He took great pride in his ability to execute what we’d call “small ball” today so it’s not surprising that on multiple occasions Ty Cobb happily complied with photographers’ requests to show off his bunting style.
As Cobb’s former batboy, Jimmy Lanier, recalled in a SABR volume entitled The National Pastime, “Mr. Cobb would run several miles every day, run the bases ‘for time’ over and over, and spend a couple of hours every day just bunting the ball. He had a way of drawing the bat back and hitting the ball into the ground so the ball would roll slowly. The third baseman could not get to it in time, and Mr. Cobb would be on first base.”
How many of Cobb’s 4,191 hits were bunt singles we may never know but it’s safe to say a lot of them were. Now, a newly uncovered photo of Cobb showing off that technique has hit the auction block.
The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day dates to 1918 or 1919, the only years in which the Detroit Tigers wore the type of uniform he had on when the image was snapped just over 100 years ago. RMY calls it “a new discovery and possibly unique.”
The photo was originally in a scrapbook and some slight residue remains on the back but the image is clear enough that the worn edges of the tape on Cobb’s bat, the brand on the barrel and even the threads on his jersey can be detected.
Cobb was in his early 30s when the photo was taken. He would win the last of his 12 American League batting titles in 1919 and was coming off the second of two seasons in which he would record hitting streaks of 35 or more games. He remains the only player in history to accomplish either feat. He also won his third straight stolen base title in 1917.
The photo is one of over 500 images in RMY’s March Auction, set to conclude Saturday night.