Ty Cobb’s connection to Augusta, Georgia

You can’t swing a dead cat in Augusta, Ga., sports circles without hitting a reminder that the great Ty Cobb began his pro career in the Garden City.

The Georgia Peach made his pro debut as an 18-year old with the Augusta Tourists of the South Atlantic League on April 26, 1904, in a game against the Columbia (SC) Skyscrapers.

What’s conveniently forgotten is that Cobb’s first go-round with the Tourists lasted just two days, as the future Major League Hall of Famer was quickly cut.

He then signed with the Anniston (Ala.) Steelers for $50 a game and spent three months in the Tennessee-Alabama League before being recalled to Augusta in July by new owner and manager Harry Wingard.

Cobb’s first season with Augusta was less than auspicious, as he finished with a .237 batting average in 35 games.

The next year was a different story: by mid-summer Cobb was leading the Sally League in hitting and the Tourists sold him to the Detroit Tigers for $750.

In gratitude for his performance, Cobb was given a $50 gold watch as a gift in his final appearance with the Tourists.

He made his debut for the Tigers on Aug. 30, 1905, against the New York Highlanders — known today as the Yankees. He played center field and batted fifth.

Playing against the Highlanders in Detroit, he came up in the bottom half of the first inning against Jack Chesbro, whose 41-12 record the previous season is still a modern record. There was a runner at third and two outs, according to a 2005 ESPN.com story that looked back at Cobb’s first game a century later.

“Jack Chesbro was one of the best pitchers in the game at that time,” said Dan Holmes, who wrote a 2004 book titled Cobb, Baseball’s Greatest Hitter. “He was known for his spitball. Cobb took the first pitch. Then he hit next pitch into the left-center gap.”

Cobb’s run-scoring double was the first of 4,191 hits he would ring up over his 24-year career.

Cobb went on to play in the final 41 games of the 1905 Major League season, batting .240. It would be the only time in his career he hit less than .320. His career average of .367 remains the best ever, several points better than runner-up Rogers Hornsby’s career .358 average.

While Cobb was done with the minors after the Tigers purchased him, he wasn’t done with Augusta. He lived in the Georgia town for nearly 30 years and the Tigers held spring training in the town several times during his big league career, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

(Above: Ty Cobb, middle row, center, with members of the 1906 Augusta Tourists at the Augusta Fairgrounds, the year after he’d joined the Detroit Tigers.)

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