Ty Cobb

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I've been called one of the hardest bargainers who ever held out, and I'm proud of it.

Tyrus Raymond "Ty" Cobb (18 December 188617 July 1961), nicknamed "the Georgia Peach", was an American baseball player generally considered to be the greatest melt of the "dead ball era" (1900 – 1920).


Joe's swing was purely natural, he was the perfect hitter.
As a base-runner, I had some pretty radical ideas.
Some press association or other was always holding a poll to pick between Ruth and Cobb as the all-time star player.
  • I feel that anything I could say in the way of eulogizing Hans would not be one-hundredth as much as he deserves, so I will just say my heart is with him tonight in wishing him three or four more score of pleasant years and that he will lead them all just as long as he wishes. I will be drinking a toast to the greatest ball player ever on his forty-first birthday, the night of February 24, away down here in Georgia.
  • Why not? Certainly it is okay for them to play. I see no reason in the world why we shouldn't compete with colored athletes as long as they conduct themselves with politeness and gentility. Let me say also that no white man has the right to be less of a gentleman than a colored man. In my book that goes not only for baseball but in all walks of life.
  • Williams is one batter I thought would break my lifetime batting average of .367. If he'd learned to hit to left, Ted would have broken every record in the book.
    • On Ted Williams, as quoted in "Here's the Pitch" by Frank Finch, in The Los Angeles Times (June 5, 1958), p. C2
  • 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.
    • Statement made in 1961, as quoted in Voices from Cooperstown: Baseball's Hall of Famers Tell It Like It Was (1998) by Anthony J. Connor, p. 286
  • Joe's swing was purely natural, he was the perfect hitter. He batted against spitballs, shineballs, emeryballs and all the other trick deliveries. He never figured anything out or studied anything with the same scientific approach I gave it. He just swung. If he'd ever had any knowledge of batting, his average would have been phenomenal. … he seemed content to just punch the ball, and I can still see those line drives whistling to the far precincts. Joe Jackson hit the ball harder than any man ever to play baseball.
    • On Shoeless Joe Jackson, as quoted in Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball (2008) by Harvey Frommer, p. 72

My Life In Baseball : The True Record (1961)[edit]

Co-written with Al Stump
  • I've been called one of the hardest bargainers who ever held out, and I'm proud of it.
    • Ch. 5 : "Bugs" — That First Bitter Series — $5000 or Bust, p. 76
  • A ball bat is a wondrous weapon.
    • Ch. 5 : "Bugs" — That First Bitter Series — $5000 or Bust, p. 81
  • As a base-runner, I had some pretty radical ideas. Some said I was crazy to take such chances; others were beginning to suspect that maybe I had something. My counter to Criger's challenge had to be something unusual. And when we opened the first Boston series of '08, I watched the Young-Criger battery carefully before coming to the plate. Then I told Criger, "I'm going to steal every base on you today." … On four straight Young pitches, beginning with my single, I'd completed a tour of Boston bases. Our man at bat hadn't taken his club off his shoulder while I was coming around. Criger had been deflated in the worst possible way that can happen to a catcher — I'd told him exactly what I intended to do, and still gotten away with it.
    • Ch. 12 : The Ultimate Secret : Make them Beat Themselves or Waging War on the Base Paths, p. 161
  • On the diamond, I had been rough on Babe. I'd never taken my spurs out of his hide and one day he'd come looking for me in the Detroit clubhouse with fistic mayhem in mind. We'd won and lost duels to each other way back since 1915, when Babe had been a rookie pitcher with Bill Carrigan's Boston Red Sox. To add heat to the situation, some press association or other was always holding a poll to pick between Ruth and Cobb as the all-time star player.
    • On Babe Ruth, in Ch. 16 : The Babe and I, p. 214
  • I can't honestly say that I appreciate the way in which he changed baseball — from a game of science to an extension of his powerful slugging — but he was the most natural and unaffected man I ever knew. No one ever loved life more. No one ever inspired more youngsters. I have reverence for his marvelous ability . I look forward to meeting him again some day.
    • On Babe Ruth, in Ch. 16 : The Babe and I, p. 222
  • Most collisions out on the fields are needless. Keep your ears open while you're concentrating on running toward the ball and stick to the tested formula, boys. When you shout "I'll take it!" or "I've got it!" shout it loudly and clearly. Give that signal the instant you feel the play belongs to you and not your team-mate. After that, the responsibility for the catch is yours. If you call for it, you have the confidence to play the ball, knowing you are on your own and safe from injury. The collision hazard is eliminated almost entirely.
    • Ch. 17 : You Field with Your Head Too, p. 224
  • When I played ball, I didn't play for fun. To me it wasn't parchesi played under parchesi rules. Baseball is a red-blooded sport for red-blooded men. It's no pink tea, and mollycoddles had better stay out. It's a contest and everything that implies, a struggle for supremacy, a survival of the fittest. Every man in the game, from the minors on up, is not only fighting against the other side, but he's trying to hold onto his own job against those on his own bench who'd love to take it away. Why deny this? Why minimize it? Why not boldly admit it?
    Many a writer has said that I was "unfair." Well, that's not my understanding of the word. When my toes were stepped on, I stepped right back.
    • Ch. 23 : "To Plant One Rose —", p. 280

Quotes about Cobb[edit]

He was the strangest of all our national sports idols. But not even his disagreeable character could destroy the image of his greatness as a ballplayer. ~ Jimmy Cannon
Ty Cobb is one of the great natural forces of Baseball. He is testament to how far you can get simply through will. ~ John Thorn
  • Of course, word of the scrap had gotten around to both the Washington and Detroit players who automatically made a ring around the two. Both were pretty good size men, possibly around 185, with Evans being a little stockier built while Ty was more the wiry, rangy type. it was the bloodiest fight I ever saw in baseball. Ty was a bit too fast for Evans. One of Cobbs' blows split Evans' left eyebrow, and another literally parted the flesh like a jagged dull knife would have done, on Evans' right cheekbone. Ty eventually knocked Evans down, got on top of him and was banging his head on the hard surface. It was at this time that a burly groundkeeper for the Washington club, who looked like he would tip the scale at about 230 pounds and probably could have bested either Ty or Billy, reached down and pulled Ty off of Billy and very authoritatively told them, "The fight is over, boys."
  • Ty was an intellectual giant. He was the most fascinating personality I ever met in baseball. To him, a ball game wasn't a mere athletic contest. It was a knock-'em-down, crush-'em, relentless war. He was their enemy, and if they got in his way he ran right over them.
  • When he left home at 17 to play in the minors in Alabama and Tennessee, his father warned him: "Don't come home a failure." "That admonition," Cobb recalled, "put more determination in me than he ever knew. My overwhelming need was to prove myself as a man."
    • Ken Burns, describing Cobb's departure for the minor leagues, in Baseball (1994)
  • He demeaned Ruth's talent whenever he got the chance, and from the dugout called him "Nigger." But when the two stars, whom sportswriters called the supermen of baseball, met in what was billed as a grudge series in 1921, Ruth homered in every game. Cobb hit only one. The New York Times reported that Ruth has stolen all of Cobb's thunder. Yankee manager Miller Huggins admitted that real students of the game might prefer Ty Cobb's classic brand of baseball, but Babe Ruth appealed to everybody. They all flocked to him, he said, because nowadays the American fan likes the fellow who carries the wallop.
    • Ken Burns, on the confrontations between Babe Ruth and Cobb, in Baseball (1994)
  • Ty Cobb liked sentimentality in his opponents, because he had none himself. Baseball, he said, is something like a war.
    • Ken Burns, describing Cobb's style, in the second inning (Something Like A War) of Baseball (1994)
  • The cruelty of Cobb's style fascinated the multitudes, but it also alienated them. He played in a climate of hostility, friendless by choice in a violent world he populated with enemies ... He was the strangest of all our national sports idols. But not even his disagreeable character could destroy the image of his greatness as a ballplayer. Ty Cobb was the best. That seemed to be all he wanted.
    • Jimmy Cannon, as quoted in Cobb Would Have Caught It : The Golden Age Of Baseball In Detroit (1991) by Richard Bak
  • 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, in The Chicago Tribune (17 April 1910); also in The National Game (2000) by Alfred Henry Spink, p. 272
  • He had a screw loose. I never knew anyone like him. It was like his brain was miswired so that the least damned thing would set him off.
    • Ernest Hemingway, response when asked to describe Cobb in 1954; the two had been hunting partners in the 1930s, as quoted in Cobb : A Biography (1994) by Al Stump ISBN=0-945575-64-5
  • 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.
  • Make no mistake about that. The old boy was the greatest player I ever saw or hope to see. When I was pitching I had fair success against all the other great hitters, but Cobb was one guy I never could get out. I had a reputation for being a slugger and I guess I could hit 'em pretty far at that, but that guy Cobb could do everything--better than any player I ever saw. Old Georgia Peach was a great hitter, a spectacular fielder, a wonderful thrower and oh boy, how he could run.
  • They say I used to scare pitchers just by strolling to the plate but those guys always had a remedy for me. Whenever they were afraid I'd knock one out of the park, they'd walk me and their worries would be over. But once Cobb got on base then their worries really began. He would upset not only the pitcher or catcher, but the infield as well by going from first to third on a sacrifice bunt, scoring from second on an infield out, taking two bases on an outfield fly and making delayed steals. Fans still talk about the home run I hit in the 1932 World Series off Charley Root of the Cubs after I pointed to the rightfield stands. Well, I once remember Cobb beating out four bunts down the third base line in one game against Billy Bradley, a wonderful third baseman for Cleveland. That was after Cobb warned Bradley he would bunt to him every time he got up. Another time Cobb warned Lou Criger, a great catcher with Boston, that he would steal second, third and home on him first chance he got. Well, the first time up Cobb walked and on three pitches stole second, third and home against the dumbfounded Criger.
  • Yes, he's a prick, but he sure can hit. God Almighty, that man can hit!
    • Babe Ruth, as quoted in The Sporting News (12 July 1950); as actually published in The Sporting News, "prick" was replaced by "[censored]" — elsewhere, including Field of Screams: The Dark Underside of America's National Pastime (1994) the quote has appeared as "Ty Cobb is a prick." or sometimes "Cobb is a prick. But he sure can hit. God Almighty, that man can hit."
  • The greatness of Ty Cobb was something that had to be seen, and to see him was to remember him forever.
    • George Sisler, as quoted in Ty Cobb (1984) by Charles C. Alexander
  • Ty Cobb is one of the great natural forces of Baseball. He is testament to how far you can get simply through will. I don’t think Ty Cobb had tremendous, tremendous natural ability. I don’t think he would be a great athlete today. But his intensity, his drive, was unparalleled. Cobb was pursued by demons from his childhood, from his parentage, from his racial consciousness, and he took out all of his aggressions on the playing fields. Everyone was his enemy. It was easy for Cobb to play the game of Baseball as if it were the game of Life and it was a violent struggle, every day: 154 games a year.

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