Rucker Ginn

This article was written by Bill Lamb

Rucker Ginn (COURTESY OF BILL LAMB)A star outfielder at the University of Georgia and reputedly a cousin of Ty Cobb, Rucker Ginn received a two-game tryout with the 1914 Cleveland Naps. Farmed out for seasoning, Ginn proceeded to lead the Eastern Association in batting. Yet by the following June, his professional playing days were behind him. Over the ensuing 15 years, Ginn pursued socially useful vocations as a teacher, soldier, small businessman, and civic leader. Then in 1931, tragedy struck. Within a four-month period, both he and his wife died prematurely, orphaning their two young children. The story of Ginn’s short baseball career and sadly abbreviated life follows.

Tinsley Rucker Ginn was born on September 26, 1891 in Royston, Georgia, a small mercantile center located in the northeastern hills of the state. He was one of ten children1 born to prosperous merchant and chicken breeder Stephen Alexander Ginn (1858-1910)2 and his wife Martha Ellen (née Carlton, 1860-1915), both Georgia natives whose area forebears stretched back for generations. Among the Royston friends of the Ginns were the family of William H. Cobb, the county superintendent of schools and the father of baseball immortal Ty Cobb.

The oldest Ginn son, Clifford, was a teammate of Ty on the Royston Rompers and other local nines, and the beau of Eunice Chitwood, the kid sister of Ty’s mother Amanda and a member of the Cobb household. In August 1905, father Stephen Ginn posted the bond that allowed Amanda Chitwood Cobb to be released from custody pending the disposition of the manslaughter charge that arose from her fatal shooting of husband William.3 At trial, Amanda was acquitted, and in 1908 the two clans became related by marriage when Eunice became Mrs. Clifford Ginn. When Ty got married later the same year, Cliff was the only member of the extended family in attendance at the ceremony in Augusta.4

Known as Rucker,5 our subject was educated locally through graduation from Royston High School. During his youth, Rucker followed his older brothers onto local sandlots and developed into an outstanding amateur baseball player. Eventually 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, the left-hand-batting, right-hand-throwing youngster was a near carbon copy of his slightly smaller brother Starks, two years his elder. Although Ty Cobb had left town to begin his storied professional career by 1904, it seems probable that the younger Ginn brothers played recreational or summer baseball with/against Paul Cobb (Ty’s brother, born 1889), before Paul left Royston to embark upon his own lengthy career in high-minor league ball.

Following high school, Rucker Ginn matriculated to the University of Georgia, 30 miles south in Athens. As a freshman, he made varsity and began the 1911 season as the Bulldogs catcher.6 Soon thereafter, he joined Starks in the outfield. With Rucker in left and Starks in right, a Georgia newspaper described the swift-footed Ginn brothers as “moveable tarbuckets waiting for flies and things.”7 Coach Frank Anderson put their offensive skills to good use as well, customarily batting the spray-hitting siblings at the top of the batting order. A split of a mid-May Atlanta-Athens series with archrival Georgia Tech finalized the Bulldogs’ season record at 15-3 (.833) and allowed Georgia to claim the unofficial title of champions of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

Near season’s end, legendary Georgia Tech football/baseball coach John Heisman was torn between selecting his own Carl Sloan or freshman Rucker Ginn for the final outfield spot on his Southern college all-star team. He noted, “both men are batting well over .300, both are excellent outfielders, and both are fast.”8 But Heisman gave Sloan the nod on the basis of experience, a superior throwing arm, and the lefty-batting Ginn’s trouble hitting southpaw pitching.9

Upon his university graduation in June 1911, Starks Ginn entered the professional ranks, signing with the Bristol (Virginia) Boosters of the Class D Appalachian League. Reportedly hitting over .300, he was thereafter purchased by the Roanoke Tigers of the Class C Virginia League.10 There, Starks batted .288 in 46 games and was picked for second team all-Virginia League at season end.11 But he advanced no further, his career having stalled. Following demotion to the Class D Georgia-Alabama League in 1916, Starks Flaver Ginn, Sr. (1889-1970) abandoned the game to enter business in the Royston area.

Meanwhile, Rucker Ginn carried on at the University of Georgia. In 1912, he paced the Bulldogs to yet another winning season but was left off the regional all-star squad selected by his own coach. According to Georgia mentor Frank Anderson, “Rucker Ginn is by far the fastest man in the S.I.A.A. in getting down to first and is a blue streak on the bases [but] he is hardly strong enough with the bat to win a place” on the all-star team.12 Washington Senators club boss Clark Griffith evidently held a higher opinion of Ginn, reportedly trying to sign him during the 1912 season but being rebuffed.13

That September, there was surprising news that “Rucker Ginn, star left fielder in baseball, will be back as a candidate for a place on the Red and Black eleven. He is gritty, nervy and speedy.”14 But if Ginn actually saw game action for the Georgia football team in fall 1912, it escaped mention in discoverable reportage. A December feature in an Atlanta newspaper noted only his incumbency on the university baseball team.15 In spring 1913, his bat came to life, earning him a place on the Heisman all-star team. An Alabama newspaper observed that “Ginn has threatened to be an all southern player for the past three years and this year he has fairly earned a place for himself in the hall of fame. He has always been a startling good fielder and his baserunning was equal to the best. This year it is even better … Heretofore his hitting has been too light, but now he is slamming them out at over the .300 mark.”16 As reward for his sterling 1913 performance, Rucker was also elected captain of the next season’s Georgia team.17

Under the direction of a new coach, former New York Giants shortstop Joe Bean, Georgia captured another unofficial S.I.A.A. crown in 1914. And that June, four-year Bulldogs stalwart T. Rucker Ginn was awarded his Bachelor of Science degree. Privately advised by family friend Ty Cobb – Cobb telegrammed Ginn’s father about how Rucker should approach major league baseball opportunities18 – Ginn signed with the Cleveland Naps shortly after graduation.19 In certain press bulletins it was reported, erroneously, that Ty Cobb and Rucker Ginn were cousins.20 They were not. As noted above, the Cobb and Ginn families were long friendly and ultimately connected by the 1908 marriage of Ty’s Aunt Eunice and Rucker’s older brother Cliff.

By late June, Ginn had arrived in Cleveland and was first observed taking in game action seated in the League Park grandstands alongside injured Naps outfielder-manager Joe Birmingham.21 The newcomer made his major league debut in the first game of a June 27 home doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns. With Cleveland ahead by ten runs and skipper Birmingham looking to rest some of his starters for the second contest, Rucker was dispatched to center field to spell Nemo Leibold in the sixth inning. His one and only at-bat in the big leagues came two frames later against right-hander George Baumgardner. Without a play-by-play account of the game available, we have only the box score to tell us that Ginn put the ball in play but was retired by the Browns. Meanwhile out in center, he was entirely a spectator – not a single fielding chance came his way.22

Three days later, Ginn made his second and final major league game appearance in another match against St. Louis. After Birmingham removed himself for a sixth inning pinch-hitter, he sent Ginn out to take his place in right field. This time he did not make a plate appearance and, as during his debut, got no opportunity to demonstrate his defensive prowess – the Browns again sent him no fielding chances.23 In the ensuing weeks, Ginn was occasionally seen on the Cleveland coaching lines but saw no further game action. Then in late July, he was optioned to the Waterbury (Connecticut) Frolickers of the Class B Eastern Association.24 Only 22 years old, Rucker Ginn’s days as a major leaguer had reached their end.

Ginn got off to a sluggish offensive start with his new club, the newspaper of an Association rival commenting that he “hasn’t been able to demonstrate much batting ability as yet.”25 But he thereafter found his batting eye and “with a sprint worthy of Ty Cobb at his best, Ginn of Waterbury worked to the top of the batting list in the closing days. In nine games he hit at a .571 pace and gained .67 points” on his average. He finished the season with a .331 BA.26 Although Ginn appeared in only 42 games, Springfield sportswriter Sid Challenger, the official statistician of the Eastern Association, declared Ginn the EA batting champion,27 a designation generally accepted by circuit news outlets.28

Over the winter, the Eastern Association dissolved, making its players free agents. Notwithstanding recognition as EA batting champ, Rucker had difficulty securing new employment. A report that he had been signed by the Aberdeen (Washington) Black Cats of the Class B Northwestern League proved unfounded.29 A Ty Cobb wire to the Topeka (Kansas) Jayhawks of the Class A Western League on Ginn’s behalf also failed to land him a job offer.30 With the 1915 season already underway, Ginn finally received a chance with the Charleston (South Carolina) Sea Gulls of the Class C South Atlantic League.31 His time in Charleston, however, would be brief.

Given the right field job, Ginn was rusty with the bat, beginning his Charleston tenure 0-for-14 in his first four starts. He broke into the base hit column with a single and double in a 1-0 Sea Gulls win over Columbus on May 24, and “was a sensation” with three hits and “some lofty fly ball [outs] of threatening mien” in a doubleheader split with Macon four days later.32 But after a ten-game audition, Ginn’s batting average languished at .143 (5-for-35) and he was given his release by Charleston.33 Still only 23, the professional baseball career of Rucker Ginn was over. In future years, his ballplaying was confined to an occasional University of Georgia alumni game.

Ginn returned to Georgia and obtained a teaching position in rural Blakely. Thereafter in 1916, he was elected to a mathematics instructor’s chair at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville.34 In September 1917, he took a bride, marrying 20-year-old Mary Frances Davis. About the same time, he accepted a commission in the US Army but spent the entirety of World War I stationed Stateside. Lt. Ginn was mustered out shortly after hostilities ended in November 1918 but remained a member of the Army Reserve for the rest of his life, eventually attaining the rank of major.

The Ginns began their family in 1922 but, sadly, first-born son Charles did not survive infancy. Daughter Martha Ellen (born 1924) and son Tinsley Rucker, Jr. (1926) followed. In time, the family relocated to the Atlanta suburb of Covington, where Rucker became proprietor of a Ford dealership. He also became “active in all [Covington] civic affairs” and was elected president of the local Kiwanis Club in 1930.35 Life was good until tragedy suddenly befell the family the following year. In spring 1931, wife Frances was stricken with agranulocytosis, a rare blood disorder usually precipitated by an adverse reaction to medication. Only 34, she died on April 14.36 Four months later, Rucker was afflicted with an anal fistula that resulted in sepsis. He also came down with streptococcal cellulitis.37 Hospitalized at Baptist Hospital in Atlanta, he died there on the evening of August 30, 1931. Tinsley Rucker Ginn was 39 and left behind two young children.38 Following funeral services at First Baptist Church in Covington, his remains were transported home to Royston and interred besides those of his wife in Rose Hill Cemetery.



This biography was originally published in the November 2021 issue of The Inside Game, the quarterly newsletter of SABR’s Deadball Era Committee. This version was reviewed by Rory Costello and Warren Corbett and checked for accuracy by SABR’s fact-checking team.



1 The other Ginn children were Clifford (born 1882), Maude (1883), Candler (1887), Starks (1889), Dee Jannah (1895), Anna Belle (1897), Stephen, Jr. (1899), and Tally (1903). An unidentified daughter born in 1885 did not survive infancy.

2 The Ginn Chicken, a “toothsome but feisty bird,” was a local staple. See Charles Leerhsen, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015), 34.

3 Leerhsen, 93. Amanda Cobb’s bond was fixed at $7,000. After she had shot her husband, Amanda dispatched Clifford Ginn to get a doctor. See “Mrs. Cobb Gives Bond,” Bamberg (South Carolina) News, August 17, 1905: 4; “Wife Who Shot Husband Held for Manslaughter,” Pensacola (Florida) News, August 11, 1905: 1.

4 Leerhsen, 193. See also, Charles C. Alexander, Ty Cobb (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 69.

5 Although Baseball-Reference lists him as Tinsley Ginn, the only discovered newsprint use of our subject’s first name appears in his 1931 Atlanta Constitution obituary. To family, friends, and the sports press of his time, he was Rucker Ginn, the name that is employed herein.

6 In Athens on March 22, 1911, Rucker caught all nine innings of a 9-3 spring exhibition game loss to the American League New York Highlanders.

7 “Tech and Georgia Play Game Today,” Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle, May 4, 1911: 4.

8 “Coach Heisman Selects His All-Southern Nine,” Atlanta Constitution, May 14, 1911: 7. See also, “All-Southern Team as Chosen by Heisman,” Birmingham (Alabama) Age-Herald, May 21, 1911: 15.

9 “Coach Heisman Selects,” above.

10 As reported in “The Virginia League,” Sporting Life, July 29, 1911: 22. Baseball-Reference has Bristol’s otherwise unidentified “Ginn” batting .273 in 29 games.

11 Per “The Virginia League,” Sporting Life, August 26, 1911: 23.

12 F.B. Anderson, “Coach Anderson of Georgia Picks All-Southern Team,” Chattanooga (Tennessee) News, May 28, 1912: 12. For his outfield, Anderson selected Sid Holland (Alabama), Lou Hardage (Vanderbilt), and Ginn teammate Bob McWhorter (Georgia).

13 As subsequently reported in “Baseball Notes,” Boston Globe, June 8, 1914: 7; “Sporting Notes,” Barre (Vermont) Times, June 19, 1914: 3; and elsewhere.

14 Per “Georgia Ready – Gets Pleasant Surprise,” Tampa Tribune, September 18, 1912: 6.

15 See “Georgia Baseball Prospects Are Far from Bright,” Atlanta Georgian, December 5, 1912: 7.

16 “Heisman Gives Alabama Two Men on All-Southern,” Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News, May 20, 1913: 4.

17 See “Ginn Made Captain,” Augusta Chronicle, May 29, 1913: 9; “Ginn Heads Georgia,” Tampa Tribune, May 29, 1913: 16.

18 According to 1971 correspondence of son T. Rucker Ginn contained in the Rucker Ginn file at the Giamatti Research Center, Cooperstown.

19 As reported in “Signs with Cleveland,” Augusta Chronicle, June 4, 1914: 4, which described Ginn as “a safe hitter, a wonderfully successful base-runner, and a fine fielder with a good arm.”

20 See e.g., “New Player for Cleveland,” Sporting Life, June 13, 1914: 2; “What’s in a Name?” (Bisbee) Arizona Orb, June 21, 1914: 7. Rucker was actually a member of a preceding generation – even though he was five years younger than Ty.

21 Per Edwards, “Features,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 22, 1914: 9.

22 The game ended 16-4 in Cleveland’s favor.

23 St. Louis won, 5-0.

24 See “Cleveland Chat,” Sporting Life, July 25, 1914: 6.

25 Springfield (Massachusetts) Union, August 6, 1914: 14.

26 “Final Figures by Sid Challenger,” Springfield Union, September 15, 1914: 12.

27 Same as above.

28 See e.g., “In the Field of Sports,” Barre Times, September 16, 1914: 3. Today, Waterbury teammate Elmer Smith (.332) is the recognized Eastern Association batting leader for 1914. See The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff, eds. (Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, Inc., 3d ed. 2007), 252.

29 See “Rucker Ginn in Athens,” Atlanta Constitution, March 26, 1915: 11.

30 The Cobb wire to Topeka was reported in the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle, April 3, 1915: 7. Ty’s younger brother Paul Cobb had just spent a productive four seasons (1910-1913) with the Western League club in Lincoln, Nebraska.

31 See “Star Outfielder for Local Team,” Charleston (South Carolina) Evening Post, May 20, 1915: 2.

32 Per the Charleston Evening Post, May 28, 1915: 2.

33 As reported in “In the World of Sports,” Charleston Evening Post, May 30, 1915: 2.

34 See “Fall Term at GMC Will Begin September 12,” Atlanta Constitution, August 27, 1916: 8.

35 Per the Ginn obituary published in the Atlanta Constitution, September 1, 1931.

36 Per the Georgia death certificate for Frances Ginn, accessed via

37 Per the Georgia death certificate contained in the Rucker Ginn file at the Giamatti Research Center.

38 Daughter Martha and son Tinsley were raised by Rucker’s younger brother Stephen and his wife Lois.

Full Name

Tinsley Rucker Ginn


September 26, 1891 at Royston, GA (USA)


August 30, 1931 at Atlanta, GA (USA)

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