Reviewing Ty and The Babe

Tom Stanton, who is probably best known for The Final Season, has written another book: Ty and the Babe.

In the book, Stanton chronicles one of baseball greatest and bitterest rivalries. Cobb was widely regarded as the best player of his day, at a time when small ball, bunting and stealing were part of the science of baseball. Cobb was on top of the baseball world until a young slugger who was more brawn than brains captured the Nations baseball attention.

Stanton vividly describes their on field clashes and the venom that eventually turned to a mutual respect and even friendship years after their retirement.

The book also details the Has Beens Golf Tournament that took place after both retired from the game. It was a series of 3 matches that took place in Boston, New York and Detroit that got the competitive juices flowing for both old timers.

I thoroughly recommend the book. Stanton did a wonderful job spinning details of the battles on the diamond and the links. The book also presents Cobb in a much more favorable light than you are used to reading. He clearly wasn’t a saint, but he’s not depicted as evil either and at times Stanton even paints him as a sympathetic character.

For your enjoyment, here is an excerpt:

Cobb realized the game had changed. At Yankee Stadium one afternoon, the Tigers watched from the dugout as Babe Ruth lifted balls into the right-field stands during batting practice. Cobb stood beside Grantland Rice and stared out at the big slugger.

“Well, the old game is gone,” Cobb said. “We have another game, a newer game now. In this game, power has replaced speed and skill. Base running is about dead. They’ve all just about quit stealing….Ruth has changed baseball. I guess more people would rather see Babe hit one over the fence than see me steal second. I feel bad about it because it isn’t the game I like to see or play. The old game was one of skill-skill and speed and quick thinking. This game is all power….A lot of these kids, in place of learning the true science of hitting or base running, are trying to knock every pitch over the fence.”

But Ruth did more than hit home runs in 1924. He scored more runs than anyone else, and, more significant from Cobb’s perspective, Ruth took the batting title. As the holder of twelve of them, Cobb could appreciate that feat. Ruth had nearly done it the year before as well. Even if Cobb didn’t like the long ball, he would have had to admire Ruth’s average-and the fact that Babe had collected two hundred hits in each of his last two seasons. By the autumn of 1924, Cobb recognized that he couldn’t dismiss Ruth as a strange spectacle, a curious anomaly, a freak, a fad, or an oddity. Ruth qualified as something more.

It was significant that during the riot at Navin Field, Cobb hadn’t swung at Ruth. He had the opportunity; he had an invitation. Babe had challenged him, but Ty hadn’t accepted. Throughout his career, Cobb had seldom backed down from an altercation. Could it be that beneath the brutal heckling, the name-calling, and the razor-sharp zeal, Ty Cobb had come to admire and even like some things about Babe Ruth? No longer was Ruth simply a power hitter. He had won the batting title. He had excelled in the one category that Cobb valued most. How could that not have changed Cobb’s feelings about Ruth as a ballplayer?

12 Comments

  1. David

    May 15, 2007 at 12:39 am

    In my mind

    Cobb = best to play baseball ever and it’s not even close

    period

  2. Bob S.

    May 15, 2007 at 1:28 am

    And your 100% certain conclusion is based on your close personal observation of Ty Cobb?

  3. David

    May 15, 2007 at 5:17 am

    Well, I’ve talked with a few who have met him, I’ve read a few books on him, I’ve written a report on him, read about him on various sites online, and also have reviewed his stats among other current and former big leaguers.

    Not many would agree with me, but if I had to choose one player to put on my fantasy team, Cobb would be an easy choice.

  4. David

    May 15, 2007 at 5:36 am

    If you don’t take my word for it here are some quotes from ballplayers of the past about him –

    “(Ty) Cobb is a prick. But he sure can hit. God Almighty, that man can hit.” – Babe Ruth

    “(Ty) Cobb lived off the field as though he wished to live forever. He lived on the field as though it was his last day.” – Branch Rickey

    “Every time I hear of this guy again, I wonder how he was possible.” – Joe DiMaggio

    “He didn’t outhit and he didn’t outrun them, he out thought them.” – Sam Crawford

    “He was still fighting the Civil War, and as far as he was concerned, we were all damn Yankees. But who knows, if he hadn’t had that terrible persecution complex, he never would have been about the best ballplayer who ever lived.” – Sam Crawford

    “(Rogers) Hornsby could run like anything but not like this kid. (Ty) Cobb was the fastest I ever saw for being sensational on the bases.” – Casey Stengel

    “I never saw anyone like Ty Cobb. No one even close to him. He was the greatest all time ballplayer. That guy was superhuman, amazing.” – Casey Stengel

    “Let him sleep if he will. If you get him riled up, he will annihilate us.” – Connie Mack

    “The Babe was a great ballplayer, sure, but (Ty) Cobb was even greater. Babe (Ruth) could knock your brains out, but (Ty) Cobb would drive you crazy.” – Tris Speaker

    “The greatness of Ty Cobb was something that had to be seen, and to see him was to remember him forever.” – George Sisler

  5. Kyle J

    May 15, 2007 at 7:47 am

    I’m really looking forward to this book. I’ve enjoyed all three of his previous tomes. The Road to Cooperstown was particularly good.

    FYI: He’s making a series of bookstore speaking/signing appearances this week:

    Tuesday, May 15, 6 p.m., Borders, 511 Boylston, Boston, MA
    Wednesday, May 16, 7:30 p.m., Newtonville Books, Newton, MA
    Thursday, May 17, 2 p.m., Algonac-Clay Library, Algonac, MI
    Thursday, May 17, 7 p.m., Barnes & Noble, M-59 across from Lakeside Mall, Shelby Twp., MI
    Friday, May 18, 7 p.m., Borders on Woodward, Birmingham, MI
    Saturday, May 19, 2-3 p.m., Ann Arbor Book Festival, downtown near State Street at Borders table.
    Saturday, May 19, 7:30, Schuler’s Books in the Towne Center Plaza, Lansing, MI

  6. TM

    May 15, 2007 at 9:54 am

    I’ve been looking forward to this book. Tom Stanton is a talented writer and I’ve enjoyed all three of his previous baseball books. I’ve had the pleasure of talking with him a few times and he’s also a really nice fella. Go buy his book!

  7. TM

    May 15, 2007 at 9:54 am

    I’ve been looking forward to this book. Tom Stanton is a talented writer and I’ve enjoyed all three of his previous baseball books. I’ve had the pleasure of talking with him a few times and he’s also a really nice fella. Go buy his book!

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  9. Mt. P Chris

    May 15, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Great quotes David and way to back up your opinion. If those greats agree with David it’s hard to disagree with him.

  10. Bob S.

    May 16, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Those are interesting quotes from Cobb’s contemporaries.I am sure Ty Cobb was among the greatest,if not the greatest,major league player of his generation and probably among the greatest ever.But it’s flat out wrong to say with such certainty “best to play baseball ever and it’s not even close” when #1major league baseball excluded many of the best players until 1947 and #2 athletes are simply better today-bigger,stronger & faster,by every objective measure leaves plenty of room for debate.

  11. David

    May 17, 2007 at 3:04 am

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!For your first argument, although there were many who were excluded and many more who had to go against all odds other than blacks (i.e. pitchers pitching around Hank Greenberg in 1938, thinking he could break the Babe’s single-season HR record), that still does not diminish much what he did. By the way, the percentage of Blacks in the US from around 1900-1950 was about 10%, which is somewhat less than almost 13%, which it is estimated to be as of ’06.

    On to your second point, yes there is debate on how to compare players. Yes the game has changed, yes the players have changed. Parks have shrunk, the ball has been modified many times, and the mound height has been changed. Heck it’s hard to imagine a youth team that’s photo looks like this

    http://www.arcadiami.com/Exhib.....t550px.jpg

    But back then the culture was different too, one could argue that it was much more competitive then. How many kids in NY would play ball in the street, how many kids in the North and South would play dawn till’ dusk in the sandlot. It seems to me to get really good at something even if you have natural talent you have to practice practice practice which is something that the first half of last century kids did.

    It really seems similar to me to how it is in Latin America now with everybody playing all the time.

    Anyways Ty played nearly half of his career in the Dead-ball era, when they used the same ball for the ENTIRE GAME or until it began to unravel. Now I’m not a rocket scientist but I don’t think its easy to hit a soft ball also one that would be hard to see as it became brown and dirty especially when dusk fell, also players complained that its motion through the air was erratic later in the game.

    ALSO pitcher could pitch a spitball and really could doctor a beaten up dirt ball in any other way they wanted to make it nearly impossible to hit (i.e. using an Emory board)

    Just to illustrate this point in 1908 the league-wide average was .239, a slugging average of .306. AND THE WHITE SOX WHO FINISHED 88-64 HAD A TEAM TOTAL OF 3 (COUNT EM’ THREE!!!) HRs.

    I won’t get into the numerous ways on how he tried to give himself and his team the mental advantage.

    Lets just look at his stats.

    Career BA .366 1st
    Career Runs 2246 2nd (Rickey Henderson)
    Career Hits 4189 2nd (Pete Rose)
    Career Total Bases (One of my favorite ways to measure a players worth) 5854 4th (1Hank Aaron, 2Stan Musial, 3Willie Mays)
    Career Doubles 724 4th (1Tris Speaker, 2Pete Rose, 3Stan Musial)
    Career RBI 7th (1Hank Aaron, 2Ruth, 3Anson, 4Gehrig, 5Bonds, 6Musial) (Keep in mind that he was on a relatively poor hitting besides Crawford team, and had virtually no protection)
    Career SB 4th (1 Henderson, 2Brock, 3, Billy Hamilton)
    Career Caught Stealing 10th (1 Henderson, 2 Brock, etc. they do not have records for Hamilton because his career ended in 1901) Ty’s record is inaccurate because they only have the record for about half of his career.

    IN ANY EVENT if you’ve kept with me this far I applaud you, here’s the nitty gritty – If you neutralize his stats using baseball reference to 4.5 runs/game he would have hit over .400 7 times, he would have 996 career SB putting him second. He would have more hits than Rose. He would be ahead in many other categories as well.

    The one category many people will point to is his somewhat less than dazzling HR #s, for those people I point them to this site –
    http://wso.williams.edu/~jkossuth/cobb/ruth.htm

    Which reports a story about Cobb –

    “After enduring several years of seeing his fame and notoriety usurped by Ruth, Cobb decided that he was going to show that anybody could hit home runs if he chose to. On 5 May 1925, Cobb began a two-game hitting spree better than any even Ruth had unleashed. He was sitting in the dugout talking to a reporter and told him that, for the first time in his career, he was going to swing for the fences. That day, Cobb went 6 for 6, with two singles, a double, and three home runs. His 16 total bases set a new AL record. The next day he had three more hits, two of which were home runs. His single his first time up gave him 9 consecutive hits over three games. His five homers in two games tied the record set by Cap Anson of the old Chicago NL team in 1884. Cobb wanted to show that he could hit home runs when he wanted, but simply chose not to do so. At the end of the series, 38-year-old Cobb had simply gone 12 for 19 with 29 total bases, and then went happily back to bunting and hitting-and-running.”

    Also he was a Tiger!!!

    I could go on, but I’m tired and that’s it for me now…
    =============

  12. Bob S.

    May 17, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Seems to me if Cobb could go 12 for 19 with 5 home runs and 29 total bases whenever he ‘chose to’,he must have been holding back the rest of the time.Paging Judge Landis.
    Seriously,you don’t need to convince me of Cobb’s greatness.My point was that statements like ‘not even close’ and ‘period’ are (at least to me) just a little too certain when comparing anything(except,of course,my grandma’s cooking)or anybody,particularly when it regards comparing athletes of different eras.There should be some room for doubt,especially when none of us debating the issue in 2007 have been privleged to actually see Cobb play.