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January 24, 1895: Joe Cobb

Born on this day 125 years ago today, Joe Cobb was a gritty Pennsylvania boy who worked his way up in the coal mines. The scrappy 5' 9", 170 lb. lad said that his speed and agility came from his experience avoiding rampaging mules. It wasn't until he was 22 years old that he gave professional baseball a shot. Though he had played the game plenty, he hadn't been paid for his craft. That changed when he appeared for the Class-D Cumberland Colts of the Blue Ridge League.

Cobb got just 65 at bats, but batted an impressive .385 and caught the eye of the Detroit Tigers. He was invited to Spring Training where he impressed writers and the legendary Ty Cobb. Astonishingly, given the coincidence and the Georgia Peach's liking he took toward Joe, the two ballplayers were not related. Still, Ty gave his approval when asked by local media and Tigers brass apparently agreed as they gave him a shot in an early-season game with the big club.

In just the Tigers' fourth game of the season, they welcomed the Cleveland Indians to Navin Field on April 25, 1918. Tris Speaker, one of the greatest outfielders the game has ever seen was in center for Cleveland. As it turned out, Joe was the only Cobb who would take the field for Deteroit. Ty wasn't in the lineup. Joe wasn't in the lineup either, but got the opportunity to pinch hit. Interestingly, the official record has contending information on what Cobb did in his only plate appearance.

The official scorebook for that day says he struck out in his only trip to the plate. However, his MLB career stats list him as having one career plate appearance, which was a walk, good for a 1.000 on-base percentage. At this point, the result of his one plate appearance is lost to history. Was it a walk or a strikeout? You can believe what you'd like to believe until there's information to prove otherwise.

In any case, Cobb was sent back down to the minor leagues despite not getting a chance to prove himself. Cobb spent the rest of 1918 playing for the St. Paul Saints of the American Association. He followed that up in 1919 by appearing with the Jersey City Skeeters of the International League. Following that year in which he batted just .232, he walked away from baseball. An astonishing four years later, though, he was back with Jersey City and with the Baltimore Orioles (a minor league team name unaffiliated with the eventual MLB team).

Unbelievably, he spent the next eight seasons in the minor leagues, playing until 1931 when he turned 36 years old. In his day, he was ancient at the time of his retirement. Despite the years toiling in the minor leagues, the American Association was as close as he got to the major leagues again. He was left with just his one career plate appearance to look back on. Even that, we don't know that outcome of. That's for Cobb to know and perhaps one day, us to find out.


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