A Personal Connection to Ty Cobb

By Gary Herron

Ty would have gotten a chuckle out of this: Two senior citizens, coming across some of his memorabilia, are trying to sell it to help provide food and other essentials for their horses.

Ty, if you haven’t guessed (even though he’s a frequent subject on this website), is Ty Cobb, a baseball legend. He was also an outdoorsman who loved to hunt and probably rode a horse or two in his lifetime (1886-1961).

In this family photo, reportedly taken in 1918, Ty and his wife Charlie are shown. Ty holds son Herschel; at left is daughter Shirley, born in 1911, and in back is son Ty, born in 1910.

In this family photo, reportedly taken in 1918, Ty and his wife Charlie are shown. Ty holds son Herschel; at left is daughter Shirley, born in 1911, and in back is son Ty, born in 1910.

It turns out an aunt of his, Nora Cobb Spencer, had a daughter, Grace, who lived in Rio Rancho, N.M., across the Rio Grande from Albuquerque. Rio Rancho is the state’s third-largest city. Former big leaguers John Roskos and Brendan Donnelly have called it home, and current Boston Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart grew up there.

And that’s how Ann Marie (not her real name; she wishes to remain anonymous) wound up with the Cobb items, which include a letter written and mailed to Nora on May 5, 1952, detailing the medical condition of Cobb’s son, Ty Jr. The letter was written with a fountain pen, using green ink – almost everything Cobb signed was in green ink, and at the end, merely signed, “Ty.” She also has the envelope, with its postmark and 6-cent airmail stamp, addressed to Nora in Cobb’s handwriting.

Author Charles Leerhsen, in his 2015 biography of the baseball Hall of Famer (Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty), tells how Ty Jr. attended medical school as an OB/GYN and set up a practice in Dublin, Ga. But Ty Jr. was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1951 and passed away in September 1952, at the age of 42, barely four months after the letter Ann Marie has was penned.

“They were very close,” Ann Marie learned of the relationship between Ty and his aunt, Nora.

She knows a lot of less-than-flattering things have been written about Cobb, and says, “This letter shows another side of him.”

Ty Cobb.09cIn Leerhsen’s book, he describes how Nora “would drive him in a horse-drawn buggy to the equivalent of Little League games around Murphy (N.C., where Nora was still living when Cobb wrote to her in 1952), where the preference was still for town ball,” and how, in his 1961 autobiography, Cobb recalled being hit by a thrown baseball and “awoke moments later with his head in Aunt Nora’s lap and her handkerchief in his ear to staunch the blood flow.”

Somehow, Grace “didn’t even know she had these; they were in a box under her bed” and missed the significance of being a Cobb. She was living in Rio Rancho when Ann Marie, a New Orleans native moving here, saw an ad in the Rio Rancho Observer in 1995 seeking a roommate.

“She had clear, blue, beautiful eyes,” Ann Marie, a former Intel employee, recalled of her roommate friend, who she lived with for about nine years before moving out, and then moving back in a few years later.

“In 2006, I bought a house and moved to Placitas,” she said. (Placitas, a rural community in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, is north of Albuquerque.)

Later, Grace was in failing health and moved to an elderly care facility in Albuquerque, where she passed away about two years ago at the age of 87.

“She may have fallen out of bed, and died of a heart attack,” Ann Marie said. “Eight days later, I was notified (of her death) by the coroner.”

She was mystified by the time delay, in that her name was prominent as the point of contact for Grace at the facility.

“Grace said, ‘Just cremate me,’ but you can’t do that – you have to have a family (member oversee that),” Ann Marie said. “I was furious.”

Grace left her possessions to her longtime friend, Ann Marie.

“When I first got all this stuff, I called the (Ty Cobb) museum in Royston, Ga.,” she said. “The lady was very cold to me, said I needed to get in touch with the Cobb family.”

Ty Cobb letterAnn Marie said she also struck out with the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., when she sought interest in the memorabilia, which includes a small book, “Musings from the Old Cobb Homestead,” by Nora Cobb Spencer, plus some photos and letters written by Cobb.

A longtime baseball fan – and finding little apparent interest in what she now owns – Ann Marie knew she had something valuable, and has done her homework online, seeing what Cobb autographs are going for.

“I want to sell it,” she said.

For the impressive collection, Ann Marie is asking $2,500.

She can be reached at (505) 917-8732 for more information or to make a legitimate offer.

Those mustangs and other horses will be appreciative, you can bet.

Gary Herron is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at gherron@flash.net.

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