Detroit Tigers legend Ty Cobb was not known as being one of the more ferocious players in the history of the game. Yet, if one incident was to cement his legacy, it was when he charged into the stands at Hilltop Park to beat a handicapped person who had been heckling him throughout the game.
The early days of baseball were quite different than the game that we have come to know today. Fights would occur between teammates and opposing players. Players would be heckled mercilessly by opposing fans, and sometimes, fights would break out. Detroit Tigers outfielder Ty Cobb, known for his short temper, would be a tempting target, and on this day in 1912, was involved in what may have been one of the ugliest incidents in the history of baseball.
Let’s set a bit of background. Cobb was a native of Georgia, where racial tensions were quite high and white supremacy was rampant. About the worst thing that could be said to a Southerner in those days would be to insinuate that they were half Black. Well, that was what happened to Cobb.
During a game against the New York Yankees, a fan by name of Claude Lueker started taunting Cobb from the moment the game began. Finally, he called Cobb half-Black, a comment that even fellow outfielder Sam Crawford asked if Cobb would let pass. In response, Cobb charged into the stands and began to attack Lueker, who was missing one hand and most of his fingers on the other. When the crowd yelled at Cobb for hitting a handicapped specatator, he responded by saying that he didn’t care of Lueker didn’t have feet either.
Naturally, the American League was not happy. Ban Johnson, who was the President of the league, suspended Cobb indefinitely and fined him $50. While Cobb was not a popular teammate, the rest of the Tigers went on strike until Cobb was reinstated. This would lead to the Tigers needing to field a team of college students and sandlot players. Cobb would have his suspension reduced to ten games when he urged his teammates to return to the field and end their strike.
Ty Cobb was a great ballplayer, but he was not exactly the greatest person. In fact, he may have been responsible for one of the ugliest incidents in baseball history.