Thursday, December 18, 2014

Yesterday and Today: Ty Cobb

This is the latest installment in our photo series depicting baseball's stars of yesteryear on the site of present-day Navin Field, site of Detroit's historic Tiger Stadium (1912-2009). 

A genius in spikes

The great Ty Cobb was born on this day in 1886.

By Tom Derry

Today marks 128 years since the great Ty Cobb was born in Narrows, Georgia.

Many Hall of Famers have worn the Old English D, but none were better than The Georgia Peach.

It's unlikely that anyone will ever match Cobb's lifetime batting average of .367, or his career record of 54 steals of home.

Cobb, who invested heavily in Coca-Cola and General Motors, is believed to be the first baseball player to become a millionaire.

Cobb lived on Commonwealth Street, in the Woodbridge neighborhood north of Navin Field, and could often be seen walking his dogs down Trumbull Avenue, on his way to the ballpark.

If Yankee Stadium was the "House That Ruth Built," then Navin Field was the "House That Cobb Built."

While the Tigers did lose the World Series each year from 1907 to 1909, Cobb was the most exciting player in the game, and our national pastime's biggest drawing card.

1911 was the Tigers' last year at the old, wooden Bennett Park. It was also the most dominating season of Cobb's career.

That year, Cobb batted .420, accumulated 248 hits, knocked in 144 runs, and crossed home plate 147 times. To accommodate the Tigers' growing fan base, due largely to Cobb's heroics on the field, owner Frank Navin decided to build a new steel and concrete structure at Michigan and Trumbull.

Navin moved home plate closer to the corner of Michigan and National (now known as Cochrane) for the start of the 1912 season.

Cobb picked up right where he left off the previous season, leading the major leagues with a .410 batting average.

It's unlikely that baseball will ever see a more fierce competitor than Cobb.

"I had to fight all my life to survive," he once said. "They were all against me ... but I beat the bastards and left them in the ditch."