Also considered: Tris Speaker, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Collins
Ty Cobb may be the most polarizing figure in baseball history. Although his nickname would suggest a well-mannered, pleasant man, The Georgia Peach was far from that. The stories of Cobb’s antics range from beating up a hand-less fan in the stands to choking a groundskeeper’s wife over the condition of a spring training field. At least he was self-aware..
“In legend I am a sadistic, slashing, swashbuckling despot who waged war in the guise of sport.”
But I’m not here to judge the character of any of the players on this list (as you’ll see later on). My goal here is to present the best player from each decade. And there is little to dispute Cobb being the face of the league from 1910-1919. Remember what I wrote about Honus Wagner in the 1900’s? Cobb was every bit as good the following decade:
- .387 Batting Average (.366 lifetime)
- Hit .420 and .409 in back-to-back seasons
- Five seasons with over 200 Hits
- 1,948 Hits in total
which led to…
- NINE batting titles
- First player ever awarded the MVP (1911)
- Six seasons with 100+ Runs
- Four straight seasons of 1.000+ OPS (lowest was .944, still .300 points above the league average)
- Ten seasons with an On-base percentage over .400 (lowest was .429)
- Ten seasons with at least 10 triples
- Seven 50+ steal seasons
- 649 stolen bases
- Three seasons with a 10+ WAR
- 8.4 average WAR
(.387/.457/.541, 1,948 H, 47 HR, 828 RBI, 1,051 R)
*These numbers only reflect the seasons between 1910-19*
Yet again we have a player averaging an MVP-level season over the course of an entire decade. And as ridiculous as it may be, the decade doesn’t even include some of Cobb’s other great seasons (including a .401 season in 1922). Cobb even won a home run title in 1909. Granted he only hit 9, but it’s still a title nonetheless.
His legacy is tainted by the man he was. Fact. But let’s not entirely forget the player he was either. Cobb’s playing career is not overshadowed by any player prior, or since. He retired from the game in 1928 owning 90 different records. And I believe that he was the gateway to individual athletes becoming national celebrities. Hey, all publicity is good publicity, right!?
The Georgia Peach’s impact remains felt still 100 years after his time on the field. Like him or not, he was a helluva ball player. Ty Cobb comes in as the second selection to my Player of the Decade team. Continue to check back in as I will continue revealing my choice of players each day. Tomorrow will be the 1920’s and I have a sneaky suspicion that you’ll have heard of the guy too.