Baseball’s all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, was once asked how he thought the legendary Ty Cobb (who retired in 1928 with a lifetime batting average of .367, baseball’s highest ever), with whom Rose was regularly compared, would fare against the great pitching of Rose’s era. Charlie Hustle, who knew that Cobb battled below .320 only once in his career, stated that he thought Ty Cobb would only hit slightly over .300! The reporter, thinking he had stumbled upon a story that would surely be polarizing, asked Rose to explain why he thought Ty Cobb would perform so poorly in today’s environment. Rose asserted “well, I don’t think that’s all that bad considering he would be 85 years old.”
Our perception has everything to do with how we compare. We judge by comparison. What we compare against is the key. Once you understand this simple principle it can be a very powerful persuasion tool. Customers are constantly comparing choices in order to decide.
In order to help your customers evaluate your product or service it is critical to establish their frame of reference. Scientists refer to this frame of reference as the “adaptation level”. Ty Cobb, himself, understood this principle. In the offseason he would hunt all daylong in weighted boots to improve his leg strength for the upcoming campaign. Because the brain psychologically responds to the relativity of the stimuli and not the objective value, it is critical that we deliberately establish how our product should be evaluated. Establish the adaptive level before you differentiate with the benefits of your product. Sequence is essential.
Ty Cobb is considered by many to be the best player that ever played the game. He still holds many records including batting over .320 in 23 of his 24 seasons and being inducted into the Hall of Fame with a 98% ballet approval. Other than his statistics, Cobb was best known for his intimidating and harsh playing style. He was never afraid to go to extremes to win a game. He was quoted as saying “baseball was one-hundred percent of my life” and “I had to fight all my life to survive. They were all against me . . . but I beat them and left them in ditch.” Jimmy Cannon, who competed against Cobb said “He was the strangest of all our national sports idols. But not even his disagreeable character could destroy the image of his greatness as a ballplayer. Ty Cobb was the best. That seemed to be all he wanted.”
Ever wonder what drives a man like Ty Cobb? What do you think he was comparing himself against? His father, who was a schoolteacher, principal, newspaper publisher, Georgia state senator, and county school commissioner urged Ty to study. When Ty went off to play professional baseball, his father sternly warned him, “Don’t come home a failure.”
Ty Cobb held the record for most hits with 4,191 for nearly 60 years. It was broken in the mid 1980’s . . . by Pete Rose.