Ted Williams passed away on July 5th. He is the greatest hitter I have ever seen. He is the last player to hit .400; he hit .406 in 1941. That was 61 years ago. For several reasons, I don’t believe that feat will ever be seen again. Please refer to my article dated March 14th. of this year on the subject of the legendary Ted Williams.
Story of the Week
TY COBB & BILLY MARTIN
My friend, Howard Suer, has a great line. "We should strive to be the kind of people our pets think we are." How profound! I really don’t think the subjects of this week’s feature story ever learned that saying, or ever cared to do anything about it.
In the twentieth century, two figures stand out for their abrasive, controversial ways and combative tendencies. They are Ty Cobb and Billy Martin. There was never a dull moment, and not too many sane ones.
Ty Cobb is considered the meanest man ever to play baseball. In 1906, he had to leave his first major league spring training camp to attend the manslaughter trial of his mother----for killing his father. She was acquitted on the basis that she thought her husband to be a prowler. But Cobb carried that chip around with him forever.
Thin-skinned and racist, it was common for Cobb to attack hecklers in the stands, and umpires and players on the field. He blemished his reputation forever when, in 1912, he dove into the stands in New York to silence a fan, kicking and spiking the man. The fan turned out to be a man with no hands. Cobb responded with, "I don’t care if he has no feet as well." For this, American League President Ban Johnson suspended Cobb for a whole 10 days. Johnson should have been banned!
Cobb engaged in knock-down fights with teammates as well. His relationship with them was not harmonious. He carried a gun on the road for protection----against his fellow players who might want a piece of him.
A miserable person of the first order, Cobb deserves his due as a player. During his 24-year career, he had a batting average of .366 with 4.189 base hits and 891 stolen bases. Only Pete Rose has more career hits. Cobb’s credentials obviously speak for themselves, on and off the field.
Now for the adventures of Billy Martin. He gave a darker meaning to the word "scrappy." He was involved in major fights on the field throughout his career as both a player and a manager.
He beat up one of his own Minnesota Twins pitchers, Dave Boswell, to the tune of 20 stitches to the face. He punched out reporters, marshmallow salesman Joseph Cooper, and Yankee pitcher Ed Whitson. He nailed Cub pitcher Jim Brewer; Brewer was in the hospital for two weeks.
I’ll never forget the difference of opinion he and Reggie Jackson had in the Yankees dugout on national television. And there was the revolving door and quintessential love-hate relationship with George Steinbrenner.
Unlike Cobb, Martin did not bring star quality to the party. During an 11-year playing career, he compiled a mediocre .257 batting average. And his managerial career lacked over-achievement as well.
An All-Star boozer, Martin died of massive internal injuries while intoxicated in an auto accident in 1989. Ironically, he was not at the wheel of the car; a friend, also bombed with booze, was.
Either Cobb or Martin could have played Norman Bates in Psycho.
Last Week’s Trivia
This one’s much too easy. Who is the only pitcher in major league baseball history to toss two no-hitters in consecutive games? Johnny Vander Meer of Cincinnati did it in 1938.
Trivia Question of the Week
T. C. Chen had two "claims to fame" at the 1985 U. S. Open. What did he do? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.