Ty Cobb

Chief curator Daniel Piazza shares intimate knowledge, little-known facts and secrets about the stories told in “Baseball: America’s Home Run,” highlighting some of the spectacular objects on display, including discussions with key lenders to the exhibition on artifacts never-before displayed for pubic view.

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I'm Dan Piazza, curator of the National Postal Museum exhibition, Baseball: America's Home Run, on view until January, 2025.

Join me for an inside look at some of the most exciting objects from this blockbuster show that explores America's national pastime through stamps, mail and memorabilia.

Detroit Tiger Ty Cobb dominated the game of baseball between 1910 and 1915.

An unusually aggressive competitor he was prone to quarreling with players and fans and to outbursts of blustering self-importance.

But his 366 career batting average has never been surpassed.

Smithsonian Books author Stephen Wong who also serves as honorary advisor and a major lender to Baseball: America's Home Run has a closer look.

When I think of Ty Cobb, I think of arguably one of the greatest players in the history of the game who still holds the highest batting average in major league history.

He was a complicated and difficult character.

You know, obviously when you see your mother shooting your father at a very young age it could be a genesis of a very troubled childhood that stayed with him his entire life.

Cobb had demons in his character, as many scholars and historians have written over the years.

But frankly since the days of Al Stump, his biographer, over the many generations there were a lot of allegations about Cobb including his racism that, according to recent research and scholarship particularly by Charles Leeson, have debunked this notion that Cobb was actually a vigilant racist.

And one of the things that is so interesting about Ty Cobb is not only the misunderstanding of his character over generations but his greatness.

And this bat, in the exhibition in the Postmaster Suite, was used by Ty Cobb between 1910 and 1915 seasons, a five-year period in which arguably it was the most prolific of his entire career.

He hit 400 twice during that period and won the American League batting title every single year during that period.

Game-used bats unlike consumer and retail items like baseball cards, and stamps, and advertising pieces, and postcards, derive their significance and importance from the usage and the evidence of usage from that player.

And in this case, the use from Cobb is evident all over the bat.

Let's start by the barrel.

Cleat marks, ball marks, cleat marks are there from Cobb actually using the bat to again like Babe Ruth, to hit the dirt and the mud from his cleats.

And so when when the wood of the bat hit the spike of his cleats to knock the mud of the dirt those marks have are still there.

There's ball marks laden across the barrel, both the left and the right barrel showing when when Cobb

hit the ball.

The impressions of the ball are still indented into the bat as well as stitch marks.

But perhaps the most two most telling things about the bat is the spiral tape on the handle.

It's a known attribute of Cobb, that Cobb throughout his career, particularly in the early in the mid part of his career taped his bat.

There are numerous images of Cobb at the plate with tape on his bat.

And this is a known Cobb characteristic.

But the perhaps the most interesting feature of this bat if you look closely, that there are black substances all between the tape and sort of the mid-handle area of the bat.

What is that?

Well that is tobacco juice.

Ty Cobb was known to chew tobacco during ball games.

And what he would do at the plate to intimidate pitchers was to actually spit the tobacco juice on the bat while he was growling at the pitcher to intimidate them.

The Georgia Peach was honored with a stamp and postal card in the 2000 Legends of Baseball Series issued, appropriately enough, in Atlanta.

For more on the intersection of postal and baseball history, visit the National Postal Museum exhibition, Baseball: America's Home Run online at postalmuseum.si.edu/baseball

Baseball: America’s Home Run