The Lives of Eccentrics - Episode 2
History's Greatest Hitting Machine! Ty Cobb (史上最高！強打製造機『タイ・カッブ』, Shijō Saikō! Kyōda Seizōki "Tai Kabbu"), simply titled Ty Cobb (タイ・カッブ, Tai Kabbu) in its original serialization, is the second episode of The Lives of Eccentrics series, written by Hirohiko Araki and illustrated by Hirohisa Onikubo. It was originally published in two parts in issues 10 and 11 of Manga Allman on May 31 and June 6 of 2001. In the volumization, this chapter serves as the first chapter of the series.
Part 1: The Vengeful Specter, Ty Cobb
The narrator introduces himself as Hollows, a pitcher who entered the American League and was one of the best players of the league by 1912. However, Hollows claims that there was one player who surpassed all his contemporaries and became known as one of the greatest of all time. With that, he begins recounting the true story of Ty Cobb.
In 1908, the Boston Red Sox played the Detroit Tigers at Boston's Huntington Avenue Grounds stadium. Stepping up to bat, a certain player openly declared his intent to steal second base during the next pitch. As the pitcher moved to throw toward second base, the player rushed toward the base, somehow slicing the baseman's arm in the process. The player was declared safe, despite the baseman's accusations that the player had sharpened his cleats and used them as weapons. Undeterred, the player announced his intent to steal third base next, which he did. This player's name was Tyrus Raymond Cobb, but most simply called him Ty Cobb. Ty Cobb would set several records and invent several techniques over the course of his career, becoming one of baseball's greatest pioneers. When he stepped up to bat, he seemed as if he was possessed by a vengeful ghost.
Ty Cobb was born on December 18, 1886 in the state of Georgia to a beautiful mother and well-to-do father. He was an honest and athletic boy who dreamed of starting a career in baseball against the wishes of his father, who considered the sport to be too vulgar for its meager pay. In 1905, however, Cobb's father was killed by his own wife: though official records state that she mistook him for a burglar, rumor has it that he had caught her being unfaithful and was killed in retaliation. Regardless, Cobb's personality changed dramatically after the incident. Cobb became egocentric, arrogant, violent, and vengeful. Several of his teammates attempted to hold him at gunpoint once, but Cobb turned the tables with a shotgun inside his baseball bat case. When Cobb accidentally put a bullet in his own arm, he began to think himself as invincible when the shot left no lasting injuries. Soon, he became one of the most talented yet hated players in the league. Cobb would even go so far as to ruthlessly assault a disabled spectator for daring to heckle him.
Part 2: The Spit Ball Massacre
When faced with accusations from society, most human beings would attempt to make excuses before eventually being forced to confess to the truth. Ty Cobb was different. Accused of racist behavior, religious blasphemy, and assaulting a paraplegic spectator, Cobb was suspended from baseball indefinitely. Rather than owning up to his transgressions, however, Cobb announced that he would only return to the game if he was offered triple his previous salary.
Cobb was reinstated after one day following a strike by his teammates, who argued he was an irreplaceable part of their team (though it is rumored that Cobb threatened them into striking on his behalf). The main benefit Cobb brought to the sport, however, was the audience that came to see him. Whether they came to jeer at him or await his downfall, Cobb's team consistently drew three to five times the normal crowd. For Cobb's part, the incident only reinforced his feeling of invincibility. Cobb would continue to hit every fair ball, steal every base, and tower over every other player in the league... with one exception.
During one game in the American League of 1912, Cobb faced Hollows himself, against whom his batting average was significantly worse than normal. At the top of the eighth inning, with two outs on the board and no runners on the field, Hollows managed to gain two strikes on Cobb, whose team was behind by two points. Hollows was the master of a special technique known as the "spit ball": by using a small file, Hollows created a scratch on the ball before pitching, causing it to waver in front of the batter. None of this violated the league's rules. Suddenly, Cobb called a time out and used it to taunt Hollows, claiming that he told the pitcher's wife not to come and brought her panties to use as a handkerchief. As the game resumed, Hollows threw the ball directly at Cobb, striking him in the stomach and indefinitely halting the game. Cobb, insulted by Hollows's disdain, rushed directly toward the pitcher, drawing the pistol he carried at all times before striking him with the handle. As an all-out brawl between the two teams ensued, Cobb stuck his pistol into Hollows's mouth and intimidated him.
Hollows never threw a spit ball again. Even before it was banned within a year of the incident, the pitcher had already given up on the technique, scarred by the memory of his battle with Cobb. Soon, Hollows faded into irrelevancy. Cobb, however, continued hitting at an average of at least .300 for the entirety of his 23-year career before retiring at the age of 41. When the National Baseball Hall of Fame was created in 1936, Cobb was the first inductee. Also, having invested heavily in Coca-Cola and General Motors in his youth, Cobb never found himself short on money before or after retirement, though he refused to pay even the electricity bill. Cobb married twice in his life, with both marriages ending in divorce.
At the age of 75, Cobb finally succumbed to cancer. Though he was taken to the hospital, Cobb still refused to relinquish his gun and insisted to be taken home without paying the hospital bill. On July 17, 1961, Tyrus Raymond Cobb would pass away, leaving his vast fortune to his children and relatives and ordering the creation of a mausoleum for himself alone in his will. His butler remained to take care of his house, making sure that the lights were off at all times.
- In real life, while Cobb was known for his violent tendencies, Cobb's alleged racism is attributed to biographies written soon after his death, which have been largely discredited by historians. Furthermore, according to newspapers at the time, Cobb publicly supported black players such as Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and Willie Mays.
- Hollows is a fictional character made up for the sake of the plot, rather than representing a real person.
- Cobb is stated to have lived to the age of 75, despite his birthdate suggesting he should be 74 at the time of his death, as he was in real life.
- Ty Cobb on Wikipedia