For most people, after they’ve been the man in charge, it’s next to impossible to take direction from someone else. But Ty Cobb, one of the most crotchety ballplayers in the history of the National Pastime, had no troubles ending his career under another skipper after having been a player/manager for six years in Detroit.
After the ’26 season, Cobb wasn’t exactly run out of Detroit, but he was nudged by the commissioner of baseball, Mr. Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a man who had a personality even less amusing than Attila the Hun. But Landis saw a need to extract Cobb (as well as his pal Tris Speaker who was player/manager of the Indians) from his post after evidence surfaced that Peach had probably thrown a meaningless game at the end of the 1919 season. Though setting up side bets and arranging things on the final day of the season was a common practice prior to 1920, the thought of Cobb and Speaker’s names being plastered across newspaper headlines didn’t make Landis very happy. So, he ordered both players to be excused from their roles as manager and declared them free agents. It was thought that Cobb and Speaker might just fade into retirement. But that wasn’t what happened.
Cobb was privately irate over his treatment by the commissioner, but he held his tongue in public for the most part. when the Tigers released him on November 2, he said little from his home in Georgia. But it wasn’t long before he was maneuvering his return to the diamond. His plans became clear after a tall gentleman paid him a visit at his rural home.
Connie Mack was in his fourth decade in baseball by the time he courted Cobb. The venerable leader of the Philadelphia Athletics was orchestrating the revival of his ballclub, and a veteran like Cobb was on his wish list. After a leisurely meeting with Cobb, a photo op with the press, and carefully written statements that made it clear that any bad blood was gone, Mack parted with the great ballplayer. But not before he’d made it clear that he wanted Cobb in an A’s uniform in the upcoming season.
“Ty still has a lot of good ball in him and can help us in the outfield,” Mack said.
In February, with some of the dust settled on his controversial exit from Detroit, Cobb signed a deal with Mack. he would be paid $40,000 in salary for the ’27 season, receive a $10,000 signing bonus, and earn up to $20,000 more based on attendance. The more fans who shuffled into Shibe Park in Philly, the more Cobb would make.
Though he’d been the head man in charge in Detroit, Cobb settled into his role as just one of the guys with the Athletics. Though most of his new teammates had spent years playing against him and fearing his tenacious play, Cobb was welcomed in the clubhouse. That spring, Mack signed 40-year old second baseman Eddie Collins, and 39-year old outfielder Zack Wheat, giving Cobb some players his own age to chum around with. The rest of the roster was made up of young stars, some of them (like Cobb, Collins, and Wheat) headed to the Hall of Fame.
Any worry that Cobb would bristle at being just a ballplayer and not in charge, were set to rest early in the season, when Mack stepped on the top step of the dugout and waved his famous scorecard to position his new center fielder. Cobb obediently moved. He also played hard for Mr. Mack, who was not only the manager, but also the team owner and general manager. In ’27, the 40-year old Cobb hit .357 and led the team with 104 runs and 22 stolen bases.
The Georgia Peach also delivered his patented fiery determination. In a game in early May, with the A’s trailing the Red Sox by one run, Ty led off the bottom of the 8th in Shibe Park. After watching a few pitches go by, Cobb drove the baseball down the right field line for a home run to tie the score. Or so he thought. Home plate umpire Red Ormsby ruled the ball was foul. He acknowledged that the ball had traveled inside the foul pole, but ruled that it had curved into foul territory and landed in the stands there. Under rules of that era, it meant the ball was foul. Cobb was incensed, as was Mack, who spent considerable time telling Ormsby how he felt his parents had never been married. Th “Tall Tactician” was asked to leave the field and play was resumed with Cobb at the plate. On the next pitch, Ty drew his bat back for a mighty swing, slamming the barrel of his lumber against Ormsby’s chest protector. The umpire was thrust backward while Cobb missed the pitch. The veteran slugger insisted it was an accident, but his teammates on the bench, rolling with laughter, knew better.
One reply on “Cobb finished his career playing for legendary Connie Mack“
I hate to say this, Dan, but it wasn’t Zack Wheat who signed with the Athletics along with Cobb in 1927, it was Tris Speaker. You can look it up.
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