Ty Cobb spent his final days at Emory Hospital in Atlanta. Next to his bed he kept a little black satchel that he would reach down and pat. The hospital staff wondered what was in that bag.
When he finally passed away, everyone found out. Newspapers reported that the satchel contained $1 million in stocks and bonds, topped with a Luger pistol. That mystery was solved. But friends and fans still had another question. Why would he not just keep all his money in the bank?
Mary Faulkner of Lawrenceville knows the answer. She sent the story in response to my recent request for tales of brushes with the famous.
Faulkner was a first cousin to Ty Cobb. She'd known him all her life and can remember what an influence her father's misfortune had on him.
"We grew cotton and had eight rental houses," Faulkner said. "My daddy had a brand new rubber-tired buggy, which back then was like having a Corvette.
"One day my dad and Ty hitched a black mare to the buggy and went to town to get money out of the bank. Daddy had money in three banks. When they got to town, Daddy told Ty to hold the reins and wait. Daddy went to the bank and the doors were locked. He wondered if maybe someone had died. He went to the next two banks and they were both locked. The United States government had closed all the banks. He came back to the buggy without a dime in his pocket. He lost all of his money in the banks. He cried and Ty cried."
Faulkner knows well the devastating effect the Great Depression had on everyone she knew, including her cousin Ty.
"He said to my daddy, 'If I ever live to make any money, there is no man on earth that will ever take it away from me,' and I know he meant it," Faulkner said.
"Ty's father was a professor and wanted his son to become a lawyer, but Ty wanted to play ball. When he went pro, he came to our house for a week and he told my daddy that he was going to make a lot of money.
"When Ty brought home his first paycheck, his father suggested he buy himself some new clothes to make Southerners look good, but Ty said he'd use his money to buy all the stock in Coca-Cola that he could. His father said he was just going to throw it all away, but Ty just kept buying and became a multimillionaire.
"Ty really meant what he said to my daddy in the buggy that day. He never put a cent in the bank and no man ever took any money away from him," Faulkner said.
So in case you've ever wondered why Ty Cobb kept that little black satchel by his bedside, now you know.
Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.