Ty Cobb - Post Professional Career

Post Professional Career

Cobb retired a very rich and successful man. He toured Europe with his family, went to Scotland for some time and then returned to his farm in Georgia. He spent his retirement pursuing his off-season avocations of hunting, golfing, polo and fishing. His other pastime was trading stocks and bonds, increasing his immense personal wealth. Among his other holdings he was a major stockholder in the Coca-Cola Corporation, which by itself would have made him wealthy.

In the winter of 1930, Cobb moved into a Spanish ranch estate on Spencer Lane in the millionaires' community of Atherton outside San Francisco, California. At the same time, his wife Charlie filed the first of several divorce suits; but withdrew that suit shortly thereafter, finally divorcing him in 1947 after 39 years of marriage, the last few of which she lived in nearby Menlo Park. The couple had three sons and two daughters: Tyrus Raymond Jr, Shirley Marion, Herschel Roswell, James Howell and Beverly.

Cobb never had an easy time as husband and father. His children found him to be demanding, yet also capable of kindness and extreme warmth. He expected his sons to be exceptional athletes in general and baseball players in particular. Tyrus Raymond Jr flunked out of Princeton (where he had played on the varsity tennis team), much to his father's dismay. The elder Cobb subsequently traveled to the Princeton campus and beat his son with a whip to ensure against future academic failure. Tyrus Raymond Jr. then entered Yale University and became captain of the tennis team while improving his academics, but was then arrested twice in 1930 for drunkenness and left Yale without graduating. Cobb helped his son deal with his pending legal problems, but then permanently broke off with him. Even though Tyrus Raymond Jr finally reformed and eventually earned an M.D. from the Medical College of South Carolina and practiced obstetrics and gynecology in Dublin, Georgia until his premature death at 42 on September 9, 1952 from a brain tumor, his father remained distant.

In February 1936, when the first Hall of Fame election results were announced, Cobb had been named on 222 of 226 ballots, outdistancing Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, the only others to earn the necessary 75% of votes to be elected that first year. His 98.2 percentage stood as the record until Tom Seaver received 98.8% of the vote in 1992 (Nolan Ryan and Cal Ripken Jr subsequently surpassed both of them, with 98.79% and 98.53% of the votes respectively). Those incredible results show that although many people disliked him personally, they respected the way he had played and what he had accomplished. In 1998, The Sporting News ranked him as third on the list of 100 Greatest Baseball Players.

By the time he was elected to the Hall of Fame, Cobb had become a heavy smoker and drinker, and spent a great deal of time complaining about modern-day players' lack of fundamental skills. He had positive things to say about Stan Musial, Phil Rizzuto and Jackie Robinson, but few others. Even so, he was known to help out young players. He was instrumental in helping Joe DiMaggio negotiate his rookie contract with the New York Yankees, but ended his friendship with Ted Williams when he suggested to him that Rogers Hornsby may have been an even greater hitter than Cobb himself had been.

Cobb's competitive fires continued to burn after retirement. In 1941, he faced Babe Ruth in a series of charity golf matches at courses outside New York, Boston and Detroit and won them all. At the 1947 Old Timers' Game in Yankee Stadium, he warned catcher Benny Bengough to move back, claiming he was rusty and hadn't swung a bat in almost 20 years. Bengough accordingly stepped back to avoid being struck by Cobb's backswing. Having repositioned the catcher, Cobb cannily laid down a perfect bunt in front of the plate and easily beat the throw from a surprised Bengough.

Another bittersweet moment in Cobb's life reportedly came in the late 1940s, when he and sportswriter Grantland Rice were returning from the Masters golf tournament. Stopping at a Greenville, South Carolina liquor store, Cobb noticed that the man behind the counter was none other than "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, who had been banned from baseball almost 30 years earlier following the Black Sox scandal. But Jackson did not appear to recognize him, and finally Cobb asked, "Don't you know me, Joe?" "Sure I know you, Ty," replied Jackson, "but I wasn't sure you wanted to know me. A lot of them don't."

Cobb was mentioned in the poem "Line-Up for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash:

Line-Up for Yesterday

C is for Cobb,
Who grew spikes and not corn,
And made all the basemen
Wish they weren't born.

Ogden Nash, Sport magazine (January 1949)

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