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Ty Cobb played here 100 years ago

By Timothy T. Turner There he was, the greatest baseball player of all time ‘“ Ty Cobb ‘“ and he was playing baseball in Barnesville. On March 27, 1913, Ty Cobb and his team played Gordon at Summers Field and defeated them 10-2. Twentythree years before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, the ‘Georgia Peach’ came to our town and did what he loved to do best ‘“ play ball. Tyrus Raymond Cobb was born Dec. 18, 1886 in Narrows, Banks County, Ga. He was the eldest of three children born to William Herschel Cobb and Amanda Chitwood. Ty Cobb grew up in Royston, Ga., and played baseball at an early age for the Royston Rompers. Soon his talents outgrew the younger Rompers and Ty began playing with the older and better team known as the Royston Reds. His baseball ability was well beyond the scope of a small town team and soon he grew restless and began writing letters to team managers in the South Atlantic League in 1903. Con Strouthers, the manager of the Augusta Tourists was the only response Cobb received. Strouthers told Cobb he could try out for the team if he paid his own expenses. Cobb had a hard decision ahead of him. He had to ask his father for the funding to get him to Augusta. His father was very reluctant but decided that Ty must get this silly idea out of his head ‘“ so his father sent him to Augusta with six checks for $15 each. He told him to stay out of trouble and he would be coming home soon. William Herschel Cobb was born Feb. 23, 1863 in Robeson County, N.C., and died August 8, 1905. He was the son of John Franklin Cobb, a North Carolina outdoorsman who was prolific in hunting and fishing in the Carolina Mountains and his wife Sarah Ann Elizabeth Waldrop. He was a college graduate and school teacher who eventually settled in Royston in the early 1890s. While in this small town, he was a local principal, newspaper publisher, state senator and county school commissioner. He was well respected by the citizens and aspired for the United States Congress. He didn’t support his son’s dream to be a baseball player. In 1883, at the age of 20, he married Amanda Chitwood who was 12 years old at the time. It is thought that Amanda was a pupil of his. Amanda Chitwood was born Jan. 15, 1871 in Banks County, Ga., and died Oct. 19, 1936. She was the daughter of Caleb C. Chitwood (May 28, 1832 Georgia-Nov. 24, 1893) and Sisley C. Mize (June 16, 1841 Franklin County, Ga.-March 27, 1897 Banks County, Ga). She was the granddaughter of Phoebe Chitwood and Thomas Mize and Martha Lavinia Cape. Amanda Chitwood Cobb was the 29th generation of the DeChetwode family of France and England. Her lines can also be traced to Nicholas Keye, one of the first Keye immigrants in this country. Amanda Chitwood Cobb’s great-greatgreat- great grandfather Richard Key is also the great-great grandfather of Francis Scott Key, the composer of the Star Spangled Banner. One of the most cataclysmic events in Ty Cobb’s life happened when he was 18 years old. In 1905, William Herschel Cobb was 42 years old and his wife Amanda was 34. They had been married for over 20 years. Cobb was suspicious of his wife’s infidelity. In summer 1905, he arranged a fake business trip. On Aug. 8, Ty Cobb’s siblings were away from home leaving only Amanda alone. She locked all the doors and windows and quickly went upstairs to the bedroom. William H. Cobb returned home unannounced hoping to catch his wife in the act. He climbed up to the balcony outside the bedroom. Amanda heard scratching outside the window, picked up a double-barreled shotgun and pulled the trigger once. She fired again and the blow was so strong it severed her husband’s head from his body. He was pronounced dead shortly after 1 a.m. Amanda Chitwood Cobb was tried for voluntary manslaughter but found not guilty by an all male jury. She never remarried and died 31 years later. Eight days after the funeral of his father, Ty Cobb was called by the Detroit Tigers. After Ty Cobb embarked on his baseball career, he spent 24 seasons in the American League with 22 of them with Detroit. His career batting average of .366 is the highest in Major League history. He held the record for 96 stolen bases until it was broken in 1962 by Maury Wills of the Dodgers. In 1921, Cobb became manager of Detroit and guided them to six straight winning seasons. Cobb is only one of two people to hit a home run before his 20th birthday and after his 40th birthday. He was the first baseball player to star in a movie ‘“ Somewhere in Georgia in 1917. In 1936, he was one of the first five players elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and received 98.23% of the votes (222 out of 226). If you have something that belonged to Ty Cobb you have a treasure. Sport historical agencies are offering his signature on a piece of sports memorabilia for $2,025. In February 1993, Ty Cobb’s glove, patched and re-sewn during his last years with the Detroit Tigers, sold at Leland’s Souvenirs Auction for $18,700. A 1911 a T205 Ty Cobb card issued by the American Tobacco Company is worth $2,500. Ty Cobb married Aug. 8, 1908 to Charlotte Lombard of Augusta, Ga. Ironically enough, he married the same day his mother shot his father three years prior. In 1913, when he came to Barnesville, he and his wife along with two children were living on Williams Street in Augusta near where the Augusta College is today. He and his wife divorced and he moved to Atherton, Calif. He married and divorced again to Frances Cass. In 1959 Cobb was diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, an enlarged prostate and Bright’s disease. In June 1961, he checked himself into Emory University Hospital, bringing with him $1 million worth of securities and a Luger pistol in a paper bag. Shortly before his death on July 17, 1961, he threw out the first pitch on opening day for the Los Angeles Angels. Ty Cobb is buried in the Royston Cemetery in Royston, Ga. Ty Cobb’s father told him in 1903 when he left home to play baseball, ‘Don’t come home a failure.’ Cobb heeded his father’s words and is known as the greatest baseball player of all time. While he was in Barnesville 100 years ago, Cobb even pitched a few innings. Barnesville’s own Mr. Bankston got a home run off of him. Historian Tim Turner is chairman of Buggy Days.

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