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Ted Williams museum gifts Ty Cobb statue with mysterious past to Lakeland

The life-sized statue will be on display at Lakeland’s Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers.
A life-sized statue of Hall of Famer Ty Cobb has been gifted to Lakeland’s Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers. [MICHAEL WILSON | Lakeland Ledger correspondent]

Lakeland Ledger

LAKELAND — Detroit Tigers fans can take a selfie with one of baseball’s greats at Tigertown this spring.

A life-sized statue of Hall of Famer Ty Cobb has been gifted to Lakeland’s Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers.

“We’re glad to have it. Cobb was a great Tiger,” said Ron Myers, the Tigers’ director of Florida operations.

The unexpected gift arrived via truck from the Ted Williams Museum & Hitters Hall of Fame at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg last week.

David McCarthy, the museum’s executive director, said the statue has been a part of its Top 10 Hitters display for about seven years.

Unfortunately, very little is known about the statue, what it’s made of or its original artist. McCarthy said it was obtained from the employees’ break room of Xcelience, now Capsugel, a Tampa-based pharmaceutical manufacturing company, in exchange for a charitable donation.

With the Rays looking for a new place to call home, he said the museum has been downsizing with the expectation Tropicana Field will close within the next five to seven years.

“We felt the statue would be perfect up there in Lakeland,” McCarthy said. “It’s the only logical place, because he was a Detroit Tiger.”

Tyrus “Ty” Cobb spent 22 seasons as a center fielder for the Tigers, according to information published at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Cobb won nine consecutive American League batting titles from 1907 to 1915, maintaining a batting average of .320 or better for 22 consecutive seasons.

“He’s such an important part of our lore,” Myers said.

Bob Donahay, Lakeland’s Parks and Recreation director, said the statue will be installed behind the ticket office in Tigertown’s main concourse for fans to view and take pictures with. The Tigers open their Grapefruit League season Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies at 1:05 p.m.

“Whenever we are able to bring in art or sports memorabilia to our stadium to enhance it, we’re all about it,” he said. “Older Tigers fans will appreciate it even more.”

Myers said he anticipates the statue will become Tigertown’s hottest selfie spot. It’s a social media trend ballparks across the country have attempted to jump on to engage their fans, according to both Myers and McCarthy.

“I’m not sure why, but people love to take pictures with that statue,” McCarthy said. “It is really nice looking.”

Other tributes in honor of Cobb at Tigertown include a jersey hung in right field among the Detroit Tigers’ retired numbers. Just look for the blank one labeled “Cobb,” according to Myers, as players’ jerseys didn’t have numbers until 1927.

Celebrate the Tigers’ 2020 season

Fans are invited to join the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce in celebrating the Detroit Tigers annual spring return to the city.

What: 73rd annual Tiger BBQ

When: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 6-8 p.m.

Where: Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, 2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd, Lakeland, FL 33805

Admission: $50 for chamber members, $60 for non-members; $25 for children age 12 and under

Call 863-688-8551 for more information on the event.

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