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Today in History - July 18

John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones, naval hero of the American Revolution, died in Paris on July 18, 1792. Born John Paul in Scotland on July 6, 1747, he apprenticed at age thirteen to a shipowner and sailed to Barbados. Owing to problems on a voyage to the West Indies (in 1773 he killed a sailor during a mutiny in Tobago, claiming self-defense), he fled to Virginia and changed his name—first to John Jones, and later to John Paul Jones.
Charles Scribner’s Sons, Paul Jones. photograph of an engraving, between 1895 and 1915. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division
Jones was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Continental Navy in December 1775 and the following year was commissioned a captain. His achievements at sea during the war were spectacular. Jones distinguished himself in action in the Atlantic Ocean during 1776 and 1777 in command of the naval ships the Alfred, the Providence, and the Ranger, taking many British ships as prizes.
John Paul Jones’s home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Theodor Horydczak, photographer, circa 1920-1950. Horydczak Collection. Prints & Photographs Division
On September 23, 1779, Jones achieved his most famous victory off the coast of England. With his flagship the Bonhomme Richard, which he had renamed in honor of his patron Benjamin Franklin, and accompanied by four other vessels, Jones engaged the British merchant fleet led by the Serapis in heavy combat for over three and a half hours. During the battle, Jones answered the enemy’s demand that he surrender with the immortal words, “I have not yet begun to fight!” After heavy losses of life on both sides, the British surrendered. Jones and his crew left their sinking ship and transferred to the captured Serapis. Congress passed a resolution thanking Jones, and he received a sword and the Order of the Military Merit from King Louis XVI of France. John Paul Jones held no further appointments in the United States Navy, but he served as rear admiral in the Russian Navy under Empress Catherine II of Russia from 1788-90. After his discharge, he resided in Paris in obscurity until his death and was buried in an unmarked grave. More than one hundred years later, the remains of the Navy’s first hero, lionized for his brilliant naval career, were identified and brought back to the United States with a full naval escort. His body is interred in a marble crypt, modeled on Napoleon’s tomb, in the chapel of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Statue of John Paul Jones at foot of 17th St. N.W. II. Washington, D.C., Theodor Horydczak, photographer, circa 1920-1950. Horydczak Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

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Ty Cobb, the Georgia Peach

On July 18, 1927, Ty Cobb recorded his 4,000th career hit. Cobb finished out his Major League Baseball career in 1928 with a grand total of 4,191 hits. Cobb stood as the all-time hit leader until his total was surpassed by Pete Rose in 1985.
[Hugh Jennings/Tyrus Cobb, Detroit Tigers, baseball card portrait]. Left: Hugh Jennings, Center: Ty Cobb Steals Third, Right: Ty Cobb, 1912. Baseball Cards. Prints & Photographs Division
[Ty Cobb, Detroit, and Joe Jackson, Cleveland, standing alongside each other, each holding bats]. c. Louis Van Oeyen, 1913. By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s. Prints & Photographs Division
Cobb began his professional career at the age of eighteen with the Detroit Tigers, with which he played twenty-two of his twenty-four seasons. Like the careers of baseball greats Pete Rose and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Cobb’s was marred by scandal. He was allowed to resign in 1926 in lieu of being banned for alleged gambling violations. However, Cobb was subsequently exonerated and reinstated by baseball’s first commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Cobb, born on December 18, 1886, in Narrows, Georgia, and nicknamed “The Georgia Peach,” was known for his temper as well as for his outstanding athletic ability. He stole home fifty-four times—fifty times with the Detroit Tigers and four times with the Philadelphia Athletics—won twelve batting average titles, and managed the Detroit Tigers for six seasons while also playing center field. His lifetime batting average was .367. Cobb made use of his reputation as an aggressive (often dirty) base runner to intimidate infielders, stealing 892 bases during his professional career. Ty Cobb was one of the first five players elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame External in Cooperstown, New York, in 1936, along with Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner.
[Chas. O'Leary/Tyrus Cobb, Detroit Tigers, baseball card portrait], 1912, Baseball Cards. Prints & Photographs Division. This baseball card featuring Chas O’Leary and Tyrus Cobb, produced by the American Tobacco Company in 1912, shows Cobb sliding into third base. Click on the back of the card to read a description of Cobb’s base running statistics.

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