The woman stood next to the Tigers dugout on a gorgeous spring afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL. Spring training was in full swing and she was anxiously waiting for her name to be called to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
I was invited to meet her, and when I extended my hand she said, “Hi, I’m Cindy Cobb.”
Couldn’t be related, could she? Yep. I had just met Ty Cobb’s granddaughter.
Cindy Cobb was in town to give a speech about her grandfather to a local group in Florida and was asked to throw out the first pitch at the Tigers game that day. One of the topics of her speech was the time Ty Cobb met the great inventor Thomas Edison in 1927 during spring training.
“It’s one of my favorite stories about my grandfather,” she said. “It was at the tail end of his career and he had just joined the Philadelphia Athletics. They trained in Ft. Myers near Thomas Edison’s winter home.”
Edison purchased an estate near Ft. Myers where he spent as much time during the winter as his schedule would allow.
This meeting was more than just one the county’s great athletes meeting a life changing inventor, it was pitcher against batter.
During his visit to A’s camp in 1927, Edison was asked if he wanted to takes some swings in the batting cage. A large contingent of media was on hand, largely because Cobb was making his fist appearance in an Athletics uniform after 22 seasons wit the Tigers.
Edison, who was there with his wife, was cajoled into taking some swings in the batting cage by the mob of reporters hungry for a photo op and a story. Edison agreed to take step into the box against Cobb. While a lifelong baseball fan, he never really played the game much. Perhaps he was too busy filing his astounding 2,332 patents worldwide.
Cobb, according to reports, moved in close to the famous batter about half way between the pitching mound and the batter’s box.
Much to the surprise of all in attendance, Edison lined Cobb’s first offering right back at Ty, sending The Georgia Peach sprawling to the ground. The Fort Myers Press noted that Cobb joked about not being charged with an error, while Edison took the opportunity to poke a little fun at Cobb. It was a confrontation that would make headlines worldwide.
Over the years we have seen many celebrities have fulfilled childhood dreams by attending spring training, some actually playing in games. Billy Crystal, Garth Brooks, Tom Selleck, Bruce Hornsby and Kevin Costner all appeared in spring games.
None however had the swag of Thomas Alva Edison. While the preceding list includes some terrific actors and musicians, none of them invented the light bulb.
On that sunny day in Lakeland, you could feel how proud Cindy Cobb was of her grandfather. Of all of his accomplishments, she chose to relate a story of the time her grandfather pitched to Thomas Edison.
Cobb was often referred to as a Genius in Spikes. On a sunny day in Ft. Myers in 1927, two geniuses squared off on a baseball field.