Walk by a newsstand or store early in 1913 and you might have seen it. The oversized action photo of Ty Cobb sliding into third base was no doubt an attention getter, especially if you followed baseball. Cobb was in a dispute with Detroit Tigers owner Frank Navin over money. After hitting .409 and winning his sixth straight batting title, Cobb wanted his salary raised from $10,000 to $15,000. A holdout ensued.
The Photo of the Day from RMY Auctions is an original, silver gelatin, double weight photo of Cobb that measures 17” long. Designed to be hung up as a sort of advertising piece to sell newspapers, the photo carries a caption on the back that details the basics of what was happening with Cobb at the time. Few of these type of large images have survived the decades that have passed.
The photo could be from 1912, but may date even earlier. Auction officials call it “one of the top handful of Ty Cobb original images that have ever come to public auction.”
It’s one of more than 1,000 original photos in RMY’s August Premier Auction, which runs through August 19.
Interestingly, Cobb’s holdout caught the interest of Congress, especially the politicians in his home state of Georgia. The back of the photo makes a reference to Cobb having an interest in joining the Yankees and there was some talk of challenging baseball’s rules that essentially bound a player to one team for his entire career.
The dispute got a little testy after Cobb took his complaints to the press. Navin responded with a strong condemnation of his star player’s penchant for irritability.
As reported by the New York Evening World Herald, Navin said, “Mr. Cobb did not make baseball; baseball made him. A player cannot be bigger than the game which creates him. To give in to Mr. Cobb now in his present attitude would be to concede that he is greater than the game itself, for he has set all its laws at defiance.
“If Mr. Cobb doesn’t like a room a hotel clerk gives him he quits the club for a week. If he doesn’t like what a silly man in the grandstand yells at him he punches his face and is again out of the game…If he doesn’t feel like practicing he stays away from the park. He has ground to believe that his greatness precludes his being subject to club discipline. I think Mr. Cobb eventually will recognize his fault—until he does there can be no understanding between us.”
After Cobb and Navin settled on a $12,000 sala
ry, however, the ballplayer went back to Detroit and Congress went back to work on other issues.
Over 60 years would pass before players earned true free agency.