Ty Cobb, who still holds the major-league career records for batting average (.367) and runs scored (2,245), may have been the greatest player who ever lived. As a person, however, the Georgia Peach was the pits. He was so hated that when Napoleon Lajoie beat him out for the 1910 batting title, eight of Cobb’s Detroit Tiger teammates sent Lajoie a telegram of congratulations. Here, then, are eight reasons why the Hall of Famer may have been baseball’s biggest spoilsport:
He was conniving. In order to attract interest in himself, the teenage Cobb wrote pseudonymous letters and postcards to sportswriter Grantland Rice, praising a certain young outfielder for the Anniston (Ala.) Noblemen.
He was racist. Cobb once refused to stay in the same hunting cabin with Babe Ruth, who was rumored to be of mixed blood. Said Cobb, ”I’ve never bedded down with a nigger, and I’m not going to start now.”
He was violent. After a crippled New York heckler called Cobb ”a half-nigger” in 1912, he climbed into the stands and savagely beat the man. When an onlooker pleaded that the heckler had no hands, Cobb replied, ”I don’t care if he has no feet.”
He was dishonest. Cobb and Tris Speaker of the Cleveland Indians apparently arranged to fix the outcome of a game at the end of the 1919 season.
He was cheap. A savvy investor, Cobb was worth millions in his later years, but he was outraged at having to pay $12 a year to the Cornelia, Ga., Kiwanis Club.
He was petty. Cobb kept a little black ”son of a bitch” book that included such enemies as Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the utility company, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
He was humorless. When an old Cleveland catcher, Nig Clarke, kidded Cobb that he had once applied a phantom tag to nail him at the plate, Cobb grabbed Clarke’s throat with such fury that it took three men to pull him off.
He wasn’t exactly a family man. Both of his wives divorced him on grounds of cruelty, and his eldest son, Ty Cobb Jr., was estranged from him for many years because, among other offenses, Junior committed the unpardonable sin of preferring tennis to baseball.