2019-04-10 / Front Page



Monday, Dec. 5, 1927 was a big day in Burke County – a very big day. The most famous golfer in the world and one of the greatest baseball players were both in town for a visit. Before there was a Masters Tournament, a green jacket, an Augusta National or even the Grand Slam, golfing legend Bobby Jones was a regular visitor to the Augusta area, and not just for golf. Somewhere along his journey to the pinnacle of golf, Jones had created a friendship with the great Ty Cobb, who lived in Augusta, and they both loved bird dogs and quail hunting. That day brought them together here to celebrate hunting as well as golf. B obby Jones was here at the invitation of local friends to encourage the construction of a golf course in Waynesboro. That Monday night, a banquet was held at the Anthony Wayne Hotel where Jones and Cobb were among the guest speakers.

A video filmed that Monday during the field trials in Burke County shows the golfing great along with Cobb and members of the Georgia Field Trial Association enjoying the dogs, quail and local barbecue at the event. Also identified in the film is local business and civic leader Sim Bell, who headed up the GFTA. Ty Cobb’s son Herschel was also there and appears in the Fox News video.

Shown here on horseback are (l-r) Ty Cobb, Bobby Jones and Sim Bell. Shown here on horseback are (l-r) Ty Cobb, Bobby Jones and Sim Bell. Ty Cobb’s love of hunting is well documented. By 1930 he had obtained the hunting rights on several thousand acres of land (the Magruder plantation) in Burke County, and was a regular at the field trials. Hall of Fame dog trainer Fred Bevan of Waynesboro worked with some of his dogs, according to Bevan’s daughter, Marianne Hopper.

Cobb played 24 seasons in the major leagues and had a lifetime .367 batting average. He collected 4,189 hits and won 12 American League batting titles. He was the first player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ty Cobb made sure Bobby Jones enjoyed some Burke County barbecue at the field trials Ty Cobb made sure Bobby Jones enjoyed some Burke County barbecue at the field trials Cobb’s ties to the Augusta area were deep. He married a Richmond County woman, Charlie Marion Lombard, at her family’s home in 1908. He owned a tire business in downtown Augusta and also built an apartment complex. There is a historical marker near his former home on William Street in Augusta.

Cobb had a reputation as a racist, but many of his fans and biographers dispute this. They point to several instances where they believe Cobb showed his true feeling on the issue of race. Five years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, Cobb publicly supported blacks and whites playing baseball together, adding, “Certainly it is okay for them to play. I see no reason in the world why we shouldn’t compete with colored athletes. Let me say also that no white man has the right to be less of a gentleman than a colored man; in my book that goes not only for baseball but in all walks of life.” In the obituaries that ran in the black press following Cobb’s death, he was praised for “speaking in favor of racial freedom in baseball.” W hen Bobby Jones won his first U.S. Open he was just 21 years old. When Ty Cobb won his first batting title he was just 20. Both were Georgiaborn athletes with incredible skills in their chosen sports. Both became legends by dominating the fields they played on.

Jones was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1902, nearly 16 years after Cobb’s birth in The Narrows, a rural conclave of homes northeast of Atlanta. Cobb had been a star for the Detroit Tigers for more than a decade when Jones emerged on the golf scene in 1920 after qualifying for his first U.S. Open. He would make that competition his plaything in the 1920s: winning it four times and finishing second four times. In 1930, Jones won all four majors and also simultaneously held the titles of the two major amateur tournaments. He had done it all. He promptly retired at the age of 28.

Jones and Cobb had known each other for a number of years when they visited Waynesboro together. They had solidified their friendship when Jones visited the Detroit Tigers during spring training in San Antonio when Cobb was managing the club from 1921-26. Later, when Detroit trained in Augusta, Jones made it a habit to visit Cobb and the two would play golf after the baseball season. In 1933, when Jones opened the Augusta National Golf Club, Cobb was his guest. Cobb was never a formal member of Augusta, but his friendship with Jones made it possible for him to play there any time. All reports indicate Cobb was never a good golfer – a powerful but inaccurate driver – but he succeeded in creating a competent short game and frequently defeated opponents who were more experienced and perhaps a bit overconfident when they faced him.

Every spring for many years, Jones came out of retirement to play in the Masters Tournament, but he never again competed at the highest level. Surely his legend grew in part because of the way he ceased playing at the pinnacle of his career. Cobb retired after the 1928 season, having set more than 100 records in baseball. Several of his marks were later surpassed, but his career batting average of .367 remains untouched.

After battling cancer for 18 months, Cobb died in 1961, and was buried in Royston, Georgia. A decade later, having been in a wheelchair for several years due to syringomyelia (a painful disease affecting the spinal cord), Jones passed away at his home in Atlanta on Dec. 18 – the 85th anniversary of Cobb’s birth.

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