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"I had to fight all my life to survive. They were all against me, but I beat the bastards and left them in the ditch."1922 Ty Cobb Game Worn Detroit Tigers Uniform. Perhaps the most fascinating psychological study in the long history of professional baseball, Tyrus Raymond Cobb came into this world with the chip of a fallen Confederacy already firmly installed upon his shoulder, his southern resentments still burning decades after the flames of General Sherman's march through his home state of Georgia had been extinguished. "He was still fighting the Civil War," reported Tigers teammate "Wahoo Sam" Crawford, "and as far as he was concerned, we were all damn Yankees." Cobb's father was a domineering and jealous man, disapproving of his son's single-minded fascination with the National Pastime which he considered a far cry from the more respectable avocations of medicine or the law. But just three weeks after the senior Cobb was shot to death by Ty's mother in what was reported as a tragic case of mistaken identity, the nineteen-year old set off on a baseball career that would earn him the first bronze plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Cobb's youthfulness and southern sensibilities made him a prime target for rookie hazing during that first year in Detroit, driving his resentments even deeper into the grain of his being. Manager Hughie Jennings looked the other way at first, "because I wanted to satisfy myself that Cobb has as much guts as I thought in the very beginning," he explained. When pitcher Ed Siever confronted Cobb over a dropped ball in a Tigers loss, Cobb pinned Siever to the ground and rained blows down upon him, then sat awake all night in his Pullman berth with his gun on his lap during that night's train ride to Chicago. Years later, Cobb would recall, "Those old-timers turned me into a snarling wildcat."
And so while the popular stories of intentional spikings and fatal pistol whippings may be more folklore than fact, the bottled rage and gritted teeth determination of The Georgia Peach were entirely real, establishing Cobb as the definitive superstar of baseball's down and dirty Dead Ball Era.
The emergence of Babe Ruth and the lively ball signaled a tectonic shift in the sport's landscape, but the developments only hardened Cobb's resolve, and he had begun to view himself as one of the last defenders of the original game by the time he was issued the presented road grey Detroit Tigers uniform for the 1922 American League season. While his Tigers ultimately finished a distant second to the Babe's Yankees in the race for the 1922 pennant, Cobb added another record to his bulging offensive credentials, tying Wee Willie Keeler's mark with four five-hit games in a single season. It would also prove to be Cobb's final .400 campaign.
Like the bulk of twentieth century Major League flannels, Cobb's uniform was reassigned to secondary minor league usage at the close of the 1922 season, and it is from the family of that minor leaguer that the uniform made its initial entrance into the collecting hobby. The heavy grey flannel garment underwent a pair of surgical procedures to accommodate its new owner in 1923. First, the classic Old English letter "D" was carefully excised from the chest. Next, the jersey's tail was trimmed but, fortuitously, retained by the ballplayer due to the embroidered "Cobb" attribution located there.
The advanced collector who tracked down this Cobb representation immediately took steps to restore the jersey to its original state. The reattachment of the rear tail was a relatively simple matter, but a replacement logo "D" would prove more challenging, as would the matter of finding material to replace the missing front tail, which was not saved by the minor leaguer. It was Heritage ourselves who unwittingly galloped to the rescue with the presentation of 1922 Tigers teammate Bert Cole's road jersey in May 2007, from which the black felt "D" and the front tail was farmed, and transplanted to the presented Cobb. The jersey otherwise remains complete and original to Cobb's ownership, the trimmed sleeves a common Cobb trait, the "Spalding" label inside the collar and the secondary tag below heavily worn but essentially complete.
The matching pants were spared the knife and are presented in 100% original and unrestored condition. Here we find an identical black thread embroidered "Cobb" attribution, located at the buttoned fly path. Some rust staining appears nearby, and one half of the clasp has been lost, but the original belt survives, and the "Spalding" tag at interior waistband is solid and undamaged. Each garment exhibits considerable wear with scattered small holes that do nothing to detract. The reaffixed tail presents a noticeably darker shade than the body of the jersey, but this is due to the considerable secondary wear and multitude of washings that the tail portion was spared after excision. Included with uniform experts MEARS' detailed letter of examination is an even more meticulous study of the uniform fibers, which provides scientific proof that the reaffixed tail is a perfect match for the jersey body.
Just four Cobb uniforms are known to survive to this day. A later Detroit Tigers example is privately held, as is a Philadelphia Athletics example from the close of Cobb's career. A second A's specimen is on display at Cooperstown. This 1922 representation, a rare single-season style, is the earliest Cobb of the four. It earns a grade of A7* from MEARS, the three points lost for the noted restoration. The asterisk, in contrast to the Roger Maris association, is MEARS' version of a gold star, assigned due to the tremendous importance of the jersey as one of the greatest treasures of the twentieth century game. LOA from MEARS, A7*. The Textile Conservation Workshop letter of examination.
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