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Five Baseball Giants More Racist than Ty Cobb

  • Dec 6, 2011
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If you follow baseball or have any sense of its history, you already know legendary Detroit Tiger Ty Cobb. In a career that lasted from 1905 to 1928, Cobb racked up 4191 hits, 1939 RBI, and 117 home runs - which may seem small now, but was A LOT back then. His career batting average was a whopping .367, still the highest in baseball history. During his career, he only batted under .320 once, while hitting over .400 THREE TIMES. He actually scored 2245 runs himself, and his 892 - 54 of which were successful takes of home plate - stolen bases is third ever. He never won the World Series despite reaching it several times, but there is a very solid case for Ty Cobb being the greatest ballplayer of all time. 

You probably also know Cobb was a mean dude. He once ended up in a fight with a groundskeeper in which he is reported to have also choked his wife. You know the myriad stories, in fact, so there's little point in repeating them: Might have killed a man once (false - a journalist went searching the city death records for that and couldn't find one of anyone dying the day Cobb claimed to have done this, or some such), sharpened his spikes to dig into opposing players, and once beat up a guy with no hands. (Some say he didn't even have arms. Cobb was unrepentant, saying he didn't care if the guy didn't have any legs.) That last incident was the result of a heckler making a reference to Cobb's racial purity.

And there you have it. Racist. The one crime Cob committed which stands out above the others. Now, you shouldn't try to make excuses for racism, but the thing with Cobb's racism is that, in the grand scheme of things, his racism for the most part seemed to be mostly bark and no bite, even in spite of the limbless man's beating. Cobb's racism, in fact, stemmed more from the fact that he was a product of 19th-century Georgia, and his own racism wasn't any worse than the racism of anyone else from his part of the country. 

Or, for that matter, worse than anyone else's in Major League Baseball. Again, it's not that this is excusable, but there were racists in Major League Baseball whose racial crimes were far, far worse than anything Cobb ever did. And some of these guys were as popular as Cobb. You've probably heard of some of them, actually. Like these five, all of whom can clobber Cobb for the crown of baseball's (white) supreme racist.
Rogers Hornsby
Hornsby is regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals, who have retired his number. He also played for the New York Giants, Boston Braves, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Browns. His .358 career batting average is exceeded only by Cobb's. He's a Hall of Famer.

And by all accounts, he was at least as nasty as Cobb. He took the extra step of insisting that other players follow his lifestyle. Since he didn't smoke, drink, play cards, or go to movies, you can imagine how well that went over with his teammates. 

But this isn't a nastiness list. This is a racism list. And Hornsby is getting a nod here for being a member of the fucking Ku Klux Klan. 
Cap Anson
Anson was a pre-modern-era player. He played his whole career before the year 1900.

If any readers of this list are minorities, THIS is where you place the blame for pro sports segregation. Right here, with this asshole. Believe it or not, Major League Baseball started out as an integrated league. But Anson wasn't gonna take them "chocolate-covered coons" (Anson's term) playing his pure white man's game, dammit! So beginning in 1883, Anson refused to take the field in exhibition games against teams with black players. And instead of standing by their teammates, many of whom got into professional baseball because they were, you know, good at it, Anson's opponents let him have his way. In the late 1880's, Internation League team owners voted 6-4 to exclude black players from contracts. By the turn of the 20th century, blacks were out of baseball. 

The cowards who owned teams certainly don't deserve to be let off the hook here, and with Plessy vs. Ferguson just around the corner, the popularity of black people in general - already nonexistent - was waning, and that probably played a role too. But Anson deserves a steaming, heaping pile of blame for his role in the whole setup which necessitated Jackie Robinson's callup. 
Tom Yawkey
Yawkey bought the Red Sox a few years after the sale of Babe Ruth and spent like it was going out of style to turn them into contenders. He's also known for being blinded by racism so badly that he let Jackie Robinson get away after giving him a tryout in 1945. 

Yes, you read that right. Yawkey gave Jackie Robinson a tryout and said "don't call us, we'll call you." The tryout was mainly to appease civil rights activists, and Yawkey knew from the get-go that none of them colored folk were going to join his team. Even after baseball began integrating, he held out until 1959 - 12 years after Jackie Robinson debuted for the Dodgers, four years after Robinson led the Dodgers to their first-ever World Series title, and two years AFTER HE RETIRED! When Yawkey finally relented, it was to allow a walk-on role to Pumpsie Green. 

Yawkey definitely deserves blame for perpetuating racism and keeping Boston in the basement for so long. But the blame people lay at his feet for not signing Robinson isn't entirely warranted considering the next person on this list...
Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Landis's reputation goes almost entirely with being a guy who wouldn't kowtow to the team owners. He was the man they couldn't push around, who stood for law and principle and banned the eight conspirators who threw the 1919 World Series for life. 

As knowledgeable baseball fans know, he didn't quite get even that as right as we want to believe - there were questions surrounding how involved some of the conspirators actually were. Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver both have strong enough cases for their innocence. 

Actually, Landis overall is an overrated figurehead. Aside from banning players who may not have deserved it, he was also instrumental in making the Abner Doubleday myth about baseball's creation the official story, which makes him a liar as well. The Doubleday myth is demonstrably fake and has been proven so. 

But Landis saved his toughest rulings for baseball's integration, which he took an active role in preventing until his death in 1947. If someone had a black player they wanted to sign - and at one point, Bill Veeck had an entire team of blacks almost up and ready to go before Landis stepped in - Landis would do anything, up to and including taking over the team operations, to put "those people" back in their place. 

Yeah, Landis really isn't worthy of such an awesome name, let alone his reputation.

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December 13, 2011
What an interesting list!
December 08, 2011
Wow, mind boggling. I'm glad that the times have changed and have allowed for talents of all races to emerge. Thanks for sharing this eye-opening list!
December 08, 2011
Yeah, me too. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in what still needs to be done that we forget just how far we've come since those days.
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Nicholas Croston ()
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