Monday, December 5, 2011

Cobb vilified for '52 Life article

Though his playing days had ended a quarter-century earlier, Ty Cobb made regular appearances in the pages of The Sporting News until his death in 1961. 

The sports weekly often reported on Cobb's civic philanthropy, his speeches at banquets in what the paper liked to call the "Knife and Fork League," his visits around the batting cages during spring training and in clubhouses around the majors throughout the season. 

Cobb's observations about baseball from his day to the present were recorded and, due to their often thorny nature, were frequently dissected in TSN's pages.

In early 1952, Life magazine paid Cobb a reported $25,000 to compile his thoughts on baseball at that time for a two-part article titled, "They Don't Play Baseball Anymore." 

Twenty-five grand was a lot of money in 1952. It represented a year's salary for many everyday veteran players that season. (Today's average salary is about $2 million). 

Selling for 20 cents a copy in 1952, Life was counting on Cobb's article to generate a lot of newsstand sales. They even purchased a full-page ad in the March 12 TSN to promote the article, hinting at the bombshells Cobb would be dropping.

Cobb's take on the current state of baseball (no doubt ghost-written) delivered all of the controversy the promotional ads had promised. 

San Francisco baseball writer Joe King called it a "petulant, undocumented and high-priced 'indictment' of today's baseball." King said it was "typical of the attitude of many famous men through the centuries at Ty's age (he was 66 at the time).

"Only 'the good old days' remain for them," King concluded, "Perspective is lost."

Both Washington Senators manager Bucky Harris and Stan Musial were more succinct in their reviews; they said Cobb was "crazy."

Copies of the March 17 and March 24, 1952, issues of Life are readily available on eBay. While sellers price them at $15 or more on a "Buy it Now" basis, when offered at auction, they can be had for well under $10.
Ty Cobb was an elder statesman of baseball when he
presented a critical look at the contemporary game in a
two-part Life article in 1952.

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