Well, here we are. This list is finally coming to a close. For those of you that have been following along for the last four months, thank you. I’m sure along the way there were a few surprises. Over the past few months I’ve moved guys up and down this list. One day I may have a player slotted in at spot 73 and when it came time to write it up, something would pop out telling me he needed to be further up the list. I debated spots 2-6 quite a bit in my head. I gathered as much information as a I could before making my decisions.
The one thing, and probably the only thing that was never up for debate was the top spot. I have read hundreds of pages about Ty Cobb. I’ve seen the movies. I find him fascinating. I feel great pride that Cobb, despite all of his flaws, was a member of “my” team.
So, once again, thanks so much for following this series and enjoy this final write-up on the greatest baseball player that ever lived.
- Rank: 1
- Name: Tyrus Raymond Cobb
- Position: Outfield
- Tigers Tenure: 1905-1926
- Awards: Received MVP Votes 4 times (won in 1911), Baseball Hall of Fame (1936)
- Best Season: 1909. I’m not going to waste a lot of time here focusing on just one season. Cobb is arguably the greatest player of all time and along with that comes plenty of amazing seasons. I chose 1909 because that season Cobb earned the Triple Crown (leading the league in AVG, HR and RBI) at the age of only 22. In addition to winning the Triple Crown, Cobb also led the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, total bases, stolen bases, OPS+, runs created and at bats per home run. He was just so completely dominant that I’m not sure I can the words to really describe his greatness. I don’t think you can find a player who was a leader in so many categories all in one season. Not only that, but he did it all at the age of 22 and with more personal demons than most other men who have ever played the game. The Tigers would go on to win the American League pennant that season before falling to Honus Wagner and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series.
- Good Stuff: Wow, where to start. Cobb won 11 batting titles and those 11 titles came over a 13-year span. He won eight slugging percentage titles. To put that in perspective, the greatest slugger of all-time Babe Ruth won 13 of those titles. He led the American League in on base percentage seven times. You know what? Instead of focusing on individual seasons, I can write about where he ranks in baseball history. He is the all-time leader in batting average with a mark of .366. Cobb hit over .400 three times in his career. He is ninth all-time in on base percentage. Only four players in the history of the game have played more games than Cobb did. He ranks second all-time in both runs and hits. Cobb ranks fifth all-time in total bases, fourth in doubles and second in triples. Even though he played in era where the home run was not very common, Cobb ranks seventh all-time in runs batted in. Cobb also stole 892 bases, the fourth most in baseball history. Even though Cobb hit “only” 117 home runs, he ranked in the top ten in home runs 10 times over his career. No player in the history of the game won more batting titles than Cobb and at the time of his retirement he held around 90 all-time records. When Cobb was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 he received 222 of 226 votes. In that initial HoF class, Cobb received more votes than Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner, Cy Young and every other player on the ballot. Even though he earned very few friends around the game, he was nearly universally respected.
- Bad Stuff: Cobb is nearly just as well-known for his temper as he is for his skill on the field. Cobb claims to have killed a man who attacked he and his wife in Detroit early in his career. He once charged into the crowd to attack a heckler who ended up being impaired. The stories are numerous and many of them are true. He was a racist who often referred to Babe Ruth by using the “N-word”. Al Stump’s autobiography of Cobb is an absolute must read if you want to know the gritty truth about Cobb. Stump captures not only Cobb’s greatness as a player but his antics off the field as well. Despite his immense individual accomplishments, Cobb never won a World Series title. Despite playing with and against hundreds of ball players, only three attended Cobb’s funeral when he died in 1961.
- Place In Tigers History: Cobb wasn’t all bad. He had his troubles but in the end, he was a decent man. Cobb had a place in his heart for those less fortunate as he took care of Mickey Cochrane late in his life. He also created a college scholarship for youth in Georgia that was open to college bound students of every race. Cobb has a statue at Comerica Park and would have had his number retired if he would have had one. Cobb is the Tigers all-time leader in runs, hits, doubles, RBI, steals, batting average, games played, on-base percentage, OPS+ and extra-base hits. In most cases, the man in second place is in second place by a very wide margin. Cobb had his flaws, that’s a fact. However, when it came down to being a baseball player he has no peers. Ty Cobb is not only the greatest Tiger of all-time, he is also the greatest player of all-time.