What If? Ty Cobb's 1911 Season

By davidfunk74
May. 02, 2014

Ty Cobb, at age 25, was already in his seventh season with the Detroit Tigers.  In 1907, Cobb helped lead the Tigers to a World Series appearance after leading the league in batting average for the first time.  He would help the Tigers reach the World Series again for the next two years, but he and Detroit were on the losing end all three times.  In 1910, he led the league again with a .383 batting average.  But it was his 1911 season that would be his best though he never again would play in a World Series game.  Still, his 1911 season is one of the greatest of all-time in Major League Baseball history.

In 1911, World War I was three years away from starting.  The Titanic didn't sink until the following year although it was launched in 1911.  Norwegian Roald Amundsen's group were the first to reach the South Pole in 1911.  The U.S. was also three years away from direct involvement in the Mexican Revolution.  In Major League Baseball, the game was dominated by pitchers up until this time.  But in 1911, the American League introduced a cork-centered baseball that resulted in more high scoring games.  Ty Cobb, along with future Hall of Famer Sam Crawford, took advantage of this with outstanding seasons and record numbers for the Detroit Tigers in 1911.

On my other site, I used to post historical seasons for players before fantasy sports become prominent in our society.  Now just imagine you were around in the 1910s, and you were able to get Ty Cobb for your team?  Since he had four consecutive batting titles going into 1911, he would've no doubt been the top pick in all drafts at a time when offensive production was different.  Now let's take a look at how you would've done had you had Ty Cobb on your team in 1911. 

MLB's Scoring System for Hitters
Single = 1
Double = 2
Triple = 3
Home Run = 4
Run = 1
RBI = 1
Walk = 1
Stolen Base = 2
Caught Stealing = -1

Ty Cobb's 1911 statistics:

Note:  Cobb played in 146 games in 1911.

Single: 169 = 169

Double: 47 = 94

Triple: 24 = 72

Home Run: 8 = 32

Run: 147 = 147

RBI: 127 = 127

Walk: 44 = 44

Stolen Base: 83 = 166

Caught Stealing: NA

Total Fantasy Points:  851

Points Per Game:  5.83

The Tigers got off to a great start in 1911 when they started 12-1.  On April 18, Cobb stole home on a double steal attempt as the Tigers beat Cleveland 5-1.  Cobb would steal home a record 54 times in his career.

Less than a month later on May 1 against Cleveland again, Cobb stole home as he helped lead the Tigers to a 14-5 victory.  Six days later, Cobb went 4-for-5 in a 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox.

On May 12 against the Yankees, Cobb had three runs scored, two RBIs, and scored the game-winning run in a 6-5 win.  Cobb scored once from first base on a single, on a wild pitch, and the winning run when the Yankees disputed a call at the plate with no timeout being called.  Before scoring the game-winner, Cobb had tied the game with a two-run double before he strolled home from second base when the Yankees argued the call when the tying run scored.

The next day on May 13, Cobb hit the first grand slam of his career.  But the Tigers blew a 10-1 lead as the Red Sox eventually won the game 13-11 in ten innings.

Two days later, Cobb began what turned out to be a 40-game hitting streak.  In that game, Cobb scored the game-winning run in the 10th inning after being intentionally walked.

On May 23, Cobb got the better of legendary pitcher Walter Johnson as the Tigers beat him and the Senators 9-8.  Johnson came on in relief to face Cobb with the bases loaded in the 8th inning as he walked him forcing in the winning run.

On June 3, Cobb once again got the better of Johnson and the Senators.  Cobb had three hits, including two triples, to help the Tigers win 7-2.  He also had three stolen bases in the game.

On June 18, the Tigers completed the biggest comeback in MLB history against the White Sox.  Trailing 13-1, the Tigers overcame the deficit with a 16-15 victory.  Cobb had a big hand in the comeback with four hits, five RBIs, and scoring the game-winner in the 9th inning off a double from Crawford.

Cobb broke what was then the AL record by getting a hit in his 30th straight game two days later.  He also stole two bases in helping the Tigers beat Cleveland 8-3.  On July 2, Cobb extended his streak to 40 games when he had three hits and three runs scored in a 14-6 win over Cleveland.

On July 4, future MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Ed Walsh stopped Cobb's hitting streak at 40 games as the White Sox beat Detroit 7-3.  During the hitting streak, Cobb went 80-for-168(.476) with 40 runs scored.  He had 26 multi-hit games during that stretch as well.

However, Detroit fell out of first place in the standings to the Philadelphia Athletics after the loss to Chicago.  It was the first day of the season that the Tigers weren't in first place in the AL standings.

Eight days later on July 12, Cobb stole three bases in one inning on three consecutive pitches.  Cobb scored three times in a 9-0 victory over the A's.  This was the second time in his career that Cobb stole three bases in one inning.  He also scored from second base on a sacrifice fly in the 7th inning of that game.

The next day, Cobb ignored a hold sign by the third base coach, and scored the game-winning run on a fade away slide at home plate to give the Tigers a 8-7 win over the Athletics to remain in first place.

The lead wouldn't last as the Athletics took control of the American League standings for good on August 3 when beating Detroit 3-2.  Cobb was batting over .440 in August before he took time off after the A's were pulling away from the Tigers in mid-August.

Cobb helped lead the Tigers to a 9-4 victory over the Red Sox after stealing home on a triple steal attempt in the first inning on August 18.

In September, Cobb did his part in trying to get the Tigers to the post-season with a 16-game hitting streak.  He finished the season batting .420 after sitting out the last four games.  On September 26, Philadelphia clinched the AL pennant and eventually went on to win the World Series.  The Tigers finished second with a 82-72 record, and 13.5 games behind the Athletics.

On September 29, Cobb was fined $100 for playing in a semipro game by the National Commission.

The Detroit Tigers as a team batted a then-record .292 with Cobb leading the way at .420.  Crawford also batted .378 while Jim Delahanty added a .339 average.  As good as their batting was, their ERA as a team was second worst in the AL at 3.73 which at the time in the Dead Ball Era was high.

In 1911, the MVP award for both leagues were given out for the first time.  Cobb was the first winner in the American League, and Chicago Cubs player Frank Schulte took home the first NL MVP.  They both received Chalmers cars for winning those awards.

Cobb's best season seen him lead the league in batting average, runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs, stolen bases, total bases, and slugging percentage.  All those turned out to be career highs except for stolen bases when he had 96 in 1915.

He missed getting his second triple crown(the first being in 1909) when Frank "Home Run" Baker led the AL in home runs with 11.

Cobb went on to play 24 MLB seasons.  He batted .300 or better in 23 consecutive seasons which hasn't come close to being matched.  He led the league in batting average nine consecutive seasons(1907-15) and twelve times total in his career.  For many years, his career batting average was thought to be .367 until a mistake was discovered knocking it down to .366.  But his .366 mark is the best of all-time.  That mark hasn't been eclipsed in a single season very often since 1940.

His all-time hit total has often been disputed from either 4,191 or 4,189.  Regardless, it was later famously passed by Pete Rose in 1985.  His all-time total of 897 stolen bases remained a record until broken by Lou Brock, and later, Rickey Henderson.

Despite his very impressive career as well as aggressive playing style, he's largely remembered for his negative personal reputation.  A large, contributing factor to all this happened in one month in August 1905.

In a span of one month, Cobb's father was shot and killed by his own mother.  His mother shot him thinking he was a burglar after he was suspecting her of an affair.  Later that month, Cobb was signed by the Tigers which meant he would be outside the South for the first time in his life.  That incident scarred the young Cobb forever and is the biggest factor in his overly intense desire to succeed that he would later show in Major League Baseball.

Cobb was subjected to rookie hazing in 1905 which complicated things for him even more.  He was often confrontational with his players and teammates including Sam Crawford.  The hazing fueled his intensity and desire as well as temper even further.

Although he engaged in plenty of well-documented fights with African-American players in his playing days, his views on racism changed drastically after he retired.  In fact, he publicly supported African-American players in MLB in 1952.

Despite his feud with Crawford, he later lobbied heavily for his induction into the Hall of Fame that he would get himself in 1957.

In 1936, Cobb was among the first five players inducted into the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame class.  He received the most votes of the class after appearing on 222 of 226 ballots.

He wisely invested his money in Coca-Cola as well as a company that would become a part of General Motors.  His estate when he died in 1961 was said to be worth over $11 million(about $93 million in today's market).

Cobb was a very controversial, confrontational, and intense player.  Despite all that, he's still one of the greatest players in the history of the game.  His batting and base running skills as well as numbers are a testament to how legendary of a player he really was.

Previous What If? baseball posts:

Babe Ruth's 1921 season

Ted Williams' 1941 season