Originally created 12/23/99

Cobb Jr. swung different stick



Being the child of someone famous is never easy. That certainly could be said for native Augustan Tyrus Raymond Cobb Jr., who grew up as the oldest son of a baseball legend.

While his father, Ty Cobb, was playing and coaching for the Detroit Tigers and setting baseball records that would stand for decades, Ty Jr. was attending school in Augusta and trying to live as normal a life as possible.

His only saving grace was that he grew up before national scandal tabloids and extreme cable talk shows came into creation. They would have made his life miserable. One only has to look at how intensely children of celebrities are exploited today to realize what Ty Jr. most certainly would have gone through.

Ty Jr. was smart enough to know it would be a big mistake to try and play baseball. His key sports while attending the Academy of Richmond County on Walton Way were football and tennis.

In fact, a reporter for The Augusta Chronicle in October 1912 asked nearly 3-year-old Ty Jr. whether he intended being a pitcher or a heavy-hitting outfielder like his dad. He was quoted as answering, "Naw, not gonna play ball."

Ty Jr.'s uncle, Paul Cobb, did become a professional baseball player, but who remembers him?

One of the marriages of the century in Augusta came when Ty Cobb married Augusta native Charlie Lombard, daughter of prominent businessman Roswell Lombard, on Aug. 8, 1908. She was named after an uncle, and her name was not Charlotte, as many sources report. The Ty Cobb Museum in Royston, Ga., even has her name wrong on a sign.

The Cobbs first had a daughter, Shirley, the only one of their five children born in Detroit. The other four (Ty Jr., Herschel, Beverly and Jimmy) all were born in Augusta.

Ty Jr. came into this world Jan. 30, 1910, born with red hair and blue eyes at his maternal grandparents' home, known as The Oaks, on Deans Bridge Road (U.S. Highway 1). It was the same home in which his parents were married in a simple ceremony attended by very few people.

His birth was announced in The Augusta Chronicle on Feb. 1 with a two-paragraph story headlined "Latest Diamond Prospect Tyrus Raymond Cobb Jr."

The story read, "Congratulations are being extended Mr. and Mrs. Tyrus Raymond Cobb on the birth of a son. Although it is not known definitely, still the supposition is that the name will be Tyrus Jr. Both mother and son are doing well. The youngster weighs nine pounds.

"The birth of Ty Cobb Jr. will bring congratulations to the famous ballplayer and Mrs. Cobb from sporting celebrities all over the country and especially from Detroit where Mrs. Cobb is known well socially, and Ty is a hero among the fans."

Just three months before Ty Jr.'s birth, his father had met with President William Howard Taft and Taft's military aide, Augusta native Capt. Archibald Butt (who would go down with the Titanic three years later), at the Augusta Country Club.

That's how famous his father already was when Ty Jr. was born.

By the time Ty Jr. was 5, his family had moved to the stately, two-story wooden house at 2425 William St. in Summerville, a few blocks from what is now Augusta State University. Here, he would have the typical growing up of a boy in a well-to-do family.

His youngest sister, Beverly McLaren, once told me before she died, "We were brought up with classical music in the home. We met many interesting people. People like winners, and they flock around them. Guests at our William Street home in Augusta included (novelist) Theodore Dreiser, (bandmaster) John Philip Sousa, (golfer) Bobby Jones, baseball Commissioner Kenesaw "Mountain" Landis, (Coca-Cola chief) Robert Woodruff and (football coach) Knute Rockne."

The family's animal menagerie on William Street included a show horse, a Shetland pony, a billy goat, a nanny goat, a canary, two pigeons, rabbits and Ty Sr.'s 15 hunting dogs, kept in a backyard kennel.

Mrs. Cobb and her children spent many summer days at the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary in Kingsville, Ontario, not far from Detroit. Mr. Miner, a father figure to Ty Sr., had created one of the first waterfowl sanctuaries in the world.

Among Ty Jr.'s childhood friends were future Augusta Mayor Lewis A. "Pop" Newman and future western movie/Hee Haw star Dub Taylor.

Not all were happy days for the Cobb children, especially in the off-season winter months when their father was not on the road playing games. His legendary temper carried over from the baseball field into beating his wife and children.

"I never spent five seconds with that man that I wasn't scared pea green," his older daughter, Shirley Beckworth, once told me. "He beat everybody, and we weren't bad children."

Her sister Beverly added: "There was no question in my mind that he loved us. He told us that. He would say, `Because I love you, I'm doing what I'm doing.' ... He was just a strong disciplinarian who demanded a great deal that young people don't understand. My mother believed in raising children one way, and my father believed in raising children another way. There was some friction, and the children got caught in between."

After his early education, Ty Jr. attended the Academy of Richmond County, where he became a standout on the football field and tennis court.

The Chronicle on Oct. 3, 1926, reported, "The fiery (red)-headed son of Tyrus Raymond, shooting upward and outward as he turns his seventeenth year and now a fine set-up lad of 165 pounds, is one of the first-string guards on the Musketeer eleven.

"`Young Cobb is a promising player,' Coach (Jules) Carson remarked after yesterday's game.... "As yet, Ty Jr. has not demonstrated such a marked liking for baseball as his famous father; not enough to go out for the team at any rate.

"He is a tennis player, though, of no mean ability and is one of the outstanding local entrants each season in the South Atlantic Tennis Tournament here matching his skill against Bill Tilden, A.H. Chapin Jr. and other luminaries of the net."

Mr. Tilden, the first American to win at Wimbledon in 1920, was Ty Jr.'s personal coach and a frequent visitor to the Cobb home on William Street.

Ty Jr.'s photos appear in the 1924, 1926 and 1928 annuals of the Academy of Richmond County for his participation with the tennis and football teams and the school's military units (Companies D and H).

John Cornelius "J.C." Hardy of Augusta, who also played football at the Academy, remembers Ty Jr. taking a lot of razzing from his classmates.

"Ty Jr. was very shy when he was a teen-ager, and I became his bouncer," Mr. Hardy would later recall. "Other kids would taunt him and call him `Corncob.' I'd take up for him. Back then, his father owned a long Lincoln limousine. While other kids would ride their bicycles to school, I'd ride with Ty Jr. in that big car."

REACH Don Rhodes at (706) 823-3214 or ramblin@groupz.net.