ATLANTA — Ty Cobb has a tough legacy, to say the least.
He’s one of the greatest players to ever take the field. He holds the all-time career batting average record with a .366 average and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 as part of the inaugural class.
Yet, he’s remembered as an angry racist.
Now, as the Atlanta Braves prepare to move to Cobb County in 2017, an odd controversy has arisen. What should happen to the Ty Cobb statue that currently stands outside of Turner Field?
The Braves say do not own the statue and have no plans to relocate it to their new digs north of the city. However, in an unrelated controversy, the team claims ownership of a Hank Aaron statue and planning to relocate it to the new stadium; they are also taking with them statues of former Braves pitchers Phil Niekro and Warren Spahn.
What’s interesting is that Cobb, a native of Royston, Ga., and known as “The Georgia Peach,” never played for the Braves. Aaron the former — or current to some who look past bloated steroids-inflated numbers — home run king played for the Braves in Milwaukee and Atlanta.
But, the notion of Cobb as a racist apparently dates to a biography published in the 1960s. Though it is interesting that a supposedly racist Cobb once called the black Willie Mays “the only player I’d pay money to see.”
“He wasn’t a saint by any means,” 11Alive quoted author Charles Leehrsen as saying of Cobb. “He was a tough guy and a fierce competitor. But he was not the racist and spikes-flashing maniac he’s portrayed to be.”
What will happen to the Cobb statue in Atlanta is anybody’s guess. Will it remain at Turner Field after it is redeveloped into a casino or an athletic facility for Georgia State?
“I worry about it getting pushed to the corner of a vacant lot somewhere with kudzu growing all over it,” CNHI quoted Julie Ridgway, who married Cobb’s cousin and is director of the Ty Cobb Museum, as saying. “That’s what I fear.”