The Ty Cobb Museum: A Museum Built with a Bat!

Wesley FricksAnalyst IJune 7, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009, Royston, Ga. - Ty Cobb’s legacy has been captured and preserved for future generations in one of the finest museums in the country. Opened on July 17, 1998, the museum houses more Ty Cobb memorabilia than any other baseball institution and celebrates the life achievements of baseball’s greatest performer.

In the fall of 1945, Ty Cobb announced in a press release from his residence in Menlo Park, Calif. that he had decided to go through with his plans to build a “model” hospital in Royston, Ga. to memorialize his parents.

Back in Royston, Dr. Stewart Brown announced in a separate press release that Cobb had agreed to begin work on the hospital.  

“Ty has been interested in such a project for some time,” said Dr. Brown, who was a close friend of the Georgia Peach, and made the historic journey with Ty to Augusta to try out for the Tourist in 1904. Brown was a pitcher for Royston Reds when Ty became a member of that team.

After a couple years of gathering information and visiting different hospitals, Cobb met with Dr. Brown and Gus Skelton in 1947 at Hartwell, Ga. to execute the check presentation ceremony among a few old “friends.” Cobb wrote out a check from his personal account for $100,000 and said, “There are the documents that will get it going.”

Gus Skelton, an insurance executive from Hartwell and who was instrumental in preparing the proper documentation, said of Ty, “It goes without saying that this whole section is grateful to their native son. He isn’t doing it for show, he is sincere and in an unselfish way wants this hospital to some day grow into a medical center for northeast Georgia.”

On March 26, 1949, the ground-breaking ceremony for the hospital marked the beginning of a new era for Royston’s healthcare “dream.”

“This is the happiest day of my life,” said the 61-year-old Hall of Famer. “I’ve never forgotten the people of Royston—my oldest, truest friends,” said Cobb as he dug his shovel into the ground near where he had once plowed up the soil as a youngster.

Georgia Governor, Eugene Talmadge, was on hand and praised Cobb for his philanthropic contribution. The Governor had previously promised to help Georgia towns build hospitals with over one million dollars in appropriated funds annually.

The $250,000 building was to be equipped with the latest and advanced medical equipment and would meet some stiff specifications from both the State Department of Health and Federal Government.

The hospital was opened to all doctors in the area and served the people in all of Hart, Madison and Franklin counties. Cobb was quite elated about helping his hometown people.

On a Sunday afternoon in late Jan. 1950, a large crowd gathered in front of the newly bricked building in anticipation of the opening of the COBB Memorial Hospital, a large 25-bed facility equipped with the latest medical technology.

The dedication ceremony was of grand occasion as Ty was a featured speaker. “This hospital and everything in it belongs to you people around here to whom I’ve always had in my heart,” said Cobb.

“I want you to know this is not my hospital, and we want every doctor to use and enjoy the facility,” Dr. Brown said.

The hospital was built in memory of Ty’s parents, Herschel and Amanda Cobb. The dedication plague featured the slogan “That kind and knowing hands may minister to human suffering and pain.”    

Fast-forward 50 years later and the hospital would have witnessed three expansions, several additional hospitals, two healthcare units, a convalescence center, a retirement community, a personal care unit, a kidney care center and many more contributions to the health and welfare of the citizens of northeast Georgia.

The Cobb Memorial Hospital Association decided on a name change in Aug. 1991. The TY COBB Healthcare System, Inc. was their way of saying thanks to the famous citizen who had made the hospital possible over four decades earlier.

A few years later, Ron Shelton and Warner Bros. released the movie “COBB.” The movie was of Cobb’s last years, as he battled cancer, diabetes and a chronicle heart ailment. The movie was filled with a completely misunderstood portrait of the famed Georgia Peach.

The final version of the movie was so inaccurate that it only made a few select theaters and is now almost forgotten. But not before the message of Shelton had left a negative and less desirable impression of Cobb in the present-day media.

Nevertheless, the TY COBB Healthcare System, Inc. decided to respond. Over the next several years, the TY COBB Healthcare System’s board mulled over plans to establish a permanent memorial to Cobb to show their hometown hero’s “true side.”

Early in 1998, rumors were abound in Royston that the project would finally be a reality. This author was invited to serve as the Museum Historian and served a slot on the TY COBB Museum Advisory Board. This is a position with the Museum that this author still enjoys today.

A meeting with architect was planned for that spring in Atlanta. A date was set for July 17, for the first-pitch and opening ceremonies.

When the day came upon the city of Royston, she seemed ready to embrace her next enterprise. This wasn’t Royston’s first attempt to commemorate Cobb. Shortly before Cobb died in July 1961, he agreed to allow Dr. Stewart Brown, Jr. to establish a memorial in his honor.

After years and years of hard work gathering information and soliciting money and activists, the TY COBB Memorial was established.

The first museum began to flounder after several years. Some believe it was the lack of memorabilia and others cited the lack of traffic flow because Interstate 85 had taken a great deal of traffic away from the area. Either way, the museum eventually closed and the building was sold to the city to be used as a municipal building.  

Nearly a quarter of a century later, Phil Neikro stood before a crowd of 600 people who was on hand for the opening of the new TY COBB Museum, and said, “There’s not an hour goes by that somebody, somewhere, isn’t talking about what a great ball player Ty Cobb was.”

“I can speak for every player, owner and manager when I say thank you for putting this museum together,” continued the former Braves pitcher. Neikro was the guest speaker and tossed one of his knuckle balls during the first-pitch ceremony.

The Museum hosts some of the most sacred possessions of Ty’s, his family Bible, a letter from his father, wrist watches, an old Detroit Tigers uniform, his 1907 batting champion award, photographs of his life, a shriner’s fez, magazine articles, newspaper clippings and much, much more.

There is a 12 minute documentary on Cobb’s life that plays inside the stadium-style seated theater. The video is narrated by Larry Munson, the voice of the Georgia Bulldogs. Highlights of the video are interviews with Atlanta Braves, Chipper Jones, and baseball analyst, Peter Gammons.

In addition, former Tigers bat boy, Jimmy Lanier, shares his association with Cobb and tells of how he remembers Cobb as the Tiger’s manager.

The TY COBB Museum is one of the finest sports museums in the country. It may not be the largest, but who it represents and what it stands for transcends structure.

It represents the true essence of Ty Cobb. It represents the indispensable spirit of baseball in an era when Ty Cobb truly dominated the game.

It was during a time when he was considered the Prince of Pilferers, the King of the Diamond and the greatest baseball player of all-time.

He was the first player ever inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame, and the undisputed master of inside baseball.

The museum, itself, is for certain a "Museum Built With A Bat!