The small scrimmage would have been forgotten but for a Philadelphia writer, who said I had cold-bloodedly butchered, maimed and probably marred the hero of the A's for life. The race with the A's stayed hot, and in mid-September we rolled into a Philadelphia that was hot for revenge. "A cauldron of Cobb hatred," Grantland Rice described it. By now I had received 13 Black Hand letters promising to shoot me dead. We lost three of the four games to Philadelphia but held on to win the pennant with a .645 mark to the A's .621.
But the Baker hoax never cooled off. My running feud with Philadelphia because of it reached a climax three years later in midseason of 1912. We were down in sixth place and out of it. Boston, Philadelphia and Washington were locked in a dogfight for first place. Detroit had three consecutive double-headers scheduled in Philadelphia. Up in Boston, where we gave the Red Sox a tanning, it struck everyone that Cobb might be able to help win the pennant for Boston. I didn't need to be urged. My fondest wish was to knock my accusers out of the World Series.
So I picked up a phone and called Stoney McLinn, sports editor of the Philadelphia Press. "Hello, Stoneyard," I said. "I'm calling to warn you that I'm going to do a job of hitting against your team that will make you sick." I may even have added that I'd be gunning for a new record for base hits for a six-game series. I don't recall, for sure. But Stoney spread it in banner lines.
The A's of 1912 were solid talent, one of the finest teams Mr. Mack ever assembled. In the opening twin bill his starting pitchers were Eddie Plank and Chief Bender. My contribution against Plank was four hits in six times up, and against Bender three hits in five trips.
Next afternoon the Macks used Herb Pennock, a rookie southpaw, and Carroll Brown, a high-balling righty. I touched Pennock for five hits in five tries and Brown for two in three at bats. Now I had 14 base hits in 19 attempts, and we had whipped the A's four straight. Against a Plank-Pennock combination in the final two-game set, I connected four times to end the Philadelphia games with 18 for 28 and a .643 average.
I consider this the best series performance of my life. It was repayment in full for the Frank Baker slander, and it put a certain amount of quietus on the Black Hand letters. When we swept that series, we knocked the Athletics out of the Series, which went to Boston.
Commercialism, television, a breakdown in the old procedure in trading players, the wrecking of traditional league lines by adding new clubs have put the grand old game in jeopardy. The fabric of baseball is crumbling.
The greatest mistake has been the cheapening of all that was really meant to matter when the game of baseball was originally hammered out. Baseball is a contest meant to be settled within a definitely confined area, bounded by fences. Within this geometric area, great feats can take place. Within a space where 18 men compete, skill at hitting and handling and throwing the ball is the essence of the activity. Ball games are not meant to be settled by 250-foot Chinese home runs sailing out of the park, where no play can be made upon them.
Fans used to hang open-mouthed over the rails—every play was a breathtaking event, not merely an inconsequential moment within a welter of long hits. Baseball has gone swing crazy. The league's leading hitters rarely, if ever, sacrifice or steal a base, because they are all power and no versatility. The runner loose on the base paths is the most spectacular sight of all. But why bother to steal today, when some humpty-dumpty strong boy can pull a dynamite-laden ball over phony fences to drive in the runners?
Let's get rid of the intentional base on balls. I don't know of anything more tiresome. And let's give the pitcher a break. Enlarge the strike zone to where it used to be measured: from the armpits to the knees. Pitching should be a fine art, not a drudgery, with corps of relievers marching in and out, boringly and endlessly. One final suggestion. If changes are to be made, let baseball men make them. There are still enough baseball men with brains to do what's right. But they had better hurry.