Ty Cobb and the Hotel Pontchartrain Incident of April 1919, Part II

Looking back at a story like the one the Seymours’ uncovered, we have to make choices, and a perfectly reasonable choice is the one the Seymours’ made – which is to just take the Chicago Defender story at face value.

But it is also reasonable to ask some hard questions about the story.

According to the Defender, the woman was so badly injured that she was “confined to her home in a serious condition,” but the story doesn’t mention that she ever went to the hospital, and a bed in her home seems like an odd place to treat serious internal injuries.

The story said that her doctor insisted “she is internally injured” – meaning, I guess, that the injuries were not visible.

The bailiff said the “warrant could not be obtained at that hour” (10:00 AM) so why didn’t the family go back at some other time in order to follow up?

Why didn’t she press criminal charges at all? She described a vicious assault. Cobb wasn’t above the law. It wouldn’t be the first time he faced criminal charges for assault filed by an African American in Detroit (Fred Collins brought successful charges against Cobb in 1908, as was well known and fully coveredby the mainstream press at the time), so why was she unable to get criminal charges filed?

And since when could the Tigers suppress negative stories about Cobb, and since when were mainstream newspapers not interested in these stories? I guess it is possible that in the ensuing 5-10 years since the African American groundskeeper incident of 1907, the Fred Collins incident of 1908, the Euclid Hotel incident of 1909, and the Claude Lueker assault of 1912, the Tigers got really, really good at suppressing bad stories about Cobb, but it seems unlikely. Local papers, and sports-focused papers, never shied away from stories about Cobb’s off-field troubles, and the Tigers could never control the news. Why would that change now? How could they not only spin but actually suppress the story?

The Seymours’ assert: “the woman was quietly paid off in exchange for dropping her $10,000 damage suit?” Why quietly accept a smaller settlement when you can noisily get $10,000? Especially when – as the Defender noted –  that within a week of the incident “a meeting was recently held at the Biltmore Hotel and a committee was appointed to see that Cobb was brought before the bar of justice. Funds have been collected to employ attorneys to bring a damage suit against the ball player.” Sounds like the accuser had some resources and allies in pursuing a case – so why drop the civil suit in exchange for a reduced payout?

You have to at least wonder if we aren’t getting the whole story. It is not unreasonable to ask if perhaps the accuser had some credibility issue that made formal criminal charges a non-starter, and a civil judgement unlikely. Yet the Seymours’ never raised any of these questions in reviving these charges for their book.

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