My grandfather told me a story about his dad. He claims that his dad met Ty Cobb on a train in New York… That’s right, my great grandfather met the legendary Ty Cobb.
My great grandfather’s name was Francis King. He was the father of 5 boys and 2 girls, in a cold flat on 63 8th street, Hoboken, New Jersey. Living in the city where baseball started, my great grandfather was an avid baseball fan, and spoke highly of players such as Rogers Hornsbey, Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and others. Frank worked as an office manager at a real estate firm. Frank was a man of great determination. Another thing to remember, Frank had a bum right leg, I think from a childhood injury.
But anyways, he loved the game of baseball, and he wanted to go see a Tigers game to see Ty Cobb play. In Hoboken at the time, there wern’t many forms of transportation like there are today, so my great grandfather must’ve limped 8 blocks to Lakawana Railroad Station. From there he boarded a “tube” (Hoboken slang for subway) that took him to Ney York. He got off at Christophers Street in NYC. Now above ground, he took an elevated train into the Bronx to arrive at Yankee Stadium.
I believe the Tigers won the game, but I’m not certain. Ty Cobb had several hits and 2 stolen bases. About 1 hour & 30 min after the game, Frank and many other fans began to board the trains leaving Yankee Stadium. Since the end of the game, Ty Cobb would’ve had sufficiant time to shower in the locker room, get dressed and cleaned up, and leave the stadium.
The train is leaving. There were no availabe seats on the train, and so people like Frank were called “strap hangers” because they had to stand and hold on the overhead railing/strap. Also, the elevated trains got bumpy. All of this, plus the fact that my great grandfather had been walking all day on his bad leg, he must’ve been pretty exhausted and uncomfortable. But luckily, a young man got up from his seat. “Old timer, take my seat”, said the young man. Frank graciously takes the seat, and as he’s sitting down, he catches a glimpse of the young man’s face and realizes, the young man is Ty Cobb.
My great grandfather must’ve said something like “You’re Ty Cobb!”, to which Ty Cobb replied “Don’t tell anyone I did this. It will ruin my reputation.”
So much has been said about Ty Cobb as a person. Wheather it’s being known as a racist, or “cleating” a shortstop at the bag to break up a DP, or wrestling an armless spectator, that will always be Ty Cobb’s reputation. But my great grandfather’s story suggests that, maybe Ty Cobb really did have a heart. Maybe there was a decent man inside of him, it just could rarely be found. Because the one guy who stood up and sacrificed his seat for a decrepit, middle aged man on the train, was Tyrus Raymond Cobb. The Georgia Peach.