Ty Cobb is a name synonymous with the origins of baseball, like Babe Ruth, though he started his career ahead of “the Babe”. While Ruth was a fun-loving celebrity, Cobb was the opposite, though not in terms of talent. He was the kind of hard nosed competitor that others did not particularly like.
Cobb was a famous bigot and known for sharpening his spikes so he could injure an opponent with a hard slide. Ironically his most prominent nickname was “The Georgia Peach”, a reference to his growing up in the state of Georgia, not for any particularly sunny side of his character. Nevertheless, that did not stop him from being one of the most prolific and respected players in the history of the game.
Cobb began his career in 1905, as an 18 year old rookie outfielder with the Detroit Tigers. He only hit .238 that season. He would play a grand total of 24 seasons in the Majors and that would be the only season he hit under .300, just one of his amazing statistical feats. By his second season, he batted .316 and in his third he won his first batting title, batting .350. Cobb would lead te Majors in hitting for nine seasons in a row, and then a few more after that. If you use batting average as the measure of a hitter, no hitter in the history of the game has ever been better.
Hitting The Magical .400
Ted Williams is one of the all-time greats and he gets a lot of run for being the last player to hit .400 in a season. Williams only did it once though. Cobb bested that mark three times, tops for the “modern” era, tied with another Hall of Famer of his era, Rogers Hornsby. His highest mark was .419 in 1911, a year in which he won the MVP and also led runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs and stolen bases. Throughout his career, Cobb was known for everything, except hitting for power.
Despite all of his individual success, Cobb’s teams did not achieve much. Detroit did play in three straight World Series, from 1907 to 1909, but they lost all three, to the Chicago Cubs twice and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Amazingly, Cobb was not much of a factor in these games. In 1907 and 1909, he did not even hit .300 in the series. The lack of a title might be the only thing missing from his Hall of Fame resume.
Hall of Famer
There are lot of notable numbers that stand out from the career of Ty Cobb. The two that are most remembered is the .366 career batting average, the best of all time, and 4,189 career hits, a record that stood for decades before it was eclipsed by Pete Rose in the 1980s. He and Rose are the only players in the history of the game with more than 4000.
Ty Cobb was a pure hitter. He made contact often and rarely struck out. Throughout his career, he won 12 batting titles and that MVP. In 1911, and in 1909 he even won the triple crown, hitting .377 with 9 homers and 107 RBIs (not very lofty by today’s standards, but he played in what was called the “Dead Ball” era).
Cobb could also run. Six times he led the Majors in stolen bases, including during that triple crown season, something no other player has done. Similar to hits, when he retired, he was the all-time leader in stolen bases, a record since broken by Lou Brock and then Rickey Henderson, both Hall fo Famers. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 with Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. That was the first class to ever be recognized, and will likely never be bested.