DescriptionCirca 1961 Ty Cobb Signed "Spiking of Home Run Baker" Photograph. It was one of the most controversial plays of the Dead Ball Era, and one that led the usually quiet and circumspect Connie Mack to proclaim that Cobb was "the dirtiest player in baseball history." It was late August and the rookie Frank Baker has been a key force in lifting the Philadelphia Athletics from the lower half of the American League standings in 1908 into a virtual deadlock with the Detroit Tigers entering the final month of the 1909 season. On a close play at third, Cobb's fabled spikes found their way into the flesh of Baker's forearm, drawing blood and the ire of most of the city of Philadelphia. But a few days later, this very photo of the play snapped by a Detroit News photographer showed Baker reaching across the bag to tag Cobb, apparently vindicating him and leading the paper to proclaim Baker a "soft-fleshed darling" for his complaints.
The debate lived on, however, and it was something that concerned Cobb even in the final months of his life, as his fascinating but somewhat inscrutable inscription would suggest. Though he is quoted in noted sportswriter Grantland Rice's famous book The Tumult and the Shouting as saying, "I only recall intentionally spiking one man in twenty-four years. He was Frank Baker, who was squarely in the path in a Philadelphia game. There was no other way to reach the base," he seems to contradict that statement here. Perhaps with death approaching, the fiercest competitor of all wished to cleanse himself of his sins.
He writes, "The 'so called' spiking of Baker. Looks like I am trying to (evade?) him, he is in line, he looks like is trying to spike my foot with his arm. To Rex from Ty Cobb." While the language is unclear, the message is not. Cobb is innocent.
Cobb's standard green ink is flawless here, as is the second generation 8x10" photo of this famous play. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Auction LOA from James Spence Authentication. Letter of provenance from Rex Teeslink, Cobb's caretaker in the final years of his life.
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2018 November 15-16 Fall Sports Card Catalog Auction