He was a huge star who would have given an upstart league its biggest drawing card. Ty Cobb had to have been tempted but in the weeks leading up to spring training in 1914, he did what Detroit Tigers owner Frank Navin was hoping he would: sign a new contract with the team, not just for one year but making a commitment for two.
Now, that historic pact between Cobb and the Tigers is about to go up for auction. The document, carrying signatures of Cobb, Navin and American League President Ban Johnson, is expected to sell for $250,000 or more in Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night sale later this summer.
The 14x 8 1/2″ document includes clear fountain pen signatures and remains in generally good condition. It’s the first time Heritage has ever offered a Cobb contract at auction.
Navin had given Cobb the option of signing for one or two seasons at $15,000 per year, the rough equivalent to over $400,000 today. The figure would make Cobb the highest paid player in baseball at the time. It represented a nice raise from the $12,000 he’d been playing for and Cobb opted to take the two-year deal, spurning the Federal League’s early advances. Teams in the new league would continue to keep after him, though, and in August Navin secured Cobb’s autograph on another new pact with the Tigers–this one keeping him in the fold for an additional year.
The Tigers definitely got their money’s worth. Cobb won his eighth and ninth consecutive batting titles in ’14 and ’15 en route to a career total of 12. In 1915, he stole 96 bases, a record until Maury Wills finally surpassed it in 1962.
Bidding is expected to open July 30 and three weeks later.