Playing for the Augusta Tourist in the South Atlantic League in 1904, the Detroit Tigers exercised their option and purchased Cobb for $700 in 1905. Ty Cobb has one true rookie card.
Rough Start Equates to Complex Personality
Just before Ty Cobb’s debut in the MLB on August 30, 1905, he was grieving the death of his father and the indictment of murder charges against his mother.
He played in 41 games his rookie season and had an okay .238 batting average.
Ty Cobb wasn’t in the mood for rookie hazing by teammates and took exception to it. It got so bad resentment set in with multiple teammates for many years.
The stress of teammates continued but Ty Cobb’s play on the field elevated.
Cobb was strong-willed and competitive but when you factor in his complex personality, well it led him to become a loner.
Ty Cobb doubled down and by 1907 he became an all-star in the league and led the Tigers to their first AL Pennant. By 1909 his play led to his first batting title leading the league in runs, hits, home runs, RBI’s, stolen bases, and batting average.
Ty Cobb Never a Dull Moment
During the 1908 season, Ty Cobb was getting a bad reputation. He left the team for six days in the middle of a pennant race to get married. Also in 1908, Cobb was arrested for a road rage incident.
The following season in a game against the Philidelphia Athletics, Cobb slid into third base severely cutting the arm of third baseman Frank Baker.
But wasn’t Cobb within his rights as a baserunner? Yes, but as they say, it’s not what you say but how you say it.
Cobb received many death threats after that incident, especially when they played Philidelphia.
There seemed to never be a dull moment with this guy, it was one crazy act after another. But now things escalated to a more serious offense.
A warrant was issued in Cleveland for the arrest of Ty Cobb for attempted murder! Cobb got into a fight with an African American hotel night watchman. Cobb dodged the allegations by leaving Cleveland and later settled the matter out of court.
What Others Say About Ty Cobb
On the field, Cobb was known for his over-the-top aggressive base running and his ability to hit the ball to all parts of the field. A true craftsman of the sport he loved.
Off the field, Cobb was not liked by many but mainly on a personal level.
He was a roughneck and often times bantered opposing teams and had been known for intimidating people with bully-like tactics on the field and that sentiment poured over off the field.
However, No respectable baseball historian will argue that Tyrus Raymond Cobb is one of the greatest ballplayers to ever play the game.
Hall of Fame team-mate Sam Crawford said, “He didn’t out hit and he didn’t outrun them, he out-thought them.”
Smokey Joe Wood pitcher for the Boston Red Sox said this about Cobb,
“He was the best ballplayer I ever saw. I always said if there was a league higher than the Majors, Ty Cobb would be the only fellow in it. Just as you’d be thinking about doing something, Ty would be doing it. He was always one step ahead of you.”
These quotes serve as a testimony to the type of savvy ballplayer he was.
Ultimately he was respected for his accomplishments. Many books have been written about him and movies as well. He lived hard and played harder.
After his retirement, he’s been quoted as saying, “I never could stand losing. Second place didn’t interest me. I had a fire in my belly.”
Career Stats & Accomplishments
Ty Cobb played in the Major Leagues for 24 years. He played for the Detroit Tigers for 22 years, and his final 2 years with the Philidelphia Athletics.
WAR 151.0 | Games 3,034 | At Bats 11,440 | Hits 4,189 | Home Runs 117 | Batting Average .366 | RBI 1,944.
- 12x Batting Titles
- 1909 Triple Crown
- 1911 MVP
- 1936 Hall of Fame Induction
Cobb to this day holds the record for the youngest major league ballplayer to hit 3,000 hits.
He accomplished this at the young age of 34 and he did it in the fewest number of at-bats 8,093.
Ty Cobb True Rookie Card
1902-11 Sporting Life Cabinets (RC)
This is the earliest card released of Ty Cobb. Therefore, earning the RC designation although it may be debatable with some collectors due to its 5″ x 7.5″ size. Is it a card or photo?
Well these were meant to be collectibles. A fantastic article written by Kevin Glew, shares some great information as he interviews Kevin Struss from Baseball Rarities.
Struss says, “They’re a substantially thick card, you can tell when you hold these items that no expense was spared when they were made.”
Sporting Life was a weekly Philadelphia-based newspaper distributed across the United States that used these cards to promote their publication.
Regardless of there size, the purpose of these was to promote a newspaper and the intent was to make these durable and collectible.
Struss further states, “Type 4 – This was the most elaborate design yet, showcasing the crossed bats with larger, white lettering inside an embossed, scroll-like design. This design was used from mid-1904 through the end of the run.”
1909-1911 T206 Tobacco Cards (PRT)
My research shows that there are at least 15 other cards of Ty Cobb released between 1904-1908. They were manufactured primarily as postcards.
But the more mainstream cards can be found in the American Tobacco Co T206 card set, and they’re considered by some collectors as Ty Cobbs most accessible early year cards.
These portrait paintings of The Georgia Peach are often mistakenly considered rookie cards but that would be an incorrect identifier. A proper identifier should be post-rookie theme because its mainstream, accessible, earliest card released after his MLB Debut.
According to PSA Population Reports there are four variants for Ty Cobb: Portrait Red Background, Portrait Green Background, Bat on Shoulder, and Bat Off-Shoulder. Allow me to explain.
- The Ty Cobb Portrait Red has 15 different variations of tobacco product advertisements on the card backs. These are easier to find and PSA Population Report shows 2,180 of these have been slabbed by them.
- The Ty Cobb Portrait Green has the same portrait photo of Cobb but with a green background. There are significantly fewer greenbacks available, and there are only 5 tobacco product variations for the card backs. PSA Population Reports show 926 of the Portrait Greens have been authenticated by them.
- Ty Cobb Bat On Shoulder is self-explanatory and there are 6 known tobacco advertisements featured on the back. PSA Population Reports show a total of 955 authenticated.
- Finally, Ty Cobb Bat Off Shoulder is also self-explanatory and there are 14 known tobacco advertisements featured on the back. PSA Population Reports show a total of 1,094 authenticated.
The Lucky 7 Find
In February 2016, a family sifting through the possessions of their great grandparents in an attic noticed a paper bag on the floor.
One of the family members, out of curiosity, looked through the bag and saw some postcards, papers and at the bottom of the bag, they noticed not one or two but seven baseball cards of Ty Cobb (7 of the Portrait Reds).
Admittedly, they knew nothing about baseball cards but did recognize the name.
They took them to a Local Card Shop, then submitted them to Professional Sports Authenticators for grading, and were sold at auction.
Happy Collecting Collectors,
Learn. Collect. Enjoy.