EDDIE WELLS: Well, I knew in the spring of 1933 1 was going somewhere. I knew I was through with the Yankees because of all these young pitchers. I didn't know where. One day before a ball game, Joe told me to come into his room. Well, I knew I was being released. I walk in there and Joe says, "Ed, here's a letter from Wilbert Robinson, manager of the Atlanta club. He's offering twenty thousand dollars for your contract." That's a minor league team, see. He said, "I'll tell you what I'm gonna do. You've got a good friend, Bill Killefer, who's manager of the St. Louis Browns. I'm sending you over there for seventy-five hundred dollars." Joe had my release to the Browns and a ticket on the Twentieth Century Limited out of New York that night for St. Louis.
So I went over to St. Louis. Well, the first trip the Yankees make into St. Louis, I'm pitching. So I happen to pitch a good ball game. We won, 5-2. Now here's something I never heard a manager do. Joe came up to me afterwards and said, "Ed, I want to congratulate you on that game you pitched against us today. That was a good ball game." Now, can you imagine an opposing manager doing that? That's the kind of fella he was.
Who was greater, Cobb or Ruth? Now listen, those are two different characters all together. Now, Cobb was a dynamic ball player. He was always one thought ahead of everyone else on the field. Smart as the devil. They'd boo the devil out of Cobb, but he'd just eat it up. He liked it. If they didn't boo him he'd think something was wrong.
Me and Cobb were close. We were both Shriners. We'd go to lodge meetings a lot. That's when you had day games. We'd always go to meetings at night in different cities we were playing in. You got a big Masonic Temple in Detroit. What'd we do? Well, that's secret and stuff.
So who would I pick? Now, wait a minute. Babe won a lot of ball games for me. And Cobb managed me, and he won me a couple ball games too. They're just two different kinds of ball players. It's hard to say which one is the best. Cobb was a great man with Detroit. Good Lord! And Babe was a great man with the Yankees. I'd say it's about a tie. That's what I think.
I'll tell you one thing, slugger. Back then baseball players were dedicated. There weren't that many salary disputes. A lot of them were just tickled to death to be playing in the big leagues. Now it's money. The game's changed. I can tell by watching the ball players today. They're not as dedicated as they were. We used to love that ball game. We'd get to the ballpark at 10:30 in the morning. Now they get there in time for batting practice, if then.
I'll tell you how things have changed. One time with Detroit we was in the last half of the ninth inning, playing Cleveland, I think. We had men on and Cobb was looking up and down the bench for a pinch hitter. Cobb says, "Who here can hit?" Bob Fothergill got up and said, "I'll try."
Now, Bob's sitting there with a sprained ankle. Bad. Had it all taped up. Cobb said, "My gosh, you can hardly walk."
Bob said, "Well, I'll try." Cobb said, "Well, go on up there."
Bob was a dead-pull line-drive hitter. Everything was always to left field. The right fielder was way over to right center. This time Bob got hold of one and hit it over the first baseman's head into the right-field corner. Should've been at least a double. He got about two-thirds of the way to first and fell down. He crawled the rest of the way and got a single. Just barely.
Now, can you imagine the ball players doing that this day and age? If you were hurt, it didn't keep you from playing. They don't do that no more, slugger. But that's the way we played ball back there and then.
-- September 1982
From Cobb Would Have Caught It by Richard Bak.
Copyright © 1991 by Wayne State University Press. Reprinted with permission.