The Softer Side of Ty Cobb

On July 18, 1927, Ty Cobb became the first baseball player to reach 4,000 hits. Ninety years later, Ty Cobb still holds many records. He also holds onto the reputation of being one mean ballplayer.

Tyrus R. Cobb certainly had a quick temper and was an aggressive athlete. He was argumentative and often engaged in fist fights. But there’s no proof for the stories about him beating up a handicapped man, or of sharpening his spikes so he could sink them into the shins of any opponent who blocked his slide into base.

Many of these stories were fabricated by journalists who knew they could attribute any outrageous actions to Cobb and people would believe them.

So Post readers familiar with the notorious Cobb would have been surprised to read about the sentimental, soft-hearted philanthropist described in the June 14, 1958, article, “A Visit with Ty Cobb.”

In 1956, Cobb donated $100,000 (worth nearly nine times that amount today) to build a hospital for his small home town. He also established the Ty Cobb Educational Foundation with another $100,000. By 2016, this college fund had disbursed over $16 million to disadvantaged students and is still in operation.

Cobb’s generosity was not a consequence of a large salary. In all his years as a ballplayer, he never earned more than $40,000 a year, even at the height of his 23-year career.

Surprisingly, when he retired in 1928, he was a rich man. During his ball-playing years, he had been wisely investing in rising companies like General Motors and Coca-Cola. When he died, he left an estate worth, in current dollars, over $90 million.

Author Furman Bisher was intent on writing a positive story, which is why he skipped over some unpleasant parts of Cobb’s past. For example, he writes that Herschel Cobb, Ty’s father, “came to an early death at 43 — the victim of an accidental shooting.” What he doesn’t mention is that the shooter was Ty’s mother, who was tried for murder and acquitted.

That story is true.

Ty Cobb
Click to Read “A Visit with Ty Cobb” from the June 14, 1958, issue of the Post.

Featured image: Ty Cobb, 1913 (Library of Congress)