If Detroit Athletic Co. has a human foundation upon which it stands, it is unquestionably the shoulders of Tyrus Raymond Cobb.
My first exposure to baseball was in a book (with the cover torn off) that had an action photo of Cobb rounding third base. His collar was turned up and one of his feet was stretched out to touch the base. The look in his eyes was mesmerizing. I was fascinated by him. He had all the features of a heroic being. He was a man larger than life itself.
An even greater connection was made because of the single letter that donned his jersey: the Olde English D. I felt a sense of pride that the man described as “the greatest baseball player of all time” had been a member of the Detroit Tigers.
For much of the early 20th century, Cobb’s influence on American sports culture was unparalleled. It’s not very often that a man so hated is also so highly revered. No one — not even his worst enemies — denies his greatness on the playing field.
Cobb, in my opinion, is the embodiment of the city of Detroit itself. His style of play was gritty and tough; his appearance was objectionable; his disposition was even worse. But he — like the city in which he played — achieved greatness. For all his faults, Detroit could use a little of the fiery determination that its most memorable sports figure possessed. A mental toughness that took on the entire world — and won.