Born on September 11, 1886 in Narrows, Georgia, Ty Cobb would become one of the greatest players in baseball history. During his 24 year playing career, 22 with the Detroit Tigers and two with the Philadelphia Athletics, Cobb hit over .300 23 times. His rookie year in 1905, Cobb hit .240 in 150 at bats, however he would never hit below .316 (his second season) again for the rest of his career. His .367 career batting average remains a Major League record, which is unlikely to be surpassed. He hit over .400 three times during his career (1911-.420, 1912-.409, and 1922-.401). Remarkably Cobb did not win the batting title in 1922, as George Sisler hit .420 for the St. Louis Browns. In 1909, Cobb won the Triple Crown leading the American League with a .377 batting average, 9 home runs, and 107 RBI. The 1911 season was one of Cobb’s best seasons, and arguably one of the greatest of all time. Cobb hit .420, collected 248 hits, 47 doubles, 24 triples, 127 RBI, scored 147 runs, 83 stolen bases, SLG .621, and OPS 1.088; all of which led the American League. Cobb’s efforts earned him the Chalmers Award, the precursor to the MVP.
The legendary tales of Cobb sharpening his spikes to intimidate others shows how intense of a competitor Cobb was on the field. Cobb knew the strike zone as well as any hitter to have ever played the game. He had only 680 strikeouts during his career, striking out over 50 times in a season only once. His incredible plate discipline along with his speed on the base path presented a major problem to opposing teams. Cobb was almost sure to make contact with any pitch, which made the hit and run play possible any time a runner was on base. If the defense tried to prevent the runner from advancing, Cobb could hit the ball to foil the defenses plans. Once he was on base, Cobb could distract the pitcher from the hitter. Few, if any, infielders wanted to get in his way as he advanced around the bases for fear of injury from his spikes. Cobb had 898 stolen bases during his career. It was nearly impossible to keep Cobb off the bases and once he was there between his speed and intelligence opponents were unlikely to get him out.
Cobb’s fierce nature on the field was unsurpassed during his playing career, most notably with his high spikes. However, Cobb’s intensity extended beyond the field, as in 1912 he went into the stands in New York while playing the Highlanders and beat a man after the fan hurled insults at Cobb during a game.
Away from the baseball field Cobb was a shrewd investor, investing heavily in Coca Cola during its early years. He was also a generous man, and his generosity off the field continues to be felt today. Cobb founded the Ty Cobb Educational foundation, which has helped thousands of Georgia students to attend college by awarding scholarships. To date, more than thirteen million dollars have been awarded to students. Cobb also established the Cobb Memorial Hospital in 1950. This hospital has become the Ty Cobb Healthcare System which continues to serve rural areas of Northwest Georgia.
Cobb was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936. He received 222 out of 226 votes. He received more votes than the other members of the 1936 class: Honus Wagner (215), Babe Ruth (215), Christy Mathewson (205), and Walter Johnson (189). Cobb earned the honor of being the first inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This honor was bestowed upon him as he received the highest vote total among those in the first class in 1936. Cobb’s 98.23% of the Voting for the Hall of Fame remains the fourth best all time, behind only Tom Seaver (98.84%), Nolan Ryan (98.79%), and Cal Ripken Jr. (98.53%).