The Tragic Death of Ty Cobb’s Father

The Tragic Death of Ty Cobb’s Father

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The Tragic Death of Ty Cobb’s Father**

“COME AT ONCE. YOUR FATHER DEAD IN SHOOTING ACCIDENT. HURRY.” – Telegram sent to Ty Cobb by Joe Cunningham, a long-time hometown friend.

“There goes the best man I ever knew.” –Ty Cobb, speaking of the shooting death of his father.

Young Tyrus Cobb, playing for the Augusta Tourists of the South Atlantic League, received this distressing telegram 112 years ago, on the morning of August 9, 1905. It informed him that his father had been killed in a shooting accident the previous night at the Cobb home in Royston, Georgia. The starkly worded telegram left out the shocking details, which would come soon enough. The tragic incident later evolved into a local scandal when it was revealed that his mother, Amanda Cobb, had pulled the trigger.

When Cobb arrived home on August 9, he walked into a horrific scene of grief and confusion. Sheriffs, doctors, news reporters, and stunned townfolk overran the family home and the street outside. His father, Professor William Herschel Cobb, had been an educator, state official, and prominent Democrat mentioned as a potential Georgia governor. One of the first explanations Ty heard of events of the shooting came from neighbor Joe Cunningham and another boyhood friend, Clifford Ginn:

“He was shot about midnight … He’d climbed onto the porch of his house … it happened up there … They’re trying to find out how he was killed.”

Neither had the heart to tell young Tyrus his mother, Amanda, had fired the gun that killed his father. According to the SABR biography of Ty Cobb by Daniel Ginsburg:

“On the evening of August 8, William Hershel Cobb had left home telling his wife Amanda he was going to their farm and would not be back that night. As it was later revealed, William Cobb suspected his wife of infidelity, and he secretly returned to the house later that night armed with a pistol. Shortly after midnight he climbed up on the porch roof and approached the bedroom window. Exactly what happened next is unknown, but a startled Amanda Cobb put two bullets into her husband, killing him. Amanda claimed to have mistaken her husband for a burglar, but the physical evidence didn’t support her story. A coroner’s inquest ordered her arrest on the charge of manslaughter, but she was eventually acquitted in March, 1906.”

The significance of the pistol W. H. Cobb was carrying immediately started gossip flying around the small southern town. The rumor mill had it that thirty-four-year-old Amanda, a shapely, attractive woman, was unfaithful. It was said she had a lover who joined her when W. H. was out of town. Supposedly, the Professor heard the allegations and anger and suspicion festered within him. So he faked leaving town, parked his buggy out of sight, doubled back by foot, and climbed his porch to catch Amanda in the act. According to grapevine talk, Cobb intended to use the gun on Amanda’s lover — maybe on both.

After a week of mourning and tending to family business, Ty Cobb rejoined his team. Before the month was over he became a major leaguer. According to Ginsburg: “Normally this would have been a great moment, but the shadow of the tragedy hung over him. In his autobiography, Cobb wrote ‘In my grief, it didn’t matter much…I only thought, Father won’t know it.'” The incident had a lasting effect on the impressionable, irascible 18-year-old. Some who knew him well say he never got over it.

**To set the record straight, the version in the post concerning the death of Cobb’s father is basically the one told in the Cobb biographies by Al Stump and Charles Alexander, the veracity of which have been questioned by many. A different interpretation for the known facts of the case is presented in Charles Leerhsen’s book, “Ty Cobb, A Terrible Beauty,” which, if you’re interested in the case, I recommend reading. The only thing we know for sure is that Ty Cobb was affected deeply by the tragic shooting death of his father.

Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from article on the death of Ty Cobb father on the Delanceyplace website: https://delanceyplace.com/view-archives.php?p=2560.

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I’m a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

2 Comments

  1. Sonnyboy · August 9, 2017 Reply

    Good article. I never knew about it. Thanks

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