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He finished his incredible career with dozens of records, including the highest lifetime batting average in major league history.


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Aggressive play
defined Ty Cobb

By Ed Price
Staff Writer
Web-posted June 21, 1996 at 4 p.m.

For nearly a quarter of a century, Ty Cobb, the greatest baseball player of his day - and some say of all time - made his home in Augusta.

He finished his incredible career with dozens of records, including the highest lifetime batting average in major league history.

Cobb, known as the ``Georgia Peach,'' was also one of the top celebrities of his day - a man who golfed with U.S. presidents, made a fortune on outside investments and even played the theater circuit.

But his image is forever shaped by his aggressive play on the field and his off-field bouts of violence - both presented in this year's movie Cobb, staring Tommy Lee Jones, and the book it was based on by sportswriter Al Stump.

On the field, Cobb taunted opponents as well as teammates, threatening them with his sharpened spikes, his bat or his fists. Away from the field, Cobb was frequently hauled into court for his assaults on fans, hotel porters, even a neighborhood butcher.

In his later years, a period depicted in the Cobb movie, he was an often bitter old man, estranged from his family and former teammates.

He was married - the first time to Augusta's Charlie Lombard - and divorced three times.

Some opposed naming this year's newly opened Augusta minor league baseball park after Cobb, citing his history of racist attacks.

His reputation, however, doesn't change what he did as a ballplayer.

Cobb, one of the five original inductees to the baseball Hall of Fame, first arrived in Augusta as a teen-ager trying to break into professional baseball.

The son of a prominent educator in Royston, Ga., Cobb tried out for the Augusta Tourists in 1904. He made the opening-day roster but was cut after two games.

Persistent if anything, Cobb played for a lower-level team in Anniston, Ala., and proved his ability. By August, he was back with the Tourists.

The next season he returned to the Tourists and tore up the league. A pep talk from player-manager George Leidy - describing the luxury of the major leagues and exhorting Cobb to stop fooling around and make the most of his ability - caught Cobb's attention.

On Aug. 8, 1905, Cobb was batting .320 with 40 stolen bases, most in the South Atlantic League. Then came the news that his mother had accidentally shot his father.

Eight days after the funeral, with his life turned upside down, Cobb was called up to the Detroit Tigers. His major-league debut came on Aug. 30.

But Cobb's ties to Augusta were just beginning. In August 1908 he married Charlotte ``Charlie'' Marion Lombard, the daughter of prominent Augustan Roswell Lombard.

In the offseason, they lived at The Oaks, Roswell Lombard's estate south of town. A reception there in 1909 to honor Cobb's third straight batting championship drew 200 friends, family and officials.

In November 1913, Ty and Charlie and their two children - Ty Jr. and Shirley - moved to a house on Williams Street, on ``the Hill'' not far from where Augusta College is today. A second son, Herschel, was born in 1916.

Cobb's hobbies included shooting game, playing golf at Augusta Country Club, raising bird dogs and investing his money. He was briefly president and owner of Ty Cobb Tire Co. and bought parcels of land around town. Visitors to his home included the golfer Bobby Jones, football coach Knute Rockne, John Philip Sousa and Atlanta sportswriter Grantland Rice.

The family moved to northern California in 1932, as Cobb had fallen in love with the town of Atherton, but not before Charlie filed for divorce and then withdrew her suit. Cobb continued to own his Summerville house until 1943.

By the time his 24-year major-league career ended in 1928, Cobb had amassed 4,191 hits, 892 stolen bases and batted .367. His base hits record lasted until 1985 and his steals total was unsurpassed until 1990.

``He did everything except steal first base,'' said Rube Bressler, a contemporary player. ``And I think he even did that in the dead of night.''

Cobb died at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta in 1961 at the age of 74.

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