Originally created 03/17/04

Commission votes against 'Cobb Field'



Ty Cobb struck out with the Augusta Commission on Tuesday.

Commissioners voted not to consider naming the Augusta GreenJackets' playing field Ty Cobb Field in honor of the baseball great because of his reputation as a racist.

Commissioners withdrew a proposal to name the field after the baseball legend, who launched his Hall of Fame career in Augusta, from a motion to extend the ball club's lease at Lake Olmstead Stadium.

Commissioner Don Grantham said he had a problem with naming a field after Mr. Cobb without more discussion and suggested there were more worthy Augusta baseball figures.

Commissioner Andy Cheek, who had proposed naming the field for Mr. Cobb, asked commissioners to consider Mr. Cobb's professional career rather than his personal life.

"Mr. Cobb, for all his negatives, was the greatest on the field, just like James Brown," he said after noting that commissioners would be dedicating a statue to the world famous soul singer in a few weeks.

"I would like at some point for us to put aside the personal lives of people," Mr. Cheeks said. "At some point we need to recognize there are just as many black folks that don't like white folks as there are white folks who don't like black folks."

Commissioner Betty Beard said she and Mr. Cheeks differed on the issue.

She said racism has been ever-present in her life, from being asked to go to the back of the bus to not being allowed to go to Kress's for lunch.

"I remember when other people were given 5 percent loans," she said.

"They said, 'No, not you.' ... I have purchased property where they said, 'This property should not be sold to blacks.'

"So it's rather difficult for me voting for Ty Cobb. James Brown? He's done a lot, but most of it to himself," she said.

Mrs. Beard asked the clerk to read into the record a letter from the former president of the Augusta branch of the NAACP, John R. Maben, who stated that naming the stadium or field for "an outspoken racist" was an "insult to many African Americans and some white citizens."

Dr. Maben stated in the letter that, according to Mr. Cobb's biographer Al Stump, "Cobb had a reputation as a virulent racist, his hatred of Negroes causing him on one occasion to even beat up a black woman."

Mr. Cheek said he had never intended to elevate a racist by his proposal.

"If my bringing that in has caused offense to someone, I apologize," he said.

Commissioners voted to extend the GreenJacket lease for 10 years for $25,000 a year after city Attorney Stephen Shepard refines some of the contract terms. GreenJackets Vice President Chris Scheuer agreed to pay $31,856 in rent from 2003.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228

or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.