Cobb finally called it quits from a 22-year career as a Tiger in November 1926. He announced his retirement and headed home to Augusta, GA. Shortly thereafter, Tris Speaker also retired as player-manager of the Cleveland team. The retirement of two great players at the same time sparked some interest, and it turned out that the two were coerced into retirement because of allegations of game-fixing brought about by Dutch Leonard, a former pitcher of Cobb's.
|Cobb and Speaker as A's in 1928|
Landis allowed both Cobb and Speaker to return to their original teams, but each team let them know that they were free agents and could sign with whomever they wished. Speaker signed with the Senators for 1927, Cobb with the A's. Speaker then joined Cobb in Philly for the 1928 season. Cobb says he came back only to seek vindication and so that he could say he left baseball on his own terms.
Cobb played regularly in 1927 for a young and talented team that finished second to one of the greatest teams of all time, the 1927 Yankees, which won 110 games. In this season he extended many of his all-time records, including earning his 4000th hit. It was a good season for the 40-year-old, and he could still play the way he did twenty years ago, if only for shorter periods of time.
For the very few people who manage to become highly successful professional athletes, the period following retirement from active competition is almost inevitably anticlimactic. That was especially true for Ty Cobb. It was as a baseball player that the public knew him and that he knew himself. As he often freely acknowledged, he had no vocation besides baseball, knew no other way to organize his life. In terms of his own emotional well being, Cobb would probably have been better off if he had not retired as the first millionaire ballplayer. Needing to work to support himself and his family, he might have been able to bring his day-to-day existence into some kind of focus. As it was, he never really adjusted to a retirement that lasted thirty-three years. Without baseball's exacting but predictable demands, its clearly measurable achievements, its springtime renewal of hopes, it glamour and drama, Cobb found life difficult.... Ruth said: "It's hard to be on the outside of something you love. Just looking in doesn't help." (Alexander, 211)
In the winter of 1930/31, Cobb moved into a Spanish ranch estate on Spencer Lane in the millionaire's community of Atherton outside San Fransisco. At that same time, his wife Charlie filed the first of several divorce suits.
Cobb had never had an easy time being a father and husband. His children had found him to be demanding, yet also capable of kindness and extreme warmth. He had expected his boys to be exceptional athletes, especially baseball players. Ty, Jr. flunked out of Princeton and would have rather played tennis than baseball, and in general was a disappointment to his father. Despite his shortcomings as a father, Cobb had only wanted his children to work hard and succeed, though it seems that it was hard for him to accept that they would succeed in anything except baseball. Charlie finally divorced Cobb in 1947, after 39 years of marriage, the last few of which she lived in nearby Menlo Park.
There was little else for Cobb to be happy about, now a bachelor in the twilight of his life. He drank and smoked heavily, and spent a great deal of time complaining about the collapse of baseball since the arrival of Ruth.
At 62, Cobb remarried. The bride was 40-year-old Frances Cass. This marriage also failed, and she later filed for divorce. She felt that he was simply too difficult to get along with when he was drunk. However, Cobb counterfiled and won the suit.
When his sons died young, Cobb was alone, with few friends left. He therefore began to be generous with his wealth, donating money in his parents' name for his hometown of Royston to build a modern hospital. He also established the Cobb Educational Fund, which awarded scholarships to needy Georgia students bound for college.
There are also stories of financial help Cobb gave to other old-time ballplayers, one of which Norman Macht has since set straight. In the movie Cobb, in Stump's companion book, and in Alexander's biography, it is stated that Cobb supported Mickey Cochrane for a long time because the old A's catcher had run out of money after leaving baseball. However, Cochrane's widow and children told Macht in an article that appeared in The National Pastime (15 (1995), 21-23) that Cochrane had never needed or received help from Cobb, and that he was in fact quite wealthy after his retirement. In the scene in the movie when Cochrane shows up without a tuxedo, Cochrane's widow explains that it was because he had not planned to attend the black-tie dinner and so had not brought a tuxedo, but could easily have afforded one.
Cobb knew that another way he could share his wealth was by having biographies written that would set the record straight and teach young players how to play. John McCallum spent some time with Cobb to write a combination how-to and biography. He, like everyone else, found Cobb difficult at best, and impossible at worst. McCallum's book came out in 1956 and was filled with half-truths and misinformation that McCallum had never checked out.
After McCallum left, Cobb was again alone and had a longing to return to Georgia. It was on a hunting trip near his Lake Tahoe home that Cobb's long-range plans were going to be cut short, as he collapsed in pain and was diagnosed with several life-threatening conditions.
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