« where was rube foster really born? | Main | oscar charleston MLEs »

August 14, 2008


Gary Ashwill

Hi John, sorry, didn't see your comment until now. No, I don't have the 2nd Cuban Esso guide. I do have 45/46, 46/47, and 48/49 Cuban guides with complete box scores for all the Cuban League games in those seasons (but nothing on Mexico).

Yeah, I've seen the '53 Jet article, and know about Downer (he managed the 1921 Pittsburgh Keystones). The Cobb matter is too complicated to go into further for the moment (I guess I should write something longer about it, although I don't really want to). Suffice it to say there are some social media (and regular media) takes out there I don't like at all, and I'm not a big fan of having my stuff dragooned into supporting them.


Ty Cobb may have a Dirty Harry defense (in one of those Clint Eastwood movies there is the line: "He's not a racist, he hates everybody equally).
However, all jokes aside, google "Baseball History Daily" and "Fred Downer" for a fascinating story about Ty Cobb printed in a 1953 Jet Magazine. Cobb was in Chicago watching a Chicago Cubs/Brooklyn Dodger game. While there, he was apparently interviewed by Wendall Smith and spoke glowingly of Roy Campanella. He was also seen meeting and hugging Fred Downer.
Downer, who operated a newstand in Chicago at that time, had grown up around the Cobb household in Georgia. Downer, of course, was black and had played briefly in the Negro Leagues.
Makes you wonder...
Addendum: Just wanted to check if you had the complete 1944 & 1945 Mexican League statistics (including complete pitchers' batting statistics) printed in the 2nd Cuban Esso Guide.

Gary Ashwill

Well, my account here is based on Cuban newspapers published at the time, specifically La Lucha and Diario de la Marina. They gave fairly lavish coverage to the Tigers series, and to Cobb in particular, since his presence in Cuba was a very big deal. That series was also covered in the United States, including in The Sporting Life and in newspaper columns written by Billy Evans, who was an umpire for the series. Honestly there is no mystery about what happened. It’s just that over the years the details grew fuzzy, Cuban newspapers were hard to come by in the United States, and some distortions crept into the story.

Remember that Bruce Petway did throw out Cobb twice in one game, on November 28, 1910. He threw Cobb out trying to bunt his way on, and then later he cut him down trying to steal. Also, check out this passage in the original post:

It’s quite possible Cobb tried to steal unsuccessfully in the two games that lack play-by-play accounts. In the 3-2 Tigers win over Almendares on December 1 Cobb went 1 for 5, and [Gervasio] González [Habana’s catcher, who was Black] had three assists. And in the Tigers’ 12-4 trouncing of Habana on December 4, Cobb went 2 for 5 with three runs scored, while Petway had two assists. But if Cobb tried to steal in these games, there is no indication of it in any of the game stories I have.

So it could be that he was thrown out stealing in those games, too—we just don’t know. Also, Cobb was thrown out at home trying to score from first in the November 27 game (González was the catcher), and the fact is that he failed to steal a single base in the whole series. I wrote the original post 11 years ago; hopefully more Cuban papers or baseball magazines will become available someday with more details.

By the way, my impression is that in Cuba at the time it was considered a much bigger deal that José Méndez struck out Cobb in the final game.

As for Larry Brown—I’m aware of that story. Brown certainly played in the Cuban League, a lot—fully six seasons, from 1924/25 through 1930. But Ty Cobb didn’t play any baseball in Cuba in the 1920s. If it was major news for Cobb to play in Cuba in 1910, if anything it would have been an even bigger event in the 1920s. To my knowledge, nobody has ever been able to substantiate the story that Brown played against Cobb.

You might want to check out this post as well:


I’m aware that on some social media (and in some newspapers and websites) there’s been an attempt to claim that Ty Cobb has been “proven” not to be racist and that his racist reputation is some sort of horrible injustice that needs to be rectified. This is apparently based on a book by Charles Leerhsen called Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. I haven’t read it, but to be clear, I find many of the ideas and impressions that it has inspired to be superficial and misleading at best and deeply wrongheaded at worst, and I hope nobody is trying to conscript my research into this effort.


Click Link https://amzn.to/2XWvRUN. To Order or Review Voices From the Great Black Baseball Leagues.

1926 - Larry Brown, the great defensive Negro League catcher, 1919-1949, tells of a story about Ty Cobb. He says that while he was a member of the Detroit Stars in 1926, he went to Havana, Cuba to play ball there that winter. He says that Ty was there and that he threw Ty out 5 times in succession. After the game, he alleges that Ty offered to try to introduce him to the MLB and pass him off as a Cuban. Brown says he passed on the idea, due to the fact that he was so very well known all around the US as a member of the Detroit Stars. But this story is insisted on by Larry Brown himself. (Voices From The Great Black Baseball Leagues, by John Holway, 1975, pp. 207-209)


Gary Ashwill why are you trying to rewrite history. The Cuban papers and many of the Negro League books state Cobb was thrown out 3 times in a row trying to steal and they had no idea about all of the attention given to Cobb as he was average if not below average player in those leagues. He did leave early out of frustration. It's a shame the way the media tries to protect their white heroes. It's sad and pathetic.

Gary Ashwill

No, I don't think they ever faced each other--see my latest post.

Bob Poet

Gary, do you have anything that details Cobb facing Dick "Cannonball" Redding? Perhaps after Cobb's retirement from baseball (1928) or in Georgia during his brief 1913 holdout.
Or another time if/when Cobb was in Cuba??

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Tip Jar


Tip Jar

Other Projects

Important Posts


Blog powered by Typepad