Ty Cobb’s post-seasons were a disappointment

Ty Cobb in the 1908 World Series

Ty Cobb vaults out of the batter's box during Game Three of the 1908 World Series at West Side Grounds in Chicago.

Much to the chagrin of teammates, fans, sportswriters—and most of all, to himself—Ty Cobb never was able to break loose and dominate play in a World Series in the same fashion he did during the regular season.  In 1907, he batted a miserable .200 with no RBI or stolen bases as the Tigers were steamrollered by the Chicago Cubs. The following October he batted a more respectable .368, though most of his hits were bunched in the lone game the Tigers managed to win in their rematch with the Cubs.

The closest Cobb ever came to a championship was in 1909, when the Tigers hosted Pittsburgh in a winner-take-all seventh game at Bennett Park. With everything on the line, Cobb went 0-for-4 as Detroit was pummeled, 8-0. It was the third straight World Series in which the Tigers had ended their season by being shut out on their home turf. Ty, who had won the Triple Crown in 1909, batted only .231 against the Pirates.

Three kicks at the can—and no championship. In 24 big-league seasons, baseball’s greatest competitor and the first man voted into Cooperstown would never be able to add “world champion” to his mile-long list of accomplishments. It galled him to the end of his days.

Still, Cobb’s composite performance in three deadball World Series—a .262 average in 17 games—actually compares favorably with those of fellow Hall-of-Famers Stan Musial (.256 and one home run in 23 games), Ted Williams (five singles and a .200 mark in his lone World Series), and Willie Mays (.239 with no home runs and only six RBI in 20 games).

Why the lukewarm October numbers for Cobb? Beyond the fact that in 1907-08 the Tigers were facing one of the truly great pitching staffs of all time in Chicago’s Orvie Overall, Ed Reulbach, Jack Pfiester, and Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown, Cobb always maintained that his lack of experience and maturity contributed. After all, he was just 22 years old when he played his final World Series game. Even a storied postseason performer like Babe Ruth (.326 with 15 home runs in 41 games) needed time to gain his stride. Ruth, in his first 17 World Series games (as a pitcher with the Red Sox in 1915-16 and 1918, and then as an outfielder for the Yankees in 1921-23), hit a collective .188 with just one home run and 15 strikeouts in 48 at-bats! However, to be completely fair to Ruth, it should be noted that during this same period he won all three of his Series starts.

“I was too young when that part of my career happened,” Cobb later lamented. “I regret I never got a crack at a World Series during my peak years.” Timing also played a role on the back end of Cobb’s career. After spending his first 22 seasons with Detroit, the aging Georgia Peach played two final seasons with Connie Mack’s star-studded Philadelphia A’s, hoping for one last shot at a championship. Cobb finally called it quits in 1928. The next two years, Mack’s club won the World Series.

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