Friday, February 26, 2016

Where's Ty Cobb's clock?

This photo was taken at Ty Cobb's home
in Atherton, Calif., in 1936. It does not
specify the clock as being that given to
him in 1925, but there appears to be a
plaque to the left of Cobb's elbow.

Shortly after his death in July, 1961, the Ty Cobb Baseball Memorial Commission was formed to direct the creation and construction of a memorial building in Royston, Ga., the small town where the Georgia Peach had grown.

In the Feb. 28, 1962, Sporting News, Tigers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell wrote of the commission’s quest to “obtain photographs, mementos and other material relating to Cobb and his baseball career.”

The commission’s chairman, Dr. Stewart Brown, Jr., the son of one of Cobb’s best childhood friends, had a special request. “I’m especially anxious to locate an old grandfather’s clock which was given to Cobb when he and Henry Ford were tendered a testimonial banquet at the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit. These men were honored as the two leaders who had done the most for that city. So far we have no trace of what might have happened to (the clock).”

Looking further into the banquet at which the grandfather clock was presented to Cobb, it appears as if Dr. Brown might have been incorrect in some of the details he cited about the banquet. While Ford was mentioned by Mayor John W. Smith in the after-dinner speechifying, none of Cobb’s biographers indicate the auto industrialist was in attendance at the event.

The banquet was the culmination of a special “Ty Cobb Day” on Saturday, Aug. 29, 1925, honoring the Tigers player-manager’s record-breaking 20 years in the American League.

At a game that afternoon at Navin Field, a crowd variously reported at 20,000-30,000 turned out. In pre-game ceremonies, Cobb stood bareheaded at the third-base gate to the field boxes and shook hands with hundreds of the fans.

He then went on to have a 2-for-4 day at the plate, with a double, a walk, two runs and an RBI in defeating the Philadelphia A’s 9-5. It was the sixth of 10 consecutive Tigers wins, though the streak was not able to pull Detroit out of fifth place in the AL.

At the testimonial banquet that night, Cobb was presented with a grandfather clock said to have cost $1,000 (about $14,000 adjusted for inflation today). Biographers variously cite the clock as being the gift of the citizens of Detroit, the city council, or the city itself. The mayor is said to have appropriated $1,000 in public funds for the clock’s purchase, endorsed by the city council.

In presenting the gift, Mayor Smith said, “Two names alone in Detroit history are associated with the supreme degree of achievement in their respective fields. They are those of Henry Ford and Tyrus Cobb.”

In his 1925 coverage of the banquet, TSN’s Detroit beat writer Sam Greene reported attendance at about 600. Greene also mentioned an item that would interest today’s collector. He described a souvenir program given to attendees that included stats from Cobb’s career, game-action and leisure-time photos and an ode by Grantland Rice. At least one autographed example of the program is known within the hobby.

If my cursory internet research is correct, the proposed Ty Cobb Memorial was still a long way off in 1962, despite the best intentions of the committee. It was reported that the State of Georgia appropriated up to $200,000, to be combined with corporate and private donations to erect a suitable building. A site for the memorial was set aside on U.S. Highway 29 in Royston, across the road from Cobb Memorial Hospital, which Ty Cobb had endowed with $100,000 in honor of his parents in 1949.

The hospital has grown over the years into the Ty Cobb Healthcare System, which includes two hospitals and four convalescent centers.

Aug.  30, 1962, was declared Ty Cobb Day in Georgia by then-Governor S. Ernest Vandiver. An article in the July 28, 1962, Sporting News detailed progress on the proposed Cobb Memorial.

It was reported that the city of Royston had purchased land for the project, and donated it to the building commission. An Atlanta architectural firm, Wilfred J. Gregson and Associates was authorized to proceed with plans for the shrine building.

Initial thoughts were that there would be a central rotunda that would display some of Cobb's "most treasured trophies and memorabilia." One wing was designated to contain "pictures, records, plaques, bats, gloves, shoes, uniforms and other personal effects that will dramatize Cobb's life story."

Another wing would house a business office, concession stand and souvenir shop.

The updated estimate of construction cost was pegged at $350,000.

One of the first big private contributors to the building fund was Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, who gave $1,000 to "preserve the fighting competitive spirit of Ty Cobb." In ceremonies at Atlanta's Ponce de Leon Park on Aug. 30 for the unveiling of architect's drawings for the shrine, Detroit Tigers vice-president Rick Ferrell presented a $2,500 check to the building fund from club president John Fetzer.

Planning and funding for the Ty Cobb Baseball Memorial seems to have petered out over the years. It wasn’t until 1998 that the Ty Cobb Museum was opened. It is located at 461 Cook St., just off US 29 in Royston, inside the Joe A. Adams Professional Building. The museum’s web site indicates it receives about 4,000 visitors a year.

I contacted the museum to inquire whether it might be the current repository of Cobb’s presentation grandfather clock, but have not heard back from them. 

1 comment:

  1. I have knowledge of ALL the questions and suggestions that you have made here.

    Wesley Fricks
    National Ty Cobb Historian


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