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This Day in History: Ty Cobb beat the hell out of a fan

May 16, 2012, 9:54 AM EDT

Via BTF, we are reminded that today is the 96th anniversary of Ty Cobb doing something which, if today’s Hall of Fame voters are to be believed, wasn’t as bad as taking some HGH: he beat the hell out of a fan:


My favorite part came right afterward. It seems that AL President Ban Johnson was actually at the game. He was asked afterward if Cobb would get a suspension. He said “I don’t know until I hear the facts …”

The story went on to say that the Highlanders lost because they were “unable to match the Tigers in rungetting.”

Ah, it was a simpler time. If by “simpler” you mean freakin’ absurd.

  1. deathmonkey41 - May 16, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    The Detroits?

    • l0yalr0yal - May 16, 2012 at 10:23 AM

      It’s difficult to come up with a good name 😦

      • kopy - May 16, 2012 at 11:07 AM

        The Phillies are still brainstorming.

  2. jerryball22 - May 16, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    That Ty Cobb is so Old School

  3. philcokesbrain - May 16, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    I can’t figure out if Ty Cobb would be proud of Delmon Young or not.

    • themuddychicken - May 16, 2012 at 11:19 AM

      A quick glance at Young suggests Cobb would consider him “uppity,” which also tends to not end well for the offending party.

  4. Gobias Industries - May 16, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    Ty Cobb sure had a big set of doberman [expletives].

  5. Old Gator - May 16, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Does that get Cobb a suspension today? Is that better or worse than what Brett Lawrie did last night? And finally, is Joe West a dead man if he pulls the same shit on Cobb that he pulls on everyone else?

    Don’t all raise your hands at once, please….

  6. randygnyc - May 16, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    Times have changed. The press was enthralled that Cobb went into the stands, describing it as “delectable”. Today, the broadcasts don’t even show non violent fans (dirtbags, to be sure) running out onto the field.

    • 18thstreet - May 16, 2012 at 11:01 AM

      It was REALLY hard to get on TV back in Cobb’s time.

  7. elmaquino - May 16, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    That was 100 years ago yesterday, not today

  8. amhendrick - May 16, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    In honor of the anniversary, you should write the rest of your posts in the style of that article.

    • cleverbob - May 16, 2012 at 4:20 PM

      If all the papers continued to write in that style today they wouldn’t be going out of business.

  9. lapsncaps - May 16, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Cole Hamels would be proud!

  10. pmcenroe - May 16, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    I seem to recall that the fan was missing an arm or hand and the story being Cobb beat a defenseless man. Does anyone know if that’s true? Craig does it say anything about that in the article?

    Also I found this interesting series of events/coincidences that stemmed from this incident. So Ban Johnson suspended Cobb indefinitely for this, and his teammates in a show of solidarity refuse to play in a game against the Philidelphia Athletics on May 18, 1912. Tigers’ manager Hughie Jennings then has to go around Philly to find a bunch of replacement players for that day’s game. One of the players happens to be former pugilists Bill Maharg best known for being implicated in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Out of all the players the Tigers fielded that day only one ever made another appearance in the Major Leagues, Billy Maharg, which he did this time for the Athletics in 1916. And the Manager of that 1916 Athletics team? Pat Moran. The same manager whose team “beat” the 1919 Black Sox.

    • pmcenroe - May 16, 2012 at 10:28 AM

      correction in 1916 it was the Phillies not the Athletics

      • olybopper - May 16, 2012 at 11:48 AM

        Actually, it was the Athletics, then as now in the AL. Phils, then as now, in the NL. The As would go on to move first to Kansas City, then to Oakland.

      • pmcenroe - May 16, 2012 at 1:05 PM

        uh yeah I know. The 1912 Tigers game involved the Athlectics, the 1916 game where Maharg reappeared with Moran as the manager was with the Phillies.

    • detroitr1 - May 16, 2012 at 11:02 AM

      You’re right that the fan was handicapped. There is also a more sinister detail left out of this story. The fan was calling Cobb the ‘N’ word and being that Cobb was a virulent racist; he jumped in the crowd and beat the guy to an inch of his life.

      Cobb is a dbag and yet he still honored at Comerica park–which I find embarrassing. I say this as a diehard Detroit Tiger fan.

      • yahmule - May 16, 2012 at 11:19 AM

        Cobb used to love using that same ugly word against Babe Ruth as well. One day Babe chased him off the field, cornered him in the showers and beat him real good. None of Cobb’s teammates intervened. Cobb was always jealous of Ruth’s popularity and disgusted by his wild lifestyle. They eventually buried the hatchet, even meeting for a well publicized golf match after they retired.

        Ruth endured that slur during most of his childhood and throughout the early days of his career. Many people believed his father was either part black or Native American. If you wanted to remove all the players and managers from the Hall of Fame who held racist beliefs, they would be carting out busts and plaques for several hours.

      • 18thstreet - May 16, 2012 at 12:57 PM

        I seems reasonable to me to kick Cap Anson and Tom Yawkey out for their unique roles in perpetuating racism in baseball to an extent that does not outweigh their positive contributions.

      • paperlions - May 16, 2012 at 12:58 PM

        EVERY SINGLE OWNER for several decades was an equivalent dirtbag or worse…all agreeing not to sign black players, all colluding to prevent players from earning fair salaries….and many of them are in the HOF and have ballparks named after them.

      • seeinred87 - May 16, 2012 at 2:13 PM

        In Ken Burns’ documentary, Baseball, they said that the fan had no hands and that he was heckling Cobb all game. When he called him a “half-n*****,” Cobb went and beat the shit out of him.

        It’s obviously a horrible story, but I find humor in how unbelievably absurd it is.

      • georgebrett - May 17, 2012 at 3:27 PM

        Ty Cobb was as far from a racist as one can get. Do a little research and you’ll see that he even had a black family staying rent free in his guest house. Almost everything you hear or read about Ty Cobb that is bad is far from true.

      • georgebrett - May 17, 2012 at 3:34 PM

        Check it out

  11. purnellmeagrejr - May 16, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    thanks for providing the current coverage. I enjoyed the column.

  12. jhorton83 - May 16, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    Oh that Ty Cobb, the lovably violent racist drunk.

    • georgebrett - May 17, 2012 at 3:35 PM

      Or maybe not

  13. unlost1 - May 16, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    and not disqualified from the hall of fame

  14. Ben - May 16, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    I would have love to see Cole Hamels plunk Ty Cobb.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - May 16, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      If ever there was a prick that would deserve it.

  15. hansob - May 16, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    Deadspin has really evolved over the last 100 years.

  16. aceshigh11 - May 16, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    It’s sort of amazing that people talk about the Hall of Fame’s “character clause” as if it’s anything other than empty words with a guy like Cobb in there.

    He was one hell of a ballplayer, and that’s ALL he was.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - May 16, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      He was also a hellish ballplayer.

    • denny65 - May 16, 2012 at 1:20 PM

      Thank you for supporting Pete Rose’s entry into the Hall.

  17. kpow55 - May 16, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    He may have had an issue or two that wouldn’t fly in today’s times. A physically gifted and extremely cerebral player with a horrible upbringing.

    “It was just that time” doesn’t excuse his actions but if he wasn’t such an (x) he would be known as the games greatest player to everyone not just the #3 he gets ranked losing points for chokings, beatings, etc….

    Put Ozzie Guillen in 1915 where he could get away with saying whatever he wanted and watch out!

    Cobb had more hall votes than Ruth from his peers, love him or hate him, they respected his complete game.

    Side note: Babe Ruth never did this because he couldn’t get his fat (x) over any barriers. Although if it were a hotdog and not a fan prodding him, he just may have made it.

  18. warpd - May 16, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    Drew Brees needs an explanation.

  19. yahmule - May 16, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    Not to excuse any particular kind of behavior, but times really were different years ago. Fistfights were a fairly common way for men to settle their differences. You had to watch what you said or be ready to back up your words. Usually, that was the end of things. Hard to imagine in this era where message board dustups are the norm and people nurture internet grudges indefinitely.

  20. joenamherst - May 16, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    HUH? Dude, you need a better scanner!

  21. thomas2727 - May 16, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    Is this the incident where Cobb was suspended indefinitely and his teammates refused to play?

    I believe Cobb was fined $20 for beating the fan and the teammates were fined $50 each for refusing to play.

    You have to love that if it is true.

    • vikesfansteve - May 16, 2012 at 2:52 PM

      He was fined 50 bones and suspended 10 days. The dude he beat up had 1 arm and called Cobb a half n-word.

  22. jimmymarlinsfan - May 16, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    I don’t think there is a man who ever knew Ty Cobb that would debate if he was a prick or not

    But within the realm of his time period, that is how a lot of people were…and still are today despite whatever they may say publicly or post on Internet message boards

    Shame on those who perpetuate racism by belittling or denying its inherent existence in us all as we all have human imperfection to deal with as imperfect people who find what makes us different but forget we all bleed red blood and are supposedly equal under the law

    That said, I think Ty Cobb was reincarnated into Roger Clemens because as another poster said, the mans talent was baseball and nothing else

    • georgebrett - May 17, 2012 at 3:33 PM

  23. ezwriter69 - May 16, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    “Today is the 96th anniversary of Ty Cobb doing something which, if today’s Hall of Fame voters are to be believed, wasn’t as bad as taking some HGH: he beat the hell out of a fan:”

    News flash, genius: None of the people voting today had a vote on Ty Cobb’s entry into the HOF, and they can’t vote Cobb out, either.

    What a stupid statement, but then, I guess considering the source, that’s hardly a shock…

    • Craig Calcaterra - May 16, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      Having an existing standard rule your actions, noting that the standard has never been rationally applied, even in the most extreme cases, and then going forth and applying that standard willingly, is the very definition of irrationality.

      • yahmule - May 16, 2012 at 2:20 PM

        I’m continually impressed by the even handed way Craig handles criticism and dissenting opinions, even when they’re delivered in an obnoxious or insulting manner. On PFT you can have rational posts removed simply for effectively refuting the assertions of the author. Craig’s approach reveals him to be a man who is confident and assured in himself and his beliefs.

      • drewsylvania - May 16, 2012 at 3:26 PM

        You’d hate the NHL or NBA playoff officiating…

      • stew48 - May 16, 2012 at 4:48 PM

        Craig–Just so-so. To make it more acceptable, eliminate …noting thru cases, and then insert “not” between and and applying. Thus,

        Having an existing standard rule your actions, and then going forth and not applying that standard willingly, is the very definition of irrationality.

        Just for fun, not antagonism.

    • drewsylvania - May 16, 2012 at 3:35 PM

      Pedro Gomez has not denied that this is Heyman.

  24. schlom - May 16, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    There is a better article about it in the NY Times:

    And it actually happened 100 years ago yesterday, although of course the reports would have been the newspapers on May 16th.

    • stlouis1baseball - May 16, 2012 at 2:13 PM

      Great article Schlom. Thanks for sharing.

  25. recoveringcubsfan - May 16, 2012 at 10:47 PM

    Cobb then went to the newspaper’s offices and beat up the writer who penned the article because one of the foremost unwritten rules of baseball is that baseball deserves to stay unwritten. You don’t talk about Fight Club.

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