One of the most brazen and most authentic baseball heroes for all eternity just happened to call Georgia home.
Say hello to Ty Cobb, who was born in Narrows, Ga. and raised in Royston (30 miles from Athens). Cobb was a child of the “golden rule” and the hickory switch. He was “old school” for sure.
Cobb was dirt poor and “every day proud.” He labored for whatever he got. Cobb was no choir boy. He was a scrapper and a fighter. Cobb grew up in farming country in Northeast Georgia. But this guy wanted more out of life than a John Deere tractor and a bushel full of yellow corn.
At a fairly early age, Cobb decided he would like to make his way as a ball player. He liked to get infield dirt under his fingernails. He preferred getting grass stains on his baggy pants, too.
Cobb lived to play the game. He could run, steal, hit and fight with the best of them. Cobb was known for picking fights with fans from the bleachers. Cobb stole bases with his spikes bearing down on the opposing shortstop.
He didn’t mind a little blood, as long as it wasn’t his. Cobb played baseball seven days a week while growing up down in the Georgia boondocks. The kid from Royston had a touch of speed and a mean streak.
And he could hit a baseball like few people in history. Cobb was not a home run basher. Cobb was a contact hitter. He had good timing, good leverage, and he had a very fast wooden bat.
Cobb once said, “Every great batter works on the theory that the pitcher is more afraid of him than he is of the pitcher.”
This rather crass individual – he did cuss a little – was a tall ball player at 6-foot-1. And nobody could outhit or outrun him, not then or since. Cobb beat the baseball odds, going from rural Georgia to the Major Leagues. He took his time and his talent to the “Pay for Money” leagues.
But before he got to the big time, Cobb toiled in virtual obscurity with the Royston Rompers, the Augusta Tourists and the Anniston Steelers, the latter of which was a semipro baseball team from Alabama. Cobb got paid $50 per month with the Steelers.
And in 1905, one baseball team later, Cobb was sold by the Augusta Tourists for the tasty little sum of $750. Paying that amount was the Detroit Tigers of the American League.
Cobb, a longshot at best, was now a Major Leaguer. He got his big foot in the door, and Cobb went on to play 24 seasons of big league ball. In his first Major League game with the Tigers, Cobb debuted with a ringing double in his first at-bat.
Two years later, Cobb won the American League batting championship with a .350 average. Cobb was an artist with a bat in his hand. He didn’t swing wildly. He gripped the bat with a purpose. Cobb was a strong man with an unyielding will.
In 1911 with Detroit, Cobb went on a 40-game hitting streak. He never got tired of the games or the doubleheaders. In the 1915 season, Cobb shattered the American League single-season base stealing record with 96. He went on to play the game like a mad man. Cobb got into arguments frequently.
But baseball was his life and job with 22 seasons with the Tigers (1905-1926) and two more years with the Philadelphia Athletics (1927-28). Cobb would set 90 records in his Major League career. Cobb’s .367 career batting average is the best of all time. Nobody in baseball history has won more Major League batting titles than Cobb with his even number of 12. Not only that, the Georgia boy also stole home plate 54 times in his big league career. He was an entertainer, a brash one at that. Ty Cobb was like a surgeon on a baseball field. He was speedy and talented with 892 career stolen bases. There was almost nothing that Cobb did not accomplish in baseball with 1,938 RBI’s, 4,189 hits and 2,245 runs in his more than two decades in the game. Cobb also scored from second base on a wild pitch in one game. Ty Cobb had a Hall of Fame career. He died at 74 years old in Atlanta on July 17, 1961. The baseball world is grateful for Cobb’s antics, assists and his shiny spikes.