Today, December 18th, is the anniversary of the birth of Ty Cobb (in 1886), widely considered to be both one of the greatest baseball players of all-time and one of the biggest assholes of all-time. While his on-field exploits are well-known, I would like to detail some of his more infamous off-field "accomplishments" (this is culled from wikipedia, which uses lots of Cobb books as sources):
- When his son, Ty Jr., flunked out of Princeton, Ty traveled to campus and beat his son with a whip to "ensure against future academic failure." His son then enrolled at Yale, where he was arrested twice for drunkenness and never graduated. However, he did eventually become a doctor.
- He apparently was a very wise investor. At the time of his death, his estate was worth over $11 million (mostly GE and Coca Cola stock). In 1961, he checked into Emory hospital for the last time, carrying with him a paper bag containing over $1 million in negotiable bonds and a Luger pistol. He died a month later.
- He served for 67 days in WWI, under the command of Branch Rickey, the legendary baseball executive. Also in his unit were fellow baseball hall-of-famers Christy Mathewson and George Sisler.
- In 1926, Cobb and fellow future hall-of-famer Tris Speaker retired from baseball (they were both player-managers at the time) on the same day. They were coerced into retirement by the commissioner because of game fixing allegations. After hearings with the commish, they were allowed to retire without any publicity. Two months later, they were both cleared and re-joined the league, albeit with different teams.
- Cobb was noted for his numerous fights, both on and off the field. After one on-field argument, Cobb and umpire Billy Evans arranged to settle their differences with a fistfight, to be conducted under the grandstand after the game. Members of both teams were spectators, and broke up the scuffle after Cobb had knocked Evans down, pinned him, and began choking him. In another incident, Cobb slapped a black elevator operator for being "uppity." When a black night watchman intervened, Cobb pulled out a knife and stabbed him (The matter was later settled out of court).
- In 1912, he attacked a heckler in the stands. The heckler was handicapped, having lost one entire hand and three fingers of the other hand in an industrial accident. He was suspended for the incident, and his teammates went on strike to protest. For that one game, the Tigers fielded a team of replacement players and lost 24-2. Cobb claimed that this protest led to the formation of the players union.
Can you imagine if this stuff occurred now? The dude would be thrown out of the league for fighting with an umpire or beating a man in the stands. Bottom line: Ty Cobb was kind of a dick.