Cleveland & Detroit?

Wood: "Yeah, yeah. But they didn't get out of baseball. They went to the Athletics. I'd like to see what Cobb had to say about it, because

(garbled). They got together with an attorney in Detroit, my greatest friend, Spoke & Cobb, and they got a bunch of stuff written up, type-

written & deposited in a vault in a bank in Cleveland, & if they'd a chased Cobb & Speaker outta baseball this would'a all come out.

Ritter: "Cobb has a whole chapter on it. He doesn't hide it at all.

Wood: "Well, he didn't hide some of it. But he doesn't tell it as it was, I'll bet you a million dollars. I don't think Cobb could afford that to

tell the story. Cause I know the story. I never told that to a soul in my life. I haven't even told it to my . . . brother. Well I didn't tell you

anything that wasn't straight & on the level, I'll tell you that. That's one reason why this thing did really hurt me. It's the first and only

accusation in my life that I ever had against me, that I know of."

So that's Joe Wood talking to Lawrence Stanley Ritter, famed author of The Glory of Their Times, 1966. This interview was taken on October 1, 1965.


Larry Ritter passed away Feb. 15, 2004, at the age of 84, at his Manhattan apt. after a series of strokes. I had corresponded with him

once. He said Babe Ruth was the Greatest Player. He only made $35K on the book, because he shared his royalties with those he interviewed.

Lawrence Stanley Ritter May 23, 1922 - 2004, Feb.15, age 81, Died, NYC;  BB author: Main claim to fame - his superb book, "The Glory of Their Times".

He took the title from the passage in Biblical Ecclesiastics: "All these were honored in their generations and were the glory of their times." Grad.

Grad. Indiana U. , Doctorate from Wisconsin. Also wrote text for "The Babe: A Life in Pictures", with Mark Rucker (1988).

After Ty Cob died in '66, Lawrence traveled 75,000 around the country with a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and interviewed 22 ballplayers from Ty's era.

He made only about $35,000 profit from around 360,000 book sales, due to his sharing his royalties with those players he interviewed.

He turned the original tapes over to the BB Hall of Fame.  They are now available in excerpt form in CD or tape cassette format.

Professor of Finance and Economics at NYC for 30 yrs. "I don't like the players, I don't like the umpires, I don't like the owners, but I love the game."

Interested in BB since 1931. d. at his Manhattan apt., after a series of strokes.


What did Joe Wood mean when he said, "Well, he didn't hide some of it. But he doesn't tell it as it was, I'll bet you a million dollars. I don't think

Cobb could afford that to tell the story. Cause I know the story. I never told that to a soul in my life."?


Simply put, here is my interpretation of what Wood referred to.  Ty Cobb went to his grave insisting that he had never made the bet. I think he did.

 I believe he lied. And that is what I believe Joe Wood referred to. That Ty did indeed make the bet.

I sincerely believe that there are some things which people can not find the intestinal fortitude to face up to. OJ will never cop. Bill Clinton

lied for a long time.

There are some things perhaps which Ty couldn't face. Perhaps he felt that the act of betting was so heinous that he believed no one would have

forgiven him. Who knows? But I believe he bet, Joe Wood insinuates that too, so that's what I believe happened.

What do you think Joe Wood meant? I don't think a fix was possible for obvious reasons. Landis had called in both teams, all of them. And

grilled them. It was Leonard's word against the word of almost 50 other men. Landis had specifically asked each and every man on both the Tigers

and Cleveland if the game was on the up & up and square, and everyone agreed it was. They also were asked if anyone had ever known or heard of

a single case where Cobb did anything wrong or suspect. And unbelievably not a single player could think of anything. And Ty had plenty of guys

pissed at him.

Risberg actually went so far as to say that he thought Cobb was the greatest and most honest player in the MLs. Quite a thing to say about an

 an enemy player.


Upon reflection on Ty and his bet, I realize that that was what he meant when he said in one of the letters. "It was quite a responsibility and I

don't care for it again, I can assure you."

He then tells how he was too late to place the bet. He was even too ashamed to tell Joe Wood! He must have felt such guilt over this one

small act, that he suffered guilt pangs the rest of his life.

He even kept up the cover-up in his book with Stump. Why such undue and unseemly extremes over such a minor act, for which he broke no rules?

I think it is answered because he went against his conscious. He was many things unpleasant, but he was not dishonest. His upbringing was southern,

which was very much akin to Japan, entirely based on a very middle ages morality based on a perverted, deformed sense of "Honor". They would

rather commit suicide rather than lose their "honor". How weirdly feudal. Very, very strange, and it made Cobb look strange by extension.


For many years, I believed that Ty didn't place the bet.  Mostly because Joe Wood said in his letter to Dutch Leonard that Ty had claimed to him (Wood)

that he hadn't arrived in time to get his bet placed.  So I thought that was convincing.  But I've changed my mind based on the following 3 statements,

which I don't feel are the statements of a person in the consciousness of innocence.


1. Ty Cobb -  "It was quite a responsibility and I don't care for it again, I can assure you."  From Joe Wood's letter to Dutch Leonard.


2.  Joe Wood  -   "Well, he didn't hide some of it. But he doesn't tell it as it was, I'll bet you a million dollars. I don't think Cobb could afford that to

tell the story. Cause I know the story. I never told that to a soul in my life. I haven't even told it to my . . . brother.  Joe Wood talking in interview with

Lawrence Ritter in 1965.


3.  JG Taylor Spink  -  "Ty Refuses To Discuss Incident  - From time to time, this old canard has come up in print.  It did a few years ago. 

I wrote Ty and asked him for comment.  "Taylor, even to the most wonderful friend I have in the world, which you are,"  he wrote, "my lips are

still sealed on this matter.  This is an honor thing with me," he went on.  "It is just too distasteful to talk about.  I think it is too late now to stir up things.

Most of the people involved are now dead.  It almost killed me to suffer such dishonor in a game which I loved so much and to which I think I gave

so much.  I admit the whole thing rankles me and I talk too much.  some day I'll tell the story which has some twists which would intrigue even your

reportorial heart, but not now." 

   That was enough for me.  I never pressed the issue.  Had Ty maintained his health, I'm sure he would have talked, but even then, he was going

down hill.  That letter, written Dec. 27, 1958, was in wavering handwriting.  (end of quote by JG Taylor Spink) 

(Sporting News, Dec. 20, 1961, pp. 12, column 5)

Ty was also inaccurate in that not all had died.  In '58, Leonard & Wood were still alive.  Ban Johnson, Landis, Navin &  Speaker had passed.


So the above are the reasons I've changed my mind as to whether Ty bet on the game.  Ty's quote, Wood was his great friend, Spink was more like

his brother than his best friend.  Ty's quote is just not compatible with that of someone who was merely a non-participating conduit of information.

Joe Wood's quote, 4 yrs. after Ty died, indicates that something was hidden.  Wood did say that Ty put up money.


  Ty's refusal to confide in JG Taylor Spink, his best friend, bears a word or two.  Who was Spink to Ty?  Spink had inherited The Sporting

News in 1914, after his father, Charles Claude Spink died.  In 1914, Ty bestrode the Baseball firmament, like a bejeweled, Oriental conqueror.  An

unstoppable force.  Like a Terminator, who's breached the outer defense perimeter.  Around every 10 years or so, BB produces an unstoppable force. 

Buck Ewing in the 1880's, Hans Wagner in the 1910's, Ty Cobb in the 1910's, Babe Ruth in the 1920's.  Baseball's like that.  So when Taylor Spink

became the owner & editor-in-chief, of Sporting News, oh, how Cobb strode & conquered.  And it is always to your advantage to be on the inside

track, and hopefully an intimate friend, of the best player in the Land.  And this Spink set out to do with Ty.  And to the best player of a sport, it is

also to your great advantage, to have as your allies, and hopefully your own best buddies, those best-positioned strategically to help your career.

And this, Taylor Spink, obviously was.  His newspaper was the most influential, all-important sports newspaper that ever existed.  Especially so,

for Baseball.  Which it billed itself as "The Bible of the Sport".  Taylor Spink considered his good friend, Ty Cobb, to be the best & greatest ballplayer


Taylor Spink considered his good friend, Ty Cobb, to be the best & greatest ballplayer

who ever lived, as almost all of his generation did.  Babe Ruth?  Spink, like the rest of his peers, considered the Babe to be the sport's greatest

slugger, and it's most powerful drawing card, but a specialist, even considering his pitching.  Never to be compared to Ty Cobb as an all-around

complete player.  And down through the decades, the 30's, 40's, 50's, JG Taylor Spink looked out for his friend, Ty's interests in TSN.  Always

keeping his name in the news.  Always having Harry Salsinger, doing 15-20 part retrospectives on Ty's career.  Always interviewing players

from the 1800's to 1930's.  Always asking for their all-time teams.  Always finishing the interviews with, "Who's your greatest player?"  Which

was the approved, historically correct way to conduct an interview.  Thanks to him, we have all that great historical content.  We'd be much the

poorer, if not for JG Taylor Spink's phenomenal work.  So when Ty refused an accommodation to his closest friend in the world, in the most

private of all communicadi, the mail, one must wonder why.  What was he afraid of?  His friend, although a newsman, a publisher, would never

have betrayed him, or given him up to his enemies.  And yet Cob held back.  Couldn't bring himself to reveal his innermost thoughts to his virtual

brother.  And this speaks volumes, as to his pain, and his guilt.  He could have merely lied to cover up.  Yet, his personal code forbade his lying

to his closest friend & ally in all the world.  He still just couldn't bring himself to face his over-whelming sense of guilt at having done such a minor

wrong.  As he saw it.  To those who are his enemies, & attack him as unprincipled.  Look at his guilt at betting on a game a single time in his life.

Correction.  He claimed to Judge Landis that he bet on one of the 1919 World Series games.  And lost.  His usual business acumen cannot be

faulted in that particular case!!  So this is one of the main reasons, I've come to believe, right or wrong, that Ty did indeed bet on that game in question.


In Summation:

Spink's quote in 1961, was only a yr. before his own death.  He referred to a 1958 letter.  I find it odd, if Ty didn't bet, why he felt so uncomfortable,

almost 40 yrs. later, confiding in his very best friend, during private correspondence, almost to a brother, that he didn't place a bet.  That is just strange,

if he were non-participating.  Even though there had been no rule against it, Ty's sense of integrity was so highly-principled, that I believed that he

suffered great guilt & angst over this minor incident.  His southern upbringing was so based on feudal honor, like Japan's, that he must have felt that

he might have brought dishonor to his family name, which he took so seriously.  His personal code was so self-condemning whenever he went

against his conscious, that he never forgave himself, and believed that no one else should have either.  Strange are the ways of feudal honor &

morality.  And then again, possibly he didn't bet, and simply suffered like hell, upon being accused of being dishonorable.  Anything is possible, but

I feel the preponderance of the scant evidence points more strongly to the former possibility. 


Although originally I had not intended to include some of the sub-plots, I've decided to add on what I had, for the sake of full disclosure.

Meanwhile, over in Detroit, idiot Navin was similarly covering himself in ludicrosity. As soon as Cobb was restored to his teams list, he instantly

gave him his release and declared him a free agent. Between them, Navin and Johnson made so many half-ass crazy comments it's hard to believe.

Navin came out with, "I fired him, not because I thought he did anything wrong or dishonest, but because he failed as a manager. He couldn't win

and during the year 11 of our players came to me and asked to be traded because of him."


What nerve!!!  Navin had made only 2 sizable investments in the team since '21. Cobb was playing with 6th and 7th place material and coming in

2nd once, 3rd twice in his 6 yrs. managing. The lying sack of hypocritical fresh manure!!  Cobb couldn't win with an owner who sand-bagged him.

After the '24 season, Ty's 4th, where he brought the Tigers in 3rd, 6 games back, after having been in the thick of it all year, no less an authority than

Christy Mathewson, named a all star team for the year, A and B. And he named Ty Cobb as the manager of the B team. As well he should,

for Ty's warriors had beaten Ruppert's Yankees, 13-9 on the year. And Babe had had one of his very finest seasons and won the league MVP.


So, Navin was speaking through his anus, as usual for him. Cobb had done his job, and did it with almost no help from his management.

Why he was fired was probably his $50K per annum. After Ty's firing, whenever those 2 would pass each other in a corridor, they'd each snarl,

 "I made you rich!" at each other.  And the comment was much more credible coming from Ty, than vica versa.


As for Johnson, NY Times sports writer John Kieran wrote this on Jan. 22, 1927. "The AL owners tried a muzzle on Johnson and it didn't fit.

This time they may try a catapult."


So, if no bet was laid, where's the case? Frankly, I believe that Ty DID lay down a bet, and was smart enough to lie to Joe Wood. Either way,

he broke no rule and there was simply no legal case against him.

I, however, do hold him responsible for doing an immoral, reprehensible, and cheesy act. I think he did wrong, and shouldn't have.

But ban him from the game? For a single asinine, ignorant error of judgment? After a lifetime of desperately honest labor?

Is someone insane? He made a error of judgment, and boy did he pay through the nose. More than he ever deserved.


Landis had heard for 30 days from all across America. The baseball public was so solidly behind Cobb and Speaker, that I feel Landis felt,

 he had no choice.  High-handed & arbitrary though he was, he wasn't stupid.  And he realized that there was no legal basis on which to expel

either super-star.  Not that he needed one.  He was the Czar.  But he also had his finger to the wind of BB's public opinion.  And it was in no

way, shape or form, divided.  It was rock solid across the board  -   Pro-players.  But most of all, he was intensely aware of there having been no

BB rule against betting.  And Joe Wood's letter claimed that Cobb had claimed he didn't bet.  And the letter states that Wood believed him.  That right

there was enough to exonerate Cobb in a court of law, in a possible defamation case against BB.  So, legal thinking Landis didn't fear much, but one

of the few things he would have feared is losing a court case for huge bucks.  For a former judge, that would have been the ultimate humiliation.

His evidence stunk.  It would have been a case of one man's word against the word of not only Cobb & Speaker, but the entire teams of Detroit &

Cleveland.  The accuser had huge motive to lie, and the defendants were hugely popular BB royalty of the highest caliber.  All in all, a real legal

dog of a losing case.  Landis saw the writing on the wall.  And then there was the sweet prospect of letting Johnson remember his place on

BB's totem pole.  If in terms of arbitrary, authoritarian arrogance, if Johnson was Attila, Landis was Genghis Khan.  And one was preparing to

show the BB world who was at the top of BB's food chain.  If there were to be any summary executions at the grand old ballpark, the Judge

wanted all to realize that he was perfectly competent to hire the firing squad and offer the last cigarettes.  And Johnson had dared to presume

he had the chops to expel two of Landis' favorite stars without his permission or approval.   And set him (Landis) up for an extremely humiliating

court loss.  So I can't imagine the Judge appreciating being put in that horrible, legally compromising position.  And he was soon to let Ban know

who sat atop the BB food chain.  He would soon have BB's 2nd in line in the power brokering food chain for an after-dinner mint.


He had no good evidence, he heard BB's public weigh in behind the stars, and he himself happened to have liked them very much.

And he also knew that they didn't have to be innocent to sue BB. All they needed was no LEGAL case against them. Landis knew very well that

Cobb was not Joe Jackson. He wouldn't go meekly. He'd rage, rage against the dying of the Light!

And more importantly, he'd sue the hell out of the Light!



After he was cleared by Judge Landis, Ty signed with Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics, after generous offers from the Giants, Senators, Dodgers,

and the Browns.  McGraw offered $60,000 for 2 seasons and threw in a private hotel room on the road.  Clark Griffith offered $50,000

"just to show up at his park and appear on the field when I felt like it." and also to match any other offer, & threw in a $10,000. signing bonus.

Phil Ball of the Browns, with his new manager, Dan Howley, Ty's friend and former coach, offered around $30,000.  Even Jack Dunn, of the

Baltimore International Club offered around $25,000.  If Ty had wondered if he had marketability, these offers surely put his anxieties to rest.

John J. McGraw's offer, after a lifetime of antagonism, represented one of the finest compliments of Cobb's life.


  As it turned out, Ty signed with Connie Mack for an unprecedented amount.  Salary = $40,000, signing bonus = $30,000. Spring exhibition games

receipts = $15,000.  Special bonus if A's won the pennant = $20,000.  As it turned out, the A's came in 2nd to the '27 Yankees by 19 games.

But Mack was so pleased with Ty's contribution to the team, that he gave Ty the $20,000. anyway, and he announced that later in his 1950 auto-

biography, pp. and he never regretted it.  As well he shouldn't have.  Ty recorded the 5th highest BA in the league, just above Babe Ruth, and 2nd

highest on the team, 5th OBP in the league, and 3rd in SB.  So Ty's $105,000 total package of '27 remained the MLs record until exceeded so many

long years later, by Ted Williams in 1958.  And showing why he was the smartest ballplayer ever, Ty insisted in keeping his package confidential,

knowing that if word got out, Babe Ruth would have demanded and gotten more from his owner, Jake Ruppert.  Ruth never heard, didn't ask, and

hence Ty got another record.  Proving that sometimes discretion is wisest. 


Email Bill Burgess

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