My Life in Baseball: The True Record By Ty Cobb, Al Stump
NORMAN ARTHUR (KID)) Elberfeld was one of the toughest infield scrappers who ever livid. He gave me the "teach" very early in in rookie season when I tried sliding headfirst into second, later complimented me when I knocked him kicking.
But next day came the lesson. The country kid had his plow cleaned, as we said down home. As the runner at first base, I went sprinting to second and slid head-first at the bag. Kid Elberfeld was waiting to give me the professional "teach"—which he did by slamming his knee down on the back of my neck, grinding my face untenderly into the dirt. Spluttering and spitting dirt, I heard Umpire O'Loughlin's well-rounded baritone—"OwwwwitttI"
I walked, or sort of crept, away from there with some skin scraped off. And with the Kid grinning at me.
Armour and the Tigers didn't have to tell me I'd pulled a dumb, sandlot slide that could have finished me before I was started. The Kid could have broken my neck. Food for thought—and I pondered a lot on Elberfeld and sliding before we played New York again. The scab on my nose reminded me that the head-on method of stealing bags I'd thought such hot stuff in the Georgia minor league was suicide up here.
During our next Highlander series, I banged into Elberfeld feet-first, caught him by surprise and knocked him kicking onto the grass, while I slid in safely. The Kid was known as a tough number. He got up, shot a stream of tobacco juice, and looked me over reflectively. "Son, that's how it's done—you've got it," he said. "More power to you."
Nothing that happened in my short rookie season of 1905 or my first full big league campaign of 1906 gave me a greater lift than Elberfeld's spontaneous gesture of sportsmanship. Because I had almost everything in the book to learn. I didn't suspect then, for instance, that some of my own clubmates would soon hate me for the aggressive style I adopted. I wasn't prepared to be hazed and ostracized and jockeyed into fist fights with men bigger and older. On the technical debit side, I knew nothing about hitting left-handed pitching, in fact had no real concept of stance, grip, swing, and the adaption of position in the box to the particular pitcher involved. Being so young, I was a scatter-brained base-runner who didn't know that you could steal more bases on the pitcher than on the catcher.