Former Detroit Tigers Star Ty Cobb and His Long Journey Home To Georgia

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Former Detroit Tigers Star Ty Cobb and His Long Journey Home To Georgia

            “So long as suns are warm, baseballs thrown and hit; as long as grass grows green on the infields of diamonds in great cities and bush-league towns, and the bleachers stand to cheer and jeer, so long will they remember Tyrus Raymond Cobb.”

                                                                 Ralph McGill; Publisher of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution

 

        “All my interest lie over those mountains,” said Ty as he takes one of his last look over the Sierra range and pointing east toward Georgia some 3,000 miles away. His intentions was to take up residence in Royston to “live out his days” on the land near where his father raised crops and sent Ty, Paul and Florence to school.

 

       His interest lie mostly now in his two personalized projects, the Cobb Memorial Hospital and the Cobb Educational Foundation. Both organizations he held close to his heart.

 

       All proceeds from endorsements and public appearances now were directly forwarded to these two enterprises. Ty would say,  “just make that out to the Cobb Educational Foundation,” he would direct.

 

       Royston had made her own plans for Ty’s homecoming. The then mayor of Royston, Reeder Tucker, whose father had bought part of the old Cobb farm back in 1925, had sent a telegram to Ty assuring him of his “welcome home.” The telegram Ty described himself as being, “mighty proud of,” went like this;

                

                    “Ty Cobb:”

                                     “ No news in years has so thrilled our people as that heralded to the world Monday in which you  stated your intention to return to the old hometown and make it your permanent residence. As mayor,  representing our entire citizenry, I want to assure you of a most cordial welcome and to express the hope that you will make it real soon. You placed Royston on the map as but few men have ever been  able to do for their hometown. We not only love you for that, Ty, but for the most excellent gentleman we here know you to be. Hurry, Ty, hurry!

                                                                                                          L. Reeder Tucker, Mayor  

                             

       The Georgia Peach arrived on the first Friday of that June 1957. “I will probably have to rent a house in Royston so my things can be received and stored, while I’m building,” said Ty. “I want to be among my own people,”he continued. Ty had come from California by plane to Atlanta and drove immediately to Royston.

 

       Cobb had just paid Royston  a visit late in 1956. He was on hand to dedicate the Royston Gymnasium on December 1st. The $75,000 project was voted in by the public and a bond was issued in 55’.

 

       The Royston High School marching band was on hand and provided the music. Rev. Neal Windom, pastor of the local Methodist Church, led with the invocation. Mr. Cobb officially dedicated the Gym and mayor Clete D. Johnson proudly claimed, “our new building is one of the finest in Northeast Georgia. We are especially happy to have Ty Cobb dedicate the facility.”The activities were exciting and everyone enjoyed an evening of basketball as the Carnesville teams were hosted by the local boys and girls teams playing their first game of the season.

 

       Ty, on the other hand, had been exercising his emotions to come home. This was where he belonged now. And his next trip would be to buy some property to build on.

 

       His first choice was adjacent to the land that he use to claim ownership to. Where the Dill’s shopping center is now located, situated on a hillside overlooking the fields where he once plowed a “bulky mule.”

 

       After that deal split at the seams, Ty was interested in a stretch of land that covered the top of a hill going out highway 17 to Elberton. The owners knew the prospect was wealthy and intended to make a hansom profit, but Ty wasn’t going to be crossed up homefolks or not.

 

       He was also looking at other areas in the meantime. He began spending time in Cornelia some 30 miles northwest of Royston. It was only several miles from the Narrows in Banks County where he was born. His cousin, on his mother’s side, lived there and probably help him locate the perfect place for Ty to build on and to “fit in.”  

 

       “Welcome To Royston, Home Of Baseball’s Immortal – TY COBB.”

 

       The sign that has been erected by the Royston-Franklin Springs chamber of commerce shortly before July 1961 has stood at all directions leading into this city of about 2,500.

 

       The purpose of Mr. Cobb’s last visit to Royston was to see the signs which he then, after a short visit in Royston, return to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital where he would continue his treatment for all his ailments.

 

       Wednesday turned out to be a hot, cloudy afternoon  as the pallbearers placed Ty’s casket into the hearse. People stood in short sleeved shirts along the sidewalks paying tribute to their state’s  most famous son.

 

       About 30 cars left the private services at the McGahee Funeral Home in Cornelia most of which were family and lifelong friends. The rest had recently become acquainted and have only heard of Mr. Cobb’s legendary exploits on the playing field.

 

       On the first of the thirty mile procession to Royston, an old man in overalls held his straw hat over his heart in silent homage. The road to Cobb’s final resting place had been paved with honest intentions.

 

       The picturesque countryside of northeast Georgia was painted with green grass and rolling hills with the most precious of tall pine trees that covered the ground with a blanket of pine needles.

 

       Everyone along the route was well aware that Ty Cobb was riding to his hometown of Royston for the last time. This had been considered Cobb country for so long and where he once got his start in baseball. A place where you wonder how much Cobb had hunted and fished in the woods and rivers that made up the romantic beauty through the red clay hills.

 

       Along the highway people stood outside newly bricked homes and old run down wooded houses in silence as the cars rolled passed one by one. A young boy fell off his bike on the side of the road and held his baseball cap in attention.

 

       An old farmer in a huge cotton field stopped his mule and refused to return to work until the last car had passed.

 

       State Patrol and local police had cleared the way as the hushed parade moved through Carnesville on it’s way to Royston. 

 

       Cattle grazed in the pastures on the hillsides and the cornfields portrayed acres and acres of green   stalks. “Nature painted one of her finest portraits in the north Georgia hills, a beautiful scene that Mr. Cobb never forgot and he always came back to view it no matter how long he stayed away,” said a sports writer of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.  

 

       Clouds had moved in and covered the blue sky and rain had threatened to sour the already saddened occasion.

 

       Finally Ty had reached the Royston city limits and a sign stood along the side of the road that seemed to open its arms, “Welcome To Royston, Home Of Baseball’s Immortal Ty Cobb.”  Ty had entered the city for the last time.

 

       Noisy children playing in the yards became quiet. And then a close sense of reverence filled the hearts of those present as the procession slowly passed the Cobb Memorial Hospital that Ty had built twelve years earlier. Suddenly the doors and windows of the neatly structured building were crowded with doctors, nurses and patients standing to pay tribute to their most famous friend.

 

       Now they moved closer in to town and past the old Cobb home where his father had died. Large trees shaded the downtown district and the streets were lined with citizens paying, in a rural way, their last respects.

 

       The last turn was off Church St. and into the Rose Hill Cemetary where more than 200 little leaguers lined both sides of the road in the form of an honor guard.  The cars stopped in front of a large mausoleum that had the words COBB chiseled over the doorway.

 

       The preacher accompanied Dr. Stewart Brown, Jr., a close Cobb associate, and  Beverly, Cobb's youngest daughter,  in a Cadillac in front of the hearse. Beverly turned to Dr. Brown and said, “that’s the first time I ever saw daddy come in second.”

 

        Friends of young and old were there and a few that had been small when Ty had first moved to Royston. They had knew the man that had left Royston and battled his way into immortality and was the first player ever inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  And now they had come to pay final tribute to him and to witness the final chapter to the most prominent chronicle in the game’s history.

 

        From all corners of America, the family received letters of condolences. As Ty was being placed in the marble vault, hints of rain fell lightly as if mother nature weeped in loss.

 

       The clicking and grinding of cameras broke the silence and on lady cried, “Ty, ol' Ty is at rest for the first time in his life.” 

 

       The doors to the mausoleum were locked at 5 pm, a time that had started so many games that Ty had played in. A little leaguer with Tigers across his uniform stood in front with his cap over his heart.

 

       Ty Cobb was home at last- - - in Royston!          

 

 

 

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