LOS ANGELES (AP) - This Ty Cobb prefers a big orange ball to a small white one.
The great-grandson of the Hall of Fame player chose basketball over baseball at Occidental College, a Division III school whose nickname would surely have the approval of The Georgia Peach _ the Tigers.
The 19-year-old reserve freshman forward is averaging 3.4 points and 3.5 rebounds. His coach, Brian Newhall, found his name through an East Coast scouting service, and was intrigued.
Cobb was 6-foot-5, a good student from Menlo Park, Calif., and his father graduated from Occidental. The kid’s name didn’t register with the 50-year-old coach, who is clearly cornering the market on descendants of sports legends _ John Wooden’s great-grandson was on his team four years ago.
“I had no idea who Ty Cobb was,” Newhall said. “My baseball career ended when I was 7 years old. Everyone else in the world other than me was aware who Ty Cobb was.”
Tyrus Raymond Cobb was simply one of the toughest and greatest players in baseball history, his spikes high and his will to win unrivaled. The outfielder spent 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, including the last six as their player-manager, and played for the Philadelphia Athletics.
“I did a lot of reading about old baseball players that were contemporaries of Ty Cobb,” he said. “Just being connected to a part of history got me interested in research.”
At times, the name has been a burden, usually with older adults who recognize it more than a lot of kids do.
“Every once in a while I’ll get people who think they know more about Ty Cobb than I do and say, ‘Oh, he was a terrible guy, he was a jerk,’” the younger Cobb said. “Ty Cobb does have kind of a tough reputation, but people who say that just aren’t informed or just want to start an argument.”
The elder Cobb was born in Narrows, Ga., in 1886 when the South was strictly segregated. Along with a reputation for a surly temperament and an aggressive playing style, he was widely regarded as a racist, with history noting his run-ins and scrapes with blacks on and off the field.
“I’ve got no qualms with how Ty Cobb led his life,” his great-grandson said. “From what I’ve heard from my dad who knew him really well as a grandpa, he was a very generous, loving man. He was always fair to everyone and was just a pleasure to be around.”
The younger Cobb plays on an Occidental team that includes three black and three Latino players.
“He was born in Jim Crow (era) Georgia,” Cobb said. “It was a completely different world than living in California these days, which is such a diverse area and people are just comfortable being around people that aren’t the same skin color or from the same background.”View Entire Story
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