April 21, 1904: Ty Cobb makes his pro debut for Augusta
He may have spent 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, but baseball great Ty Cobb got his pro start in his home state of Georgia. On April 21, 1904, he started his .366 career batting average playing for the minor league Augusta Tourists. The team was part of the Southern Atlantic League from 1904-1910 and again from 1914-1917. This was the beginning of a pro career marked by both excellence and a fierce temper. As Ty Cobb famously said of himself, “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.”
The Ty Cobb tragedy right at the start
Fourteen months after his pro debut, Ty Cobb’s dad, an educator and politician, was shot by his stay-at-home wife. She maintained that she mistook her husband for a burglar.
A month later Cobb was sold to the Tigers, an American League team. The incident and grief dogged Cobb for a bit, but by 1907 he had hit his stride and earned the first of 12 batting titles. He would go on to set 90 records all told. He also earned a reputation for racist incidents and sketchy tactics, but those have been heavily disputed and proven untrue by modern journalists and researchers.
Lots of records and a lengthy career
Cobb played a quality game for a long, long time. More than 24 years after his debut, in 1928, he stole home for the 50th (and last) time, for example. He was 41. In 1936, he was one of the first class of players ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. It would be 1985 before Pete Rose would overcome Cobb’s career hit record, 24 years after Cobb died of prostate cancer in Atlanta at age 74.