Ty Cobb: The Greatest Pro Athlete Investor Of All Time?

Major League Baseball opening day 2020 has come and gone and it doesn’t look like players will be hitting the diamond any time soon due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. However, players are still getting paid under the terms of a new deal between MLB and the players association. Without any games to play, some players may attempt to follow in the footsteps of one of baseball’s greatest legends and put that money to work in the stock market.

Despite his notoriously controversial personality, Detroit Tiger legend Ty Cobb holds the highest career batting average of any player in MLB history at .366. In 24 seasons (22 with the Tigers) Cobb amassed 4,189 hits, scored 2,245 runs and stole 897 bases. Cobb won 11 batting titles, one MVP award and was one of only five players that were inaugural members of the Baseball Hall Of Fame in 1936.

When he retired in 1928, Cobb had earned an estimated $491,233 from baseball, a sum that would be worth $7.44 million in today’s dollars. By the time Cobb died in 1961, however, he held an investing portfolio worth $12.1 million, roughly $104.8 million in today’s dollars.

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Cobb's Early Investments

Cobb started his education in investing by hanging around the Detroit stock market on days the Tigers weren’t playing. One of his earliest investments was a $1,000 bet on cotton futures, which ultimately earned him a $7,500 profit two years later when World War I demand drove up cotton prices. Cobb made a similar $15,000 profit on shares of a copper mine that skyrocketed as World War I ramped up metal demand.

Cobb’s most notorious investment was a purchase of 300 shares of Coca-Cola Co (NYSE: KO) in 1907. Over the next 20 years, Cobb would grow his Coca-Cola investment to 24,000 shares and purchase three Coca-Cola bottling plants.

Around the same time, Cobb purchased $25,000 of United Motors stock, which was converted to General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) stock after the company was acquired by GM.

At the time of his death, Cobb owned $10 million of GM stock and $2 million of Coca-Cola stock. In today’s dollars, his portfolio was paying out more than $3.9 million per quarter in dividends alone.

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Today’s Athlete Investors

Plenty of modern athletes are following Cobb’s lead and investing heavily in the future. Former NBA great Shaquille O'Neal invested in Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) subsidiary Google and ride hailing company Lyft Inc (NASDAQ: LYFT) prior to their respective IPOs.

Current NBA star Carmelo Anthony was also an early Lyft investor via his M7 Tech Partners venture capital firm.

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman cashed out of a pre-IPO investment in Wingstop Inc (NASDAQ: WING) in 2015 on the first day the stock went public.

Baseball great Alex Rodriguez founded investing firm A-Rod Corp. in 2003, which has stakes in home rental company Sonder and micro-investing app Acorns.

Benzinga’s Take

Cobb wasn’t known for his power at the plate, but GM and Coca-Cola were clearly two home runs on Wall Street. It remains to be seen which among this generation of athlete investors will ultimately end up the most savvy investor of his or her era.

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