Ty Cobb is my favorite historical baseball player. Reading the new biography of him by Charles Leerhsen, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, has confirmed this. When he retired from baseball, Cobb held ninety (90!) Major League records. When we think of him today, we primarily think of his hitting with good reason, as he still holds the career record for batting average at .366, the record for consecutive league batting titles at nine, and the record for most consecutive seasons batting at least .300 at an amazing 23. There have been over 100,000 men who have played baseball in the Major Leagues since 1900 but only two, Peter Rose and Ty Cobb, have over 4,000 hits.
So, Cobb was a great contact hitter, but what he was most known for in his day (1905-1928) was his base running. He not only set the record for most stolen bases, he also routinely kept running when all others would have stopped, makings singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He would tag up and take the next base on in-field popups and steal when the fielder threw the ball back to the pitcher. Jackie Robinson became famous partly for stealing home plate. He did it 19 times in his career. Cobb took home 54 times. My favorite Cobb story involves an inside-the-park home run that never left the infield. There was a man on third when Cobb hit a little dribbler. The runner assumed that the fielders would throw to first and tried to take home. Unfortunately for him, they threw to the catcher at home and caught him in a run-down. While he was darting back and forth between home and third with most of the other team chasing after him, no one notices that Cobb has kept rounding the bases. As they finally tagged the runner out near third base, Cobb was just passing third and headed for home. The opposing team was so agape at his chutzpah that no one thought to throw to home, and Cobb scored. You never knew what he was going to do, which was part of his plan. He intentionally tried to get into the heads of the opposing team. It has been said that if they kept records on causing poor, panicked throws Cobb would own that record too. In fact, a contemporary catcher, Ray Schalk, said “When Cobb is on first base and he breaks for second, the best thing you can do, really, is to throw to third.” When Cobb, who played for the Detroit Tigers, was roaming the bases, the other team needed to pay attention or he’d make them look silly.
So, Cobb was a Tiger prowling the bases trying to disrupt the other team. Please tell me you are already turning your Bibles to 1 Peter 5. 1 Pet. 5:8-9 “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” Like Cobb, Satan is roaming around trying to get us. Like the opposing baseball team, we are never sure exactly what Satan will throw at us next and we have to keep watch constantly. Unlike Cobb, who was trying to destroy confidence and win a baseball game, Satan’s is trying to destroy our souls and send us to Hell. We must be watchful. We must be aware. Satan’s “batting average” is unfortunately high. We are promised, however, that we can resist him. If we do, he will flee (James 4:7). That’s something Ty Cobb never did.