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Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb

Two Great Athletes and Americans from the Days Before they Kneeled


By —— Bio and Archives--March 13, 2019

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Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Two Great Athletes and Americans from the Days Before they KneeledOn March 9, 2019, Julia Ruth Stevens, adopted daughter of Babe Ruth, the man who invented modern celebrityhood, died at 102. One of the last living people to have known Babe Ruth, she was the protector of his legacy. “I couldn’t have had a better father than him,” she always said.

Monuments to great Americans are now being torn down by Taliban copying “progressives”. After the first statue of Lee came down, can it be more than a matter of time until the last statue of Washington comes down?  You can already hear discussion of tearing plaques off of the Baseball Hall of Fame wall, and the first two names brought up to go are Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. Cobb is chosen for allegedly being baseball’s greatest racist, a totally false picture of the man, who as a southerner of his time was remarkably egalitarian, and financed black educational causes. As an example of just one of his charitable endeavors, Cobb established the Ty Cobb Educational Foundation which gave scholarships to hundreds of young Blacks. Ruth’s “impeachment worthy” crime is being the best known player from the era of racial segregation. Sometimes Ruth’s “consorting with women of ill repute” has also been brought up as a reason for his deserving expulsion. The charge is true, and its regrettable that not all men can be as faithful as Bill Clinton.

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Babe Ruth, the Hero not the Caricature

I want to pay tribute to Ruth and Cobb, two outstanding men. They were far from perfect men, like all larger than life individuals they had massive failings, but in their cases they also made great contributions to the nation.

The plaque the Yankees put up for Babe Ruth reads “a great ball player, a great man, a great American”. And it is absolutely accurate on all counts. One needs only look at the numbers to see that Ruth was a great player, the greatest baseball player ever, but he also was a great man and unlike NFL players today who are paid millions and take pride in hating America, he was a great American.

In “The Baseball Hall of Shame” by Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo, Babe Ruth is summed up as being obsessed with “booze, buffets and bimbos”. There is truth in that Ruth consumed alcohol, food and women with the same moderation that categorized his vicious all or nothing swing. But these failings are common to many even great men, and that description is as fair as categorizing Winston Churchill as merely a man obsessed with cigars, women and alcohol.

The human Babe Ruth was a complex multidimensional being, as any real person is. He could be a whoring, buffoonish, drunkard who called everyone “kid”, but he was also a shrewd businessman and beyond being gifted with superhuman baseball ability, he also had a native genius for the game.  A current batting coach watching archival footage of Ruth noted that 26-year-old star Bryce Harper had almost the identical swing as the Babe. But baseball swings did not always look like that. Certainly Ty Cobb’s split grip, bat control, serve the ball swing did not look like that. Ruth, though influenced by the later disgraced Joe Jackson, can be said to have invented the modern weight shifting baseball swing.

Ruth lived at a time antisemitism was at heights not seen again until now, when the coalition of Marxist and Muslim masters of the Democrat party has mainstreamed antisemitism to a level of acceptability rivaling 1939 Europe. It was a time when in the United States most German Americans supported Hitler, when the Nazi German American Bund could easily fill up Madison square garden in New York City.

As Germany began exterminating Jews by the millions, it was with the tacit approval of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who sent jewish refugees back to the gas chambers. In this atmosphere a journalist named Dorothy Thompson got the idea to create a petition to be signed by famous German-Americans denouncing the genocide. This petition appeared for Christmas 1941 in the New York Times and nine other important American news papers. “We Americans of German descent raise our voices in denunciation of the Hitler policy of cold-blooded extermination of the Jews of Europe” it read in part. Fifty signatures followed but the most famous was George Herman, better known as Babe Ruth.

Decades ago I read an interview with a then elderly Rabbi. He said he was a lifelong Yankee fan. Considering he was raised in New York City, that does not sound very noteworthy. Yet there was a story behind his fandom.  Like many among Orthodox Jews, he was from a group which shunned interest in sports as unacceptable adherence to secular culture, which is strictly forbidden. He was raised in a Jewish orphanage, and as a child in that orphanage all he knew about gentiles was they hated Jews. But one day a non-Jewish giant of a man came to visit the orphans, and he was so kind to the orphans that this future Rabbi routed for the Yankees for the rest of his life. The visitor of course was Babe Ruth. Ruth’s love of children was real, not a for the media affectation. And while sports was suspect in his branch of Judaism, the Rabbi explained that repaying kindness was emphasized.

Do the people calling for Ruth’s removal from the Hall of Fame know that Ruth contributed to Black charities as well as offering them his time, and repeatedly came out in support of Black players being allowed the majors? Would these leftist fascists care? As prominent base ball historian Bill Jenkinson wrote “I believe that Ruth was simply “color blind” in the matter of race… George Herman Ruth was born with literally no innate biases toward anyone. That’s just the way he was.”

What You Read About Ty Cobb was a Lie… Sounds Familiar?

Another urban legend about Babe Ruth is that somehow he was “Black” and “passing” for white. Though Ruth spent time in an orphanage, he was not an orphan, all four of his grandparent were clearly German. But this rumor actually started as “needling” of Ruth by opponents using the N word. Not because they thought Ruth was Black, but because any insult went then, anything be it words or a flying spike to give you an edge was fair. And Ty Cobb was the best at both.

 

Cobb played the game at the time when baseball players had a football player mentality. Trying to spike fielders or knock them into the outfield was standard. No 300 million dollar guaranteed contracts then. Baseball was a war to make a living and avoid dying from black lung as a miner. No one was more of a warrior than Ty Cobb. A very big, very strong player, 6’ 1” of muscle, when many major leaguers then were 5’7’’,  his slide produced terror. But he did not sharpen his spikes, one of the myths invented by Cobb’s very poor choice of a biographer. And he did not play the game any dirtier or different then others of the time, only better.

Cobb was not a misanthrope. He wanted to be liked, often tried to be helpful and was liked by many. But he had a paranoid streak, reacted to slights violently, and saw slights when none were intended, and thus could be hard to get along with. One incident turned him into that.

When Cobb was an eighteen year old starting his professional career in the minor leagues, his revered father was murdered in his own house, and the shooter was Cobb’s mother. The “official” story would be it was a tragic accident, Amanda Cobb had mistaken her husband for a burglar.  The more accepted account was William Herschel Cobb had caught his wife with her lover in the act. He had suspected his wife of infidelity, was sneaking in to catch her redhanded, and got more than he bargained for.  The elder Cobb was a Georgia state senator noted for being a leading advocate for the public education of Blacks, and a contender for governor.

Not well known is that Cobb served in WWI, he was only in France for a month before armistice was declared, but he held the rank of Captain. And during an exercise he accidentally inhaled poison gas, suffering a hacking cough for weeks. He survived, others did not. Christy Mathewson, maybe greatest pitcher in National League history, inhaled poison gas in France, was never the same and died of lung disease 7 years later at only 45.

Like many old-timers, Cobb felt in the 1940s and 1950s that the players were not as good as those in his time. But he always appreciated greatness, regardless of skin color. “Mays is the only man in baseball I’d pay to see play,” Cobb once said. Cobb also praised the play of Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. The vicious taunting Jackie Robinson endured upon joining the Dodgers is well known. Active players attempted a petition against allowing him to play, the Philadelphia Phillies threatened to boycott games in which Robinson appeared. Only the threat from the commissioner of imposing lifetime bans from baseball ended all that. When Cobb was approached by reporters about his opinion of Robinson, he was long retired.  Cobb could have said anything he liked, with no threat of repercussions, and it was probably expected he would offer a fiery condemnation. “I see no reason in the world why we shouldn’t compete with colored athletes” Cobb said instead, and compete in equality “no white man has the right to be less of a gentleman than a colored man, in my book that goes not only for baseball but in all walks of life.” Does that sound like the worst racist in major league history?

Hiring the Wrong Biographer

Cobb was known to treat Black servants with respect when by the racist standards of the time, he did not have to and most did not. Alec Rivers was a black employee for Cobb for many years going from batboy, to chauffeur and personal assistant. Rivers’ affection for Cobb was such he named his first-born Ty Cobb Rivers. A man named James Lanier died in 2010 at age 93. He has been Cobb’s batboy and later friend, and what he remembered most clearly was Cobb’s philanthropy. When Cobb financed a hospital in Royston, Georgia in 1950 ( which still exists as part of the Ty Cobb Healthcare System), a doctor he hired for the hospital was a pioneering African- American, who saw black and white patients there, at a time when segregation was law, and “whites Only” drinking fountains still littered the state.

The worst mistake Ty Cobb ever made was his choice of biographer. Why he chose Al Stump, who was banned from some newspapers for lying,  is head scratching. Cobb was already dying at the time. Stump spent three weeks with him. Cobb was soon dead, and the public perception of Cobb became the lie concocted by Stump. Cobb the supreme racist, Cobb the miser who burned fan letters (Cobb was actually very responsive to fan letters), Cobb so hated no one wanted to come to his his funeral, Cobb even knifed someone to death—all stories invented by Stump. Stump evidently exemplified the values of today’s mainstream media.

Stump would write four books about Ty Cobb, his version of Cobb which had little to do with the man who lived between 1886 and 1961 and played in the majors between 1905 and 1928.
It was not until 2010, that William Cobb (no relation) wrote an article about the extent to which Stump sold fake Cobb memorabilia including a forged diary. Stump took Cobb’s letterheads and used them to make “original Ty Cobb” letters”. Stump even sold “the shotgun Cobb’s mother used to kill Cobb’s father”. Cobb’s father was killed by a pistol.

 

A letter to Hank

The anti-semitism Hank Greenberg faced exceeded the horrors Jackie Robinson faced. No matter how bad it got for Robinson, and it was bad, he played in liberal—and heavily Jewish- Brooklyn. And at least had the support of his team. Greenberg didn’t even have that, his teammates did not wrap their arm around his shoulder like Peewee Reese did to Robinson, they called anti-semitic terms to his face.

Greenberg played when Jews were being exterminated, and Greenberg played in the most anti-semitic city in the United States. Detroit was the home base of Father Charles Coughlin, whose anti-semitic radio show was heard by tens of millions. He praised Kristallnacht, constantly praised Hitler and openly supported exterminating the Jews. While he did not like Roosevelt, he would have fitted right in to today’s Democrat Party.

Detroit was also the home base of auto magnate Henry Ford, the best known Nazi in American history. His Dearborn Independent reprinted The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Dearborn Independent ’s antisemitic articles became four books in Nazi Germany. Henry Ford was praised in Mein Kampf, Hitler said he regarded Ford as his inspiration, and had a portrait of Ford in his office.

Ford wrote “If fans wish to know the trouble with American baseball they have it in three words—too much Jew.”

Greenberg lost 1941-1944 and half of 1945 serving his country in the Military. He lost 1936 because an opponent, Jake Powell deliberately broke his arm for being a Jew. Greenberg started the year with 15 RBIs in the first 12 games. He missed the next 142 games.

It was only 1998, when a documentary about Hank Greenberg was produced, that anyone remembered Hank Greenberg and the anti-semitism he endured

Hank Greenberg was a private man, not one to discuss his personal life or the vicious anti-semitism he faced.  But his son Steve found out almost by accident that Greenberg had a long pen-pal relationship with Cobb. He saw an autographed picture of Cobb to Greenberg inscribed “from your friend Ty Cobb” and also a letter from Cobb to Greenberg, the only one of many Greenberg kept. At a time when Hank Greenberg was the most vilified human in Detroit, not even considered human by Henry Ford and Father Coughlin, he unexpectedly got a letter from that alleged anti-semite, racist, Ku Klux Klanner, even MAGA hatter, Cobb. “Dear Hank I have been following your early career with the Tigers. I want to commend you on your accomplishments”, was how the letter started.


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Dr. Alexander Nussbaum -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dr. Alexander Nussbaum has had articles in a number of magazines including articles on intelligent design and on the history of statistics and is a contributor to a personality textbook


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