One of the best Christmas presents I received last year was a soft cover book measuring 9 inches deep and 6 inches wide. It was easy to hold and even easier to read as it was a compilation of some 100 columns of legendary newsman Ty Cobb.
The book was delivered by Ty’s oldest son, Ty Jr., which gave the two of us the opportunity to reminisce about Ty Sr. The tome was published by the Black Rock Press and sponsored by the University of Nevada Foundation in 1997. The book was edited by C.J. Hadley with the assistance of Kay Fahey plus several members of the Cobb family. The foreword and the postscript were authored by Rollan Melton, a confrere of Ty’s at the newspaper.
The front cover features the cartoon logo that was familiar to readers of the column which appeared in the Nevada State Journal. It shows a bespectacled Ty looking at a spider encased in a cobweb. The theme was carried out in the title of the column which was “Cobbwebs”. Also on the front cover is a short paragraph, which gives you an indication of what you are about to read, “ This grizzled veteran newsman shares about four decades of people, places, history and sport in northern Nevada and beyond—a book that comes from the heart and is from very deep in the trenches.” Cobb had to cull the hundred or so columns in the book from the 3,000 he had written over the years—a daunting task.
One fascinating aspect of Cobb’s work is that it is almost equally divided between his hometown of Virginia City and his workplace in Reno. Having been born in 1915, most of his teen years were spent during the Great Depression. Consequently, he had to master a variety of jobs, many of which were connected to the mining industry. In one story referring to his father Will, who also worked the mines, his dad was accompanied by a famous person named Jimmy Doolittle when they were sent on a rescue mission. The same Doolittle became the famous flying general who led the bombing raid on Tokyo in 1942.
Many of Cobb’s peccadillos were in the company of contemporaries and my favorite one was that of the boys stiffing the dime a dance proprietor in Reno. Sort of like the famous scene in “Hello Dolly” where two country rubes cannot pay their restaurant bill.
One of the more surprising columns deals with our mutual friend named Gareth Hughes aka Brother David, who was the pastor at the Indian Reservation at Nixon. Who, in his earlier days had been a top draw movie star. In Ty’s column, he witnessed Hughes climbing into a boxing ring and voicing his stentorian tones as ring announcer. One of the boxers happened to be Frenchy Laxalt who was amazed at the sound.
In addition to the prose of Cobbwebbs, there are a dozen or so photos of some of the iconic figures who Cobb met. They include Jim Thorpe, Joe DiMaggio, Walter Winchell, Ronald Reagan, Max Baer, Ty Cobb (the baseball player), Bob Hope, Archie Moore (boxer), Bobo Olson (boxer), Paul Laxalt, Jake Lawlor (U of N coach). There are also pictures of Cobb’s wife and his children.
Cobb’s final four columns were written shortly before he passed away on May 25, 1997. In a tribute to him on June 1st, a week later, the four columns were printed in their entirety. Ty must have had a premonition that his time on the blue marble was coming to an end because those particular columns were reminiscings of his genealogy, his time in Virginia City, his graduation from the University of Nevada and his four decades of newspaper work.
During his years at the paper, it would be safe to say that he met more celebrities than anyone in Reno. Of all the sports figures he met, I think he held boxers in the highest esteem.
In the final paragraph of his last column he probably crafted the best epitaph that anyone could write, it goes like this, “My columns reflect my love of Nevada and the heritage I have appreciated dating back to the 1860s when my great-grandparents came to this state. Home Means Nevada to me. So it is, having entered the ninth decade of my life and after 60 years at the Journal, I’m hanging up my spikes—in this case my trusty old Underwood. And now I conclude my career with the traditional reporter’s sign off…30.”