Today in Baseball: Ty Cobb makes professional debut

Today 116 years ago, Ty Cobb made his first steps in professional baseball. On this day in 1904, the Georgia Peach debuted for the Augusta Tourists of the South Atlantic League (no ties with the current league that operates under the same name).

At the age of 17, Cobb debuted for the Tourists with a home run and a double. Despite his good numbers, he was released after two games. Within days he got an offer by the semi-pro Alabama-Tennessee League’s (Class D) Anniston Franchise. One can only wonder why with the numbers he put up in his first professional game.

Five myths about Ty Cobb
A young Ty Cobb in Tigers uniform

But it would not take long before Cobb returned to Augusta to play the remainder of the 1904 and most of the 1905 season with the Tourists. Yet in his first professional year with the Tourists, his numbers were not that impressive has he batted a meager .237 for the year. But after hitting .326 in 103 games in 1905, he was sold to the Detroit Tigers for which he debuted on August 30, the start of a Hall of Fame career.

His .366 lifetime batting average (the highest ever for any MLB player), was mainly thanks to his batting stance. He didn’t put his hands together when he was waiting for the pitch. With this stance, he could adapt to the situation. With his hands apart, he slapped and placed the ball. When he wanted to hit with more power, he put his hands together.

It is said that Cobb taught this technique to his Detroit Tiger teammate, Harry Heilman, who batted over .400 once and ended up in the Hall of Fame.

Despite the fact that he played only parts of two seasons in Augusta, the Georgian city played a big part in his life. He married a woman from Richmond County, built an apartment there and owned a tire company.

Even though his father was against it, Cobb signed a contract with the Augusta Tourists that would pay him $50 a month if he would make the team. As he was approached by the Anniston franchise after his release by the Tourists, he called his father who encouraged him to go for it. His old man also made clear that he did not want Ty to come home as a failure.

Right before the start of the 1905 season, the Tourists played two exhibition games vs the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers were impressed by Cobb’s style of play and laid a claim on him. Even though the start of the Tourists’ and Cobb’s season wasn’t great, the 1905 season turned out to be the game-changer for him. After manager Andy Roth was replaced by George Leidy, the latter took Cobb under his wing and taught him the finer points of the game. As a result, he became the best hitter of the South Atlantic League and the Tigers exercised their option and bought the youngster for $700.

After two hard years with the Tigers due to the killing of his father by his mother, the lawsuit against his mother, and the bad relationship with his teammates, he arrived as a bonafide star in 1907.

The rest is history.

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