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April 1922: 'Georgia Peach' twists ankle

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

In honor of the start of the Major League Baseball season this month, here's a local story involving one of baseball's best and most controversial figures from way back in 1922.

An incident during a pre-season game in Americus in April 1922 threatened to cut short the career of one of baseball's most legendary players.

Ty Cobb, nicknamed the "Georgia Peach" both because he was born in Georgia and as a tongue-in-cheek jab at his aggressive, take-no-prisoners approach to the game and a raging temper, was player-manager for the Detroit Tigers in 1922. The hall-of-famer agreed to play an exhibition in Americus just before the start of the season.

The game pitted Cobb and his Tigers against the Rochester Tribe -- a minor-league team out of Rochester, N.Y., that was also managed by a Georgia boy -- Augusta native George Stallings. The two teams had squared off in March for an exhibition in Augusta at Warren Park and Cobb had since taken his team to Atlanta to play against Georgia Tech.

But on April 5, the Tigers and Tribe met in Americus for an exhibition just a few weeks before the start of the 1922 season.

At some point during the game, Cobb executed one of his trademark moves -- a cleat-first slide meant more for taking out the poor chap guarding the bag than for touching the base (coincidentally, it was moves like this particular one that prompted the Detroit Free Press to write that Cobb was "daring to the point of dementia.") In doing so, Cobb severely injured his ankle.

The Herald reported in that day's edition that Cobb doctor's were uncertain of the extent of the damage and that he was being taken for an x-ray.

On April 6, The Herald did a follow-up story saying that x-rays showed that while Cobb had not broken any of the bones in his foot or ankle, he had severely twisted and torn the ligaments. Despite the report, doctors said that Cobb would likely be able to play, but would probably miss the first several weeks -- and, possibly, months -- of the season.

The injury definitely had an impact on the Tigers' early part of the season. They were last team in the majors to win a game, losing their first six straight. The Tigers would salvage the season, however, finishing in third place in the American League. Cobb ended up having one of his beast seasons, finishing with one of his best batting averages, .401, and 99 runs batted in. Individually, he finished with the second-highest batting average in the American League, and finished second in the AL for total hits (211) and triples (16).

As for his career, Cobb would go on to set 90 major league records and, as of 2011, still holds several, including top career batting average, .366, and most career batting titles, 11. He held the record for most career runs until 2001, most career hits until 1985, and still holds the American League record for the highest number of errors committed during a career.

In other local news from April 1922:

-- The affidavit filed by The Albany Herald stating its readership and other vital information showed that there were 5,160 paid subscribers and that people owning Herald stock were Publisher H.M. McIntosh, Editor H.T. McIntosh, F.F. Putney, C.M. Shackleford and the estates of J.W. Mock and C.W. Tift.

-- On April 11, it was announced that the 42 scout troops that comprised the Nochaway Council were making plans to have a regional Boy Scout rally in Albany at the fairgrounds for May 5-7. Thousands of boy scouts were anticipated to come to the event.

-- Also on April 11, Carnegie Library, which is still a fixture downtown, celebrated its 16th anniversary. According to The Herald, in that time span the library had grown from a collection of 2,001 books when it opened in 1906 to 7,464 in 1922.

-- In that same edition, The Herald ran a short feature on various census facts. According to the report, in 1922, Dougherty County was the only county in the U.S. named Dougherty. There were 14 different counties, cities and townships named Albany, however. Of those 14, Albany had the second largest population, behind only its namesake, Albany, N.Y. Albany, Ala., was the third most populous Albany.

-- On April 12, the City Council voted against a measure that would've required the railroad company to put workers at each intersection where the railroad crossed a city street after railroad officials said it would be too costly.

-- On April 13, Ludy Riley, a man convicted of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl, was denied his appeal for a new trial by the Georgia Supreme court, setting the stage for his execution later in the month.

-- The Stewart County Courthouse, which had been built in 1895, was ravaged by fire on April 21. While the courthouse was a total loss, all of the county's vital records were saved thanks to a forward-thinking clerk who had stored all of them in a fire-proof vault.

-- On April 26, the first women were elected to serve on the School Board by the City Council. Mrs. A.H. Hilsman and Mrs. Maude Dillard Morris were selected by the council to serve on the board whose members, at the time, were not elected by the public. Morris declined the position.

Heritage Albany is a weekly column looking back at news reported by The Albany Herald over its 120 years of publication. Contact J.D. Sumner at j.d.sumner@albanyherald.com.