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In the summer of 1904, the youthful sports editor of the Atlanta Journal began receiving an interminable series of telegrams from some anonymous correspondent in Anniston, Alabama, about a local ballplayer named Ty Cobb.
“Cobb clouted a home run and two singles this afternoon — a real comer … ” “Big gun in Anniston attack was Cobb …” “Although hitless, Cobb stole two bases today …” “Cobb, Cobb, Cobb … ”
The sports editor kept throwing these wires in the wastebasket, but finally his resistance broke down. He hopped a train to Anniston, to judge for himself whether this busher really was, by any chance, a phenomenon in the rough.
What he saw convinced him completely. The young Anniston out elder collected five hits in five times at bat, and stole home to assure his team victory. The sports editor headed for the local telegraph office, and put himself on record with a 300-word dispatch to his paper:
“Ty Cobb was a comet with a fiery tail this afternoon. He blazed the Annistons to victory with his booming bat and his fleet base running. Here is a young man who someday may make his mark in the baseball world … ”
This story, ironically, never got into the paper. The sports editor’s assistant, thinking it was just another outburst from Cobb’s unknown Boswell, killed it when it reached the Atlanta Journal office.
However, with the sports editor now sold to the hilt on Cobb, the wires from Anniston began breaking into print with regularity. Cobb’s fame spread through Dixie. Augusta, which had previously discarded Cobb, signed him up again. Late in the 1905 season he moved up to Detroit and, of course, went on to establish himself as the mightiest ballplayer of them all.
The youthful sports editor also reached the heights. He still looks back with pride on his early discovery of Cobb. Today he is the dean of all sports writers, Grantland Rice.
As for Cobb, he remembers those brief 1904 items more vividly than any of the long screeds which have been written about him since. He should. The anonymous Anniston correspondent who sent them in was Cobb himself.
— “Cobb’s Progress” by Ernie Harwell, Sept. 12, 1942