Ty Cobb grew up in the post Civil War South where racism was the norm. This is not to say that it was right, but it was a given and accepted practice. What shaped Tys' personality more than anything was an incident that happened when he was just 18, just a few sparse weeks before he joined the Tigers.
His mother fatally shot his father outside her bedroom window. It was thought that she mistook him for a burglar, others whispered that he suspected her of infidelity. Either way, the killing of a Father who he dearly loved and admired spurred Cobb to become the fiercest competitor in baseball history.
The Georgia Peach hit .300 or better every year from 1906 to 1928 and won the AL batting championship every year from 1907 to 1915 and from 1917 to 1919. Some revisionist historians deprive him of his greatness, saying that he would not be able to achieve the same level of aggression and greatness in today's Baseball World. One must remember that if Ty Cobb were playing today he would have the same advantages in training that today's players have.
While it is almost never ever mentioned, it is a fact that Ty did have many friends in baseball as well as away from the game. Hardly anyone knows that one of Tys' best friends in the sport was none other than Christy Mathewson! Ty loved and admired "Big Six", visiting with him whenever he got the chance. He even went out of his way to serve with him in the Chemical Warfare Unit (also known as the Gas and Flame Division) during World War 1. When Mathewson died in 1925, it was said that Cobb broke down in tears.
He also was great friends with Mickey Cochrane, (a hard loser also like Cobb), Bobby Veach, Germany Schaefer, Wild Bill Donovan, Harry Heilmann, Ray Schalk, Nap Rucker, and Tris Speaker. He even had a re-approachment with Babe Ruth after the Bambino married a friend and fellow Georgian, the beautiful Claire Merritt Hodgeson. The two, who had a venomous rivalry became friends after Tys' retirement in 1928.
It is often mentioned that only 3 major league players showed up at Tys' funeral. The real truth is that most of Cobbs' friends in baseball had already passed away. In fact, at the time of Tys' death from cancer in July of '61, his good friend Mickey Cochrane was already ill with a respiratory ailment and would die some 11 months after Cobb, in June 1962.
Many myths revolve around the Cobb mystique. Cobb always said that he never sharpened his spikes, but also never denied it to opposing players. The alleged Honus Wagner "Kraut Head Incident" in the 1909 World Series was a fabrication of the press. There is no account of the incident in the Newspapers of that time!
Ty had a vicious temper and there has come to light recently that domestic violence was common in the Cobb household. The incident where he beat an invalid man, Claude Lucker, at Hilltop Park in 1912 is very well documented. What most people don't know is that the crowd at Hilltop Park cheered Cobb after he beat the man.
Besides being a great ball player, he was very shrewd with money, becoming baseballs first millionaire. He bought Coca-Cola stock and built a fortune.
When Ty Cobbs' name is mentioned today, all sorts of emotions and images are conjured up. One thing is for certain, his memory and the way he played the game will go on for as long as baseball exists. Ty Cobb became the first player voted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame in 1936. He died from cancer on July 7th, 1961, five months shy of his 75th birthday.