Ty Cobb’s brand of baseball became passé with Babe Ruth’s emergence. The home run captured the public’s imagination. Cobb and 19th century small ball no longer thrilled fans as they flocked to see Ruth. Indignant, Cobb decided to show up Ruth and the baseball world. In two days, he binged on Browns pitching blasting five home runs tying a 41-year old record. After making his point, Cobb returned to small ball en route to the Hall of Fame.
George Herman Ruth hit 29 home runs in 1919 setting a major league record. The following year, the game switched to a livelier ball, Ruth moved to New York, and records began to fall. Over the next five seasons, the Sultan of Swat hit 54, 59, 35, 41, and 46 home runs. His production befuddled the mind and thrilled fans. Meanwhile, Ty Cobb continued to chase batting titles, hit .401 in 1922, and took over Detroit’s managerial reigns.
By 1925, Cobb had enough of the exaltation of Ruth’s home runs. According to tradition, he promised to show that he could hit home runs. Cobb wanted to belittle the home run by showing how easy they were to hit. He timed his boast well.
The Tigers dropped the first of a four game series with the Browns. Then, Cobb took over the next two contests. On May 5, the Georgia Peach went six-for-six, scored four runs, and knocked in five. Half of his hits were home runs and Cobb totaled 16 total bases in the slugfest. Heinie Manush also homered and the Tigers won 14-8.
Cobb remained ornery on May 6. This time, he totaled three hits in six at bats, drove in six runs, and scored two. During the game, he hit his fourth and fifth home runs of the series and the season. Not to be outdone, Harry Heilmann hit two out as well. The Tigers won the game 11-4. Detroit dropped the fourth game 6-5 with Cobb managing a double in four at bats.
Cobb’s output over May 5 and 6 tied a record dating to 1884. That year, Cap Anson hit five home runs over two days. Up to that point, Ruth had never accomplished the feat. Cobb equaled Anson’s output with his first five long balls of 1925. Later that month, he became the first player with 1000 career extra base hits. The Tiger great finished the season with a career best 12 home runs.
The long ball did not impress Ty Cobb. The Tiger player/manager resented the attention Ruth received for his home run heroics. Cobb decided to show what he could do and tied a record with five home runs in two games. After the outburst, he returned to his own style of play until his retirement in 1928.