The Knife in Ty Cobb’s Back

From Gilbert King at on August 30, using research by SABR members Doug Roberts, Ron Cobb, Peter J. Nash and Bill Burgess III:

“In 1912—and you can write this down—I killed a man in Detroit.”

Al Stump, commissioned in 1960 to ghostwrite Ty Cobb’s autobiography, My Life in Baseball: The True Record, would say it was a boozy, pill-induced, off-the-record confession—a secret revealed by the Detroit Tigers great as he spent the last painful year of his life battling cancer. The confession never made its way into the book Stump was writing for Doubleday & Company. With Cobb insisting on editorial control, Stump claimed, his role was to help the ballplayer give his account of his legendary but controversial life and career, even if the effort might be self-serving. It was, after all, Cobb’s book, he said, so the sportswriter filed the murder confession away with the rest of his notes.

Instead, the autobiography offers an account of a comeuppance rather than a killing, an encounter more in line with the “Nobody can pull that stuff on me!” persona that the baseball legend still liked to project at age 73.


By 1912, Cobb had established himself as one of the baseball’s biggest stars, and he would eventually be recognized as one of the greatest to ever play the game. When the National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted its inaugural class in 1936, he received more votes than any other player, including Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Matthewson and Honus Wagner. By all accounts, he was fiery, belligerent, mean-tempered and capable of violence. But did he kill a man?

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Originally published: August 30, 2011. Last Updated: August 30, 2011.