Ty Cobb: All-American

Baseball “historian” Daniel Okrent righteously denounced American icon and baseball great Ty Cobb in Ken Burns’ Baseball miniseries:

“Cobb is the great black mark on the history of baseball … he was a man of vile temperament and vile habit … I think that Ty Cobb in his totality is an embarrassment to baseball.”
—Third Inning, “The Black Mark”

Some people just have no sense of historical context; even some people who call themselves “historians”.

Coming home

I wonder whether Daniel Okrent realizes that there were a few other racists in America in Cobb’s time. Does he realize there might have been a few in Cobb’s home state of Georgia during the Post-Reconstruction Era? I wonder whether Okrent has seen the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation. It might remind him just how racist a place America very recently was.

I wonder whether Okrent is aware that Major League Baseball was itself an all-white organization long before and long after Cobb.

I wonder whether Okrent has ever heard of the Black Sox scandal, and how it nearly ruined baseball. As far as I know, Cobb never threw a baseball game. It doesn’t really seem to have been his style, really. He was too competitive.

Cobb was a vile racist. Cobb was a violent bully. Cobb was a ruthless competitor. Cobb was a shameless self-promoter. Cobb was a Coca-cola investor.

Can one imagine a more All-American resume?

Cobb’s mother shot his father.

Good. Now we have guns in the story. Can one imagine a more All-American upbringing?

Yes, it’s true that Ty Cobb assaulted a handicapped heckler. How very politically incorrect of him! How insensitive to the underprivileged! I suppose he would also hit a girl or even a bespectacled girl! This was no “Christian gentleman”.

But it is also said that Ty Cobb paid Shoeless Joe Jackson a visit in Jackson’s hometown of Greenville, SC after Jackson had been expelled from Baseball. Imagine that: compassion? Could Cobb have been human after all?

Ty Cobb was a remarkable man. He wasn’t anybody’s hero, but he was an American phenomenon, and a phenomenon worthy of awe.

Further Reading

Tom Stanton: Cobb was nicer than most people think.

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5 comments on “Ty Cobb: All-American

  1. Norm Coleman says:


    i just found you on my computor. I loved your piece re Cobb.
    I perform a one man show on Cobb-the Tigers hired me in March 08 to perform
    in Lakeland and will be at the Cobb Museum July 17-19. I show the other side
    of this great man. can send you info if you wish.


  2. Dan Jensen says:

    Well that’s quite an honor, Norm! Thanks!

    I checked your website and noticed that you’re here in Northern California. If you have a mailing list or some other way of notifying people of your public performances, please include me.

    Here’s a bit of non-trivial trivia:

    Q: what two major leaguers had 20 or more sacrifice hits while batting .400?

    1. Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers, 1922: .401 and 27 SH
    2. Harry Heilmann, Detroit Tigers, 1923: .403 and 23 SH

  3. NORM COLEMAN says:

    In reply to Dan Jensen, thanks for your kind note. For any fans of Ty Cobb or
    if you wish to be notified of my next appearance, check my web site, e-mail me
    and I will send you my show schedule. Thanks. Norm

  4. NORM COLEMAN says:


    Is that you in the Giants shirt? I you a SABR member? We just had a meeting at
    AT&T park today. Great group for baseball fans. Check my web site for my
    GREAT adventure in Royston, GA this week, the home of TY COBB. The town is
    celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Ty Cobb Museum.
    Will post photos and notes.

  5. NORM COLEMAN says:


    The Tom Stanton book is great. Also check out Al;so, check out Inside Baseball
    with Ty Cobb by Wesley Fricks, America’s greatest Cobb historian and the
    founder of the Cobb Museum.

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