When I was writing a biography of Ty Cobb several years ago, one of the most interesting discoveries of my research was coming across some rare television footage of the man. Here was living, breathing, talking Ty Cobb – on a game show, no less. It made up for the lack of footage of the Georgia Peach as a player.
On September 28, 1955, the 68-year-old ballplayer appeared on I’ve Got a Secret. The popular quiz show aired live every Wednesday night from a CBS studio in New York.
Each show featured three rounds. Each round was a guessing game where panelists tried to determine the secret of that round’s guest through a series of questions that could only be answered with a “yes” or “no.” This particular show included three ballplayers. Cobb came on last, following former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Vander Meer of double no-hit fame.
After whispering his secret (“I have the highest lifetime batting average in history”) to Garry Moore, the show’s affable, chain-smoking host, the Peach proceeded to stump panelists Bill Cullen, Henry Morgan, Jayne Meadows, and Kitty Carlisle. The aging Georgia Peach was courtly and smiled often, though his poor hearing had him leaning in to hear the panelists’ questions. Carlisle, who obviously knew nothing about sports, was absolutely clueless, to the point that Moore excused her from asking any more questions.
Once Ty’s identity was revealed, Moore ran down a list of the guest’s other notable records – to which Cullen added, “He spiked a lot of second basemen, too.”
“He was a mean one,” Moore agreed.
Ty was a true Southern gentleman that evening. He received $80 and a carton of Winston cigarettes for winning, then asked Moore’s permission to individually shake hands with the panelists before making his exit.
Cobb’s appearance on I’ve Got a Secret has been shown on Game Show Network and occasionally pops up on YouTube.
Cobb also appeared on I’ve Got a Secret’s sister show, What’s My Line? The game show, which aired Sunday nights on CBS from 1950 through 1967, was moderated by John Daly and featured panelists Arlene Francis, Fred Allen, Bennett Cerf, and Dorothy Kilgallen. He was the last of three guests hoping to stump the panel, following a couple of women whose occupations (or “line”) were that they were the Cuban consul in New York and a process server, respectively. As the evening’s “mystery guest,” Cobb was asked to “Come in and sign in, please.” He signed in as “Baseball Legend.”
When it came to the mystery round, panelists were blindfolded and required to name the guest’s identity, not the occupation. Whether anybody was able to identify Cobb is unknown. That’s because, unfortunately, the kinescope of that particular episode was lost. Cobb received $500 for his appearance on What’s My Line? He donated the money to one of the two projects that occupied much of his free time during the last years of his life: the Cobb Educational Fund and Cobb Memorial Hospital, good works that continue to this day in rural Georgia.