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Ty Cobb and Carl Mays

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  • Honus Wagner Rules
    replied
    Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
    Adam,
    Thank you for posting these. :applaud: I tend to enjoy Neyer's research for Insider, and this is some juicy, in-depth material!
    You're welcome Chris. Neyer's new book looks like a winner. I'll definitively be getting it soon.

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  • csh19792001
    replied
    Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
    More Mays-Cobb from Neyer's book...
    Adam,
    Thank you for posting these. :applaud: I tend to enjoy Neyer's research for Insider, and this is some juicy, in-depth material!

    Leave a comment:


  • Bill Burgess
    replied
    I never tire of talking about how Ty Cobb played baseball.

    I will give a story here that I may have not given before. I don't know. I forget sometimes. Anyway, this one comes out of the autobiography of Carl Mays. He wrote his autobiography around 1971. (Baseball's Great Tragedy, The Story of Carl Mays--Submarine Pitcher, by Bob McGarigle, 1972)

    The game that Carl Mays describes below is the first time the Yankees played the Tigers, after Carl had hit/killed Ray Chapman, 1920. And it was the game where Cobb told the Tigers to crowd the plate. Didn't work too well, apparently.

    Chapter 25 - Ty Cobb's Shocking Note (pp. 167-171)

    The dressing room was almost empty as the last of the Yankees clattered out to the field for pregame batting and fielding practice. Not even the clubhouse boy was there. Only Carl, alone with god and his thoughts.

    Neither fear nor agitation gripped him as he stared momentarily at the open locker, even though he was about to face the hardest-hitting club in the league, the Detroit Tigers with their vaunted Cobb, Veach and Heilmann---and Cobb one of he ring-leaders in an attempt to have Carl barred for life from baseball.

    His thoughts wandered back to three days ago when he had warmed up for a short period while down the right-field foul line and had heard the warm patter of applause ripple through the stands. The wine of courage surged through his veins as he recalled it. The fans would be the final court of judgment. All the had to do was go out there and prove to them that everything said against him was either malicious or ill-advised.

    Now the moment of truth was at hand. Carl reached into the locker and took out his spike shoes, shiny and neat-looking as they always were for a game. He slipped them onto his feet and started to tie the lacings. As he did so, he felt a light tap on his right shoulder. He paused, then looked around over the shoulder. It was the clubhouse boy. So deep had Carl's thoughts been that he had not heard the boy come in.

    "Carl . . ."
    "Yes?"
    "Er--I've got a note for you."
    "A note?"
    "Uh-huh," replied the boy. And as Carl straightened up and turned half around on the bench, the boy handed him the note.

    It took Carl but two seconds to read it--and only one for his well-tanned face to turn white.

    "You say Cobb gave this to you?"
    "Yes, sir. I was on the dugout steps watchin' battin' practice when he came over, handed the note to me and asked me to pin it on your locker door."

    "You're sure it was Cobb?"
    "I couldn't be mistaken, Carl. There's only one Ty Cobb."

    "All right, son, thanks. You better go on out now." And then Carl read the note again, the almost unbelievable words:

    "If it was within my power, I would have inscribed on Chapman's tombstone these words: Here lies the victim of arrogance, viciousness and greed."

    For just an instant the words blurred and seemed to dance before Carl's eyes as a fury gripped his brain. Then the words straightened out, came clearly into focus--and became indelibly imprinted in his memory as he fought to regain control of himself . . . Another of Cobb's tricks to try to upset him. Cobb would stop at nothing.

    And then, as Carl stared into his open locker, his thoughts went back to that day in Fenway Park when Carl had decked the Georgia Peach in a tight situation and Ty had responded by throwing his bat at him. Cobb had needed police protection to get off the field that day.

    Then there was the day in Detroit when Carl was leaving the dressing room to go out on the field and saw Cobb, filing his spikes, on the bench before the open door of the Tigers' dressing room.

    "I hear you're pitching today, Mays. I hear you're pitching, but you won't be around very long," Cobb hollered as Carl and his teammates clattered along the corridor to the dugout. Carl hadn't paid any attention to Cobb then, but he let Ty know later that he'd heard him.

    "The first time he came to bat I decked him but good," Carl recalled.

    "The dirt really flew when he hit the ground and he came up wild with rage. He had a terrible temper and was always scrapping with somebody. If it wasn't the umpires or the other players he would scrap with his own teammates.

    "But I made a mistake in sitting him down in that frame of mind. It nearly cost me my baseball career. I had to come in with the next pitch, in order to get even on the count, and he dragged a bunt down the first base line. I ran over, fielded the ball and turned to toss it to first base. But I never completed the play.

    "Just as I was about to toss an underhand lob I was slammed into from behind and knocked sprawling on the foul line. At the same time I felt one of Cobb's spikes rip into the calf of my left leg while his other tore my pants from the belt line right down to the back of my knee. Cobb had run right over me.

    "I lay there stunned for a moment and then rolled over onto the infield grass and sat up. When I got courage enough to look at my leg, it was just a bloody mess. I remember wondering if I would ever run again.

    "And when I looked up at Cobb, there he was, standing with both feet on top of the first-base bag. His chin was sticking out like a witch's and his eyes were nearly popping out of his head. I never before had seen any person with such a look of wild hatred in his eyes.

    "What present-day fans don't know about Cobb is that he was like a big cat. If you turned your back to him he would strike--be off and running to the next base. You never could take your eyes off him. He was extremely fast and was running at full speed after having taken only one step.

    "The mistake I had made was in getting in his way on the baseline. The baseline was his--according to him--and he just ran right over me after knocking me to the ground. I carry the scar of that spiking to this day. It is more than six inches long. The doctor, incidentally, did a wonderful repair job and I only missed a couple of pitching turns.

    "There is one other thing I remember as I sat there on the ground looking up at Cobb. It is the thought that went through my mind: All right, mister, if that's the way you want to play this game, that's the way we'll both play.

    "So the next time I face Cobb I hit him on the heel with the first pitch I threw. That was the time the papers came out the next day with the headline 'Mays Beans Cobb.'
    But Cobb got my message, and he never again tried to cut me up.

    "Yes, Cobb was a great player, one of the greatest. There can be no question about that. But I also will have to tell you that he was the most vicious player I ever encountered in my twenty years of professional baseball. I don't think there was an infielder in my time who didn't carry around for the rest of his life at least one scar from his spikes. If you will go up to Burlington, Vermont, Larry Gardner, who was our third-baseman on the Red Sox, can tell you about a scar he has on his hip! . . ."

    And now here was another indication of how Cobb played the game. This shocking note. Another of Ty's many tricks to gain an advantage--by trying to get Carl upset even before he came onto the field for the most trying moment of his baseball career.

    Slowly and deliberately Carl tore the note into little pieces and let them dribble through his fingers and down onto the floor with the rest of the dirt. Then he bent down and finished lacing his shoes.

    Straightening up, he picked his game glove from the locker shelf, pulled his baseball cap on and headed for the dugout. He got there just as Cobb, stepping into the pregame batting cage, was hit by a barrage of verbal tomatoes--an adverse decision as only the Supreme Grandstand court can render it. Now Carl knew where Cobb stood with the fans. The big question remaining was, how did Carl stand?

    The answer wasn't long in coming. Batting practice over, first the Tigers took their infield tuneup and then the Yankees. And when the Yanks started to sweep the ball around the infield Carl emerged from the dugout for his pregame warmup. Applause and cheers swept through the stands. The jury was giving its verdict.

    It was a tremendous lift and Carl soon had his practice pitches spanking with old-time assurance into Muddy Ruel's big mitt. Opposing Carl today would be an old Red Sox teammate, Dutch Leonard, who later would be replaced by Johnny "Red" Oldham, the lefty the Tigers had selected from the Providence club in exchange for Carl some years before.

    During those years Oldham had put together a total of nine victories for the Tigers while Carl, if won won today, would be recording his 100th major-league victory. And win it he did. It was one of the most amazing exhibitions in the history of baseball.

    All Carl did was shut out the Tigers, 10-0, despite walking three men, yielding 10 base hits, including a leadoff triple in one inning, and not striking out a single batter. And all under great mental pressure.

    "After reading that note from Cobb I wouldn't have let them score a run if I had to pitch twenty-seven innings to beat them," said Carl. "A couple of times when I thought my curve wasn't going to break properly I shouted to the batter to look out.

    "The Yankees played great ball behind me, didn't make an error. And if my memory is as keen as I think it is, Del Pratt staked me to a good lead in the first inning by hitting a three-run homer. Or maybe it was the Babe. The Babe was always rising to occasions like that." (Pratt hit the homer.)
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    To his credit, when the Sporting News mailed out questionnaires to past players/managers in 1942, asking them to name their greatest player ever, Carl named Ty Cobb. Sporting News published the results of their famous poll in their April 2, 1942 issue, pp. 1 & 13. He always referred to him as the greatest, and the meanest player he had ever known.

    The letter that The Sporting News sent to the players read as follows: "Who do you consider the greatest ball player of all time? Why?"

    Carl Mays: "Cobb could do everything--bunt, drag, hit, run bases, field and think faster than a dozen ordinary ball players. He made no errors of judgment and was a fighter who never heard the word 'quit.' Babe Ruth was the greatest from the standpoint of drawing power, but he had many weaknesses." (Sporting News, April 2, 1942, by J. G. Taylor Spink, pp. 1 & 13)
    ------------------------------------------------
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    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-21-2008, 01:45 PM.

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  • Honus Wagner Rules
    replied
    More Mays-Cobb from Neyer's book...

    The rest of the Cobb-Mays story

    In 1972, Exposition Press published Baseball's Great Tragedy: The Story of Carl Mays -- Submarine Pitcher. Authored by Boston newspaperman Bob McGarigle and little-known today, the book was assembled with a great deal of help from Mays, whom McGarigle interviewed at some length.

    The story Cobb tells about Mays does not appear in the book, but Cobb does play a key role. According to McGarigle, one afternoon in Fenway Park, Mays "decked the Georgia Peach in a tight situation and Ty had responded by throwing his bat at him. Cobb had needed police protection to get off the field that day."

    That was in 1915, Mays's rookie season. Which apparently set the tone for their professional relationship.

    Before another game Cobb challenged Mays, who recalled, "The first time he came to bat I decked him but good."

    Cobb wasn't going to let that go. On the next pitch (again, according to Mays) Cobb "dragged a bunt down the first base line." Mays fielded the ball, but before he could throw to first, Cobb slammed into him, spikes first.

    "I lay there stunned for a moment and then rolled over onto the infield grass and sat up. When I got courage enough to look at my leg, it was just a bloody mess. I remember wondering if I would ever run again

    "The mistake I made was in getting in his way on the baseline. The baseline was his -- according to him -- and he just ran right over me after knocking me to the ground. I carry the scar of that spiking to this day. It is more than six inches long. The doctor, incidentally, did a wonderful repair job and I only missed a couple of pitching turns."

    The book includes a wonderful full-page photo of Mays's scar, which resembles the head of an elephant with an extraordinarily long trunk. One can imagine how much blood was shed that afternoon. One quibble, though: from 1915 through '22, Mays went more than five days without pitching after an appearance against the Tigers just once. After starting against them on August 8, 1922, he didn't pitch again until the 16th (coincidentally enough, against the Tigers again). But Mays pitched a complete game on the 8th, and the newspapers don't mention any spiking.

    In 1923, he went nearly three weeks without pitching after a start against the Tigers, but again the papers didn't mention any incident involving Cobb. Mays did go for long stretches without pitching in 1923 -- his last season in the American League--but he attributed this to Miller Huggins's not liking him (and the Times mentioned Mays leaving the club to tend to his ill wife, during one of those stretches). So I don't know what to make of Mays's scar, except that he must have gotten it somewhere.

    That's not the end of the Cobb-Mays story (as told by Mays). On August 16, 1920, Mays beaned Ray Chapman. The next day, Chapman died. Mays's next start was on the 23rd, against the Tigers. According to Mays, before the game a note was delivered to him from Cobb. It read:

    If it was within my power, I would have inscribed on Chapman's tombstone these words: Here lies the victim of arrogance, viciousness and greed.

    Mays gave up ten hits that afternoon, but beat the Tigers 10-0. He recalled, half a century later, "After reading that note from Cobb I wouldn't have let them score a run if I had to pitch twenty-seven innings to beat them. … The Yankees played great ball behind me, didn't make an error. And if my memory is as keen as I think it is, Del Pratt staked me to a good lead in the first inning by hitting a three-run homer. Or maybe it was the Babe. The Babe was always rising to occasions like that."

    Mays's memory was keen. The Yankees did play errorless ball, and the Babe racked up two assists. In the first inning, Del Pratt did hit a three-run homer (and knocked in four more runs later in the game).

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  • Honus Wagner Rules
    started a topic Ty Cobb and Carl Mays

    Ty Cobb and Carl Mays

    This is an excerpt from Rob Neyer's new book The Big Book of Baseball Legends.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008
    Excerpt: Ty Cobb and Carl Mays
    By Rob Neyer
    Special to ESPN.com

    Our club got to where we could beat Carl Mays, the great underhand pitcher, most any time he started, and fans often wondered why. We did it because we had studied his way of thinking, and crossed him.

    It is well known among batters that Mays' great point of strength was in his low ball. He keeps it just about the knees and worries a batter to death. But he always manages to keep it high enough for the umpire to call it a strike.

    We discovered one day that if Mays couldn't control his low ball he lost his poise and was easy to beat. His mind was in such habit of having that low one -- his strength -- work successfully that when it didn't his grip was gone.

    After watching him closely I found that he sized up batters according to where they stood in the batter's box. As you may know, I usually stand well forward and meet the ball out in front. By pitching to me in that position Mays's low ball would come just above my knees. The next time up I stood far back in the box, which put me a yard farther away from him. His low ball came over as usual, but when it reached the back end of the box it was an inch or two below my knees.

    The umpire called two balls and Mays was surprised. Something was wrong, but he couldn't understand. I knew, of course, he would have to steady himself and get the next one up. Instead of waiting, I swung on that one and got a hit.

    One after another of our batters tried the scheme and we drove Mays from the box. After that we could beat him most any time we wanted to by standing in the back of the box. That shifting completely upset him.
    -- Ty Cobb in Memoirs of Twenty Years in Baseball (ed. William R. Cobb, 2006)


    One thing you have to love about the Peach: he never let a chance to establish his own brilliance pass without taking a vicious cut. What's not clear is how brilliant Cobb actually was. He's often regarded as a self-made player who thought his way into stardom. I don't know about that, though. At nineteen, he was one of the dozen or so best hitters in the American League. At twenty, he was the best. Cobb did apparently have a powerful intellect, but it wouldn't have done him much good if he'd not been blessed with all that physical talent.

    Anyway, Mays pitched in the American League from 1915 through '23, and Cobb was active throughout those seasons, all of them with the Tigers. And those Tigers could really hit. In addition to Cobb -- the greatest hitter in the American League before Babe Ruth hit his stride -- the Detroit lineup featured stars Bobby Veach and Harry Heilmann. From 1915 through '23, the Tigers finished 1st, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 6th, 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd in the American League in runs scored. Over those nine seasons the Tigers scored more runs than anybody else in the league.

    So how did Carl Mays fare against these hard-hitting Tigers? Using Mays's daily sheets from the Hall of Fame, we find that in fifty-two games he went 23-12 with a 2.72 earned run average against Detroit. Over those same nine seasons, his ERA against everybody else was -- coincidentally enough -- also 2.72. So considering the Tigers' propensity for scoring, Mays actually pitched better against the Tigers than against other teams. Which should at the very least result in some skepticism about Cobb's story.

    But of course it's possible that Mays dominated the Tigers for some years, only to have the tables turned by Cobb's brainstorm. So let's look at those nine seasons individually. If Cobb's tale is true, we would expect to see some obvious point at which the Tigers went from patsies to powerhouses …

    Games Innings Batting
    Avg. W-L ERA
    1915 4 11 .210 0-1 4.22
    1916 5 36 .234 3-2 1.77
    1917 5 40 .145 4-1 0.90
    1918 7 59 .234 4-3 2.12
    1919 5 29 .319 1-1 2.48
    1920 8 55 .311 6-1 3.13
    1921 8 38 .237 3-0 2.84
    1922 7 43 .332 1-3 5.23
    1923 3 17 .299 1-0 3.63
    Totals 52 328 .263 23-12 2.72

    Well, if we're looking for a line, we can place it between 1921 and 1922, right?

    Unfortunately, that "analysis" has two big problems. The first, and the more obvious, is that if we were guessing when that line would be drawn, we would have guessed much earlier. If Cobb and his Tigers did figure out how to beat Mays, why did it take them seven years?

    The other, less obvious problem is that interesting things don't really care what year the calendar says it is. When you see the results broken down by year, you might assume there really was a dividing line. On May 14 in 1922, Mays got hammered by the Tigers: twelve hits and seven runs in seven innings. Ah, dividing line. Or not. In his next three starts against Detroit, Mays pitched twenty-three innings and didn't allow more than two runs in a game.

    There's another possibility for a dividing line, which can be seen by looking at the column for batting average. Granted, batting averages were generally trending upward in the late teens and early '20s. But the Tigers' batting average against Mays seemed to take a great leap forward in 1919, and we can in fact trace the surge back to 1918.

    That season, Mays beat the Tigers with complete games on July 19 and then again three days later, giving up seven hits in eighteen innings. But in their next meeting, on the 6th of August, the Tigers touched Mays for fourteen hits in ten innings, and three weeks later they got him for eleven hits in nine innings.

    Now, it should be said that in neither of those games did the Tigers "drive Mays from the box"; he started and completed both games. Still, the first nineteen times Mays pitched against the Tigers, from May 11, 1915, through July 22, 1918, he posted a 1.56 ERA and limited them to a .189 batting average. Afterward, in thirty-three games and 201 innings, his ERA was 3.49 and the Tigers batted .305 against him.

    So maybe that is the game -- if there is one -- and the dividing line: August 6, 1918. Beginning with that game, the Tigers did hit Mays harder than they had before. But to what end? Remember Cobb's other claim? "After that we could beat him most any time we wanted to by standing in the back of the box. That shifting completely upset him."

    Here's a simple graphical representation of Mays's twenty-three wins and twelve losses against the Tigers, with 8/6/18 highlighted (going in order from left to right):

    L L W W L W W W W L W L
    L W W W L L W L W W W W
    W W W W W W L W L L W

    Now, I make no pretense of being a mathematician, or even a statistician. But does that look to you as if the Tigers could beat Mays "most any time we wanted," as Cobb claimed? If anything, it looks as if Mays could, as they used to say, just throw his glove on the mound and expect to beat the Tigers. Mays beat the Tigers on August 6, 1918. He did get roughed up in his next couple of starts -- one more in 1918, the next in 1919 -- but then he pitched six shutout innings against the Tigers. And after a loss -- a well-pitched loss, but still a loss -- in May 1920, Mays won nine straight decisions against Cobb's Tigers (they really were his Tigers, as Cobb took over as manager in 1921).

    So, did they not beat Mays because they didn't want to beat him? Or did they not beat Mays because he was, regardless of whatever adjustment Cobb and his mates might (or might not) have made, a great pitcher perfectly capable of making his own adjustments?

    I will suggest that most of the evidence points to the latter. The Tigers did get in their lumps in 1922, knocking Mays around pretty good in four of his seven starts against them. But if Cobb really was smart enough to figure out how to hit one of the top pitchers of that era, it wouldn't have taken him seven years.

    Last edited by Honus Wagner Rules; 05-20-2008, 04:26 PM. Reason: Change title

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