Ty Cobb Had to Be First Because Nothing Else Was Good Enough

Harold FriendChief Writer IJanuary 4, 2012

Home of the Detroit Tigers for nearly a century, Tiger Stadium was home to many great players. Ty Cobb's plaque still adorned the wall in front of Tiger Stadium. (Photo by Leon Halip/WireImage)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

No player in any sport was more competitive than Ty Cobb.

When Cobb was managing the Detroit Tigers, a young first baseman that had won the Penn Relays broad jump title joined the team.

Some of the Tigers' players took an interest in broad jumping, including Cobb. Naturally, a broad jumping contest ensued with the broad jump champion winning. Cobb, who had no broad jumping experience, finished second.

Ten days later, there was a two-man contest between the rookie and the manager. There were three jumps. Cobb won all of them. He didn't win by much, but he won.

Cobb had taken lessons from the Loyola track coach. It didn't matter if it involved winning a batting title or beating a broad jump champion. For Cobb, it was first or nothing.

Who besides most New York Yankees' fans thinks that making the playoffs—but not winning the World Series—is a successful season?

Yes, I know that Cobb never played for a world championship.

In 1925, Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane was in his first year with Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's. Everyone in baseball feared Ty Cobb, but there was much more bench jockeying in those days.

Mack continually told his players not to rile Cobb, saying, "Never make Mr. Cobb mad or he will beat you, all by himself."

When Philadelphia had a series in Detroit, some of the younger A's, including Cochrane, needled Cobb. It was a mistake, as well as a learning experience, for the man after whom Mickey Mantle was named.

Cobb was at bat with a runner on first and two outs. The Philadelphia pitcher got two quick strikes on him, which prompted Cochrane to ask the batter if he were the great Ty Cobb.

"Listen, busher," Cobb responded, "I'm going to hit and run on the next pitch, and when you come to, the runner will have scored and I'll be on third base."

Cochrane laughed and told Cobb that he would call for a pitchout, which is just what happened. The problem was that Ty Cobb was the hitter.

Cobb threw his bat at the ball which floated over the infield. Cobb rounded first, made it to second, was caught in and escaped a run down. and when the dust had cleared, he was standing on third base.

The only other player who could have done what Cobb did was Jackie Robinson.