Golden Age of Baseball in Detroit
by Richard Bak
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The most I ever made? About forty thousand. I probably got more than anyone on the club with the exception of Greenberg. I think Hank got a little more. Of course, you have to think that in those days you could buy a brand new Cadillac for two thousand dollars. In fact, I bought my first house in Detroit, a brand new place on Grand River out near Rosedale Park, for $10,500 in 1934. It was a nice house, never even lived in. It was built by a builder whose wife died the week he finished it. After my father died my mother was up on the farm pretty much by herself, so I moved her in. She was a diabetic and needed someone to took after her. I might've married sooner than I did but I couldn't see bringing a wife into that kind of situation. But she was a great fan. She'd come out to the ballpark or listen to the games out on the porch.
Then in 1950 Mr. Briggs asked me to be the general manager, which was the last thing in the world that I wanted to do. I tried that for two years and got out as soon as I could.
It was a nigsource.htmare. We had a lousy ball club, and I'd been away from baseball at that time for ten years. I didn't know who was and who wasn't. But he invited me down and we chatted a while and finally he stuck his hand out. I left it hanging there for fifteen minutes. I thought, "Geez, I don't want this." But it got so embarrassing that I said, "Okay," and shook hands.
Brother, what a headache! We couldn't beat anybody, and I made several trades, but it still didn't get us anywhere. I didn't wish Mr. Briggs any ill will, but he died my second year and, boy, that let me off the hook. Mr. Briggs's son, Spike, took over the club. I figured I could get away from him. At that time I had Muddy Ruel as my farm director, and he was a great baseball man. Muddy wanted the job, and they wanted Muddy, so ... I guess a lot of people like that job, but I don't see how you can sleep nights. I would've had ulcers if I'd stayed another year. So much going on, so much turmoil. After '52 I went back to my business. I stayed there until 1974 when I sold out.
My greatest thrill? You know, people ask me that all the time, and I've got to say that every day in the major leagues is a thrill, and the next game is even bigger. Still, one that I'll always remember is back in 1929, when the folks from my home town of Fowlerville had a day for me at Navin Field.
They presented me with a set of golf clubs. They were beautiful: matched Spalding irons and woods with a beautiful leather bag. They also were right-handed, and of course I'm left-handed. But I learned how to play the game right-handed, those clubs were so nice. Anyway, we played the Yankees that day and we won big. I started off with a home run. I had four hits and almost hit for the cycle, and to top it off I stole home. I probably had some better afternoons, but that was kind of a special day.
-- January 1982
From Cobb Would Have Caught It by Richard Bak.
Copyright © 1991 by Wayne State University Press. Reprinted with permission.