Ty Cobb...the greatest Cleveland Indian of them all?
It might have been, had Cleveland player-manager Napoleon Lajoie been willing to trade Elmer Flick, a competent but unspectacular outfielder, straight up for the petulent young Detroit prodigy in March of 1907. Detroit skipper Hughie Jennings offered the deal, which Lajoie turned down, believing Cobb to be too much of a trouble-maker.
Lajoie was right about Cobb's reputation. A feuder, a battler, he fought viciously with several teammates, who hated him with equal passion. Jennings moved Sam Crawford to center field, just to keep Cobb and fellow outfielder Matty McIntyre separate. But 10 batting titles later, there wasn't much question Lajoie was wrong to quash the trade.
Cobb won the first of those titles that very season, batting .350 and carrying Detroit to the American League championship by a game and a half over Philadelphia. (The Indians finished 8 back; the following year they lost by a half-game. Take that, Nap!)
The very first game, a 2-0 victory over Cleveland in Detroit, set the tone. In the eighth inning, Cobb singled, stole second, continued to third when Nig Clarke's throw to Lajoie got away, and scored when Flick's throw skipped past the third baseman. Cobb slumped for a few weeks, but by June was back over .300. His final .350 average bested teammate Crawford by 27 points. Flick batted .302.
After one August game against Washington, Cobb wrote that hehad "encountered the most threatening sight I ever saw on the ball field..." a pitcher whose throws "hissed with danger." The pitcher was rookie Walter Johnson.
ELSEWHERE IN BASEBALL
Giants catcher Roger Bresnahan introduces shin guards during a game April 11.
Walter Johnson wins his first major league game Aug. 7, beating Cleveland 7-2.
IN THE WORLD
Nieman-Marcus opens a department store in Dallas Sept. 4.
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