July 20, 2019

Ty Cobb Returns to Georgia!

August 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Tyrus Raymond (The Georgia Peach) Cobb returned to his old stomping grounds of Atlanta, Augusta, Georgia and Aiken, South Carolina in the guise of Cobb impersonator and re-inactor, Norm Coleman of Half Moon Bay, California.

Norm Coleman as Ty Cobb

Coleman was invited by SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research, to perform his one-man show, “Ty Cobb: The Greatest Player to Ever Play the Game” at their 40th Annual Baseball Convention in Atlanta, Georgia at the Sheraton/Atlanta Hotel, Saturday evening, August 7th.

Norm had performed his show previously in Lakeland, Florida for the Detroit Tigers, in Royston, Georgia for the Ty Cobb Museum and at the President Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan in addition to over one hundred appearances throughout Northern California.

After a rehearsal in the afternoon with his assistant Clay Beatty, also of Half Moon Bay, Coleman took in a San Francisco Giants vs. Atlanta Braves game, Friday evening at Turner Field as guest of Terry Sloope, President of the Magnolia Chapter located in Atlanta and Chair, SABR 40.

The game was an historic event attended by 42,000. It was the 20,000th game for the Braves organization starting with the Boston Braves, the Milwaukee Braves and now the Atlanta Braves. In addition, the game started with festivities for the retirement of number 47, the number worn by Braves great and future Hall of Famer, Tom Glavine.

Due to a horrendous thunder and lighting storm which dumped over three inches of rain on the city; the game was delayed two hours.  Barry Zito pitched for the Giants and Tommy Hanson for the Braves.  Both pitchers were overpowering with Zito striking out ten. Except for home runs allowed by Zito to Alex Gonzales and Chipper Jones, he allowed only two other hits and struck out ten over his seven innings.

Trailing 2-1 in the ninth, the Giants tied the score with help from sloppy fielding by Jones and Gonzales.  In a bizarre eleventh, the Giants scored a run with four batters reaching base without the aid of a hit. A sacrifice fly by Pat Burrell scored the winning run. Brian Wilson cruised through the bottom of the eleventh giving the Giants a 3-2 victory.

Prior to his performance Saturday evening, Coleman had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. James (Red) Moore, former Negro League player for the Atlanta Black Crackers, Baltimore Elite Giants and the Newark Eagles (from 1936-1940.)  When Coleman heard Roy Campanella of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Moore were roommates on the Eagles,  he had to meet him. He was a fan of Roy’s as a child growing up in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, Red was too old to make it to the Big Show.

On Saturday evening, after a final sound check, Coleman took the stage at seven-thirty in the evening and dazzled an audience of over 250 SABR members with his rendition of Ty Cobb.  Among the many guests in the audience was the new President of SABR, Mr. Marc Appleman who said, “I enjoyed the performance.”

After signing autographs and posing with his fans, Norm and Clay were driven to North Augusta, South Carolina by Mr. Milledge Murray, a fine Southern gentleman, businessman and friend of the Aiken County Historical Museum in Aiken, South Carolina where Norm was to perform the following afternoon.  Mr. Murray had seen Coleman perform in Royston, Georgia at the Ty Cobb Museum in July 2008 and recommended Norm to the Museum.

They arrived at Rosemary House, one of the oldest and most beautiful Bed & Breakfasts in all of South Carolina.  The historic antebellum estate also was home to Lookaway Hall.  Both are owned by Innkeepers, Kelly and Diana Combs.

The Estate was built by one of South Carolina’s most prominent developers at the turn of century, Mr. James U. Jackson, and housed many luminaries over the years including President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Mamie Eisenhower. Rosemary House also played host to the Detroit Tigers, managed by Ty Cobb during the 1921-22 spring training season.

The entire team, plus staff and trainers were housed at the estate for $1200.00 over a three-week period, which amounted to about .87 cents per player, food included.  Coleman was provided a copy of the contract dated January 9th, 1922 addressed to Mr. Tyrus R. Cobb, Manager, Detroit Tigers spelling out the financial arrangement and other details. A deposit of $400.00 was requested with balance due when the Tigers left the premises.

Rosemary is home to fabulous antiques, paintings and antique furniture and is managed by gracious hosts, the Combs family.  After a well deserved evening of rest and breakfast with Ms. Brenda Baratto, Assistant Director of the Museum, and Don Rhodes, prominent Georgia historian, author of books such as  Mysteries and Legends of Georgia, biography of James Brown and the definitive book of Ty Cobb, Safe at Home, the group returned to Rosemary House for an in-depth interview, conducted by Mr. Rhodes.

Don has interviewed many celebrities over the years including stars such as: Ethel Merman, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr. and many others.  Don, attired in natty forties costume sat down with Mr. Ty Cobb (Norm in full Tiger uniform stayed in character playing Cobb).

The interview lasted forty-five minutes with Don asking Cobb numerous questions about life in Georgia, raising his family in Augusta, playing days with the Tigers and post baseball career.  Both actor and writer had a ton of fun, the session was videotaped and recorded by Brenda for the archives of the museum.

After changing into normal attire, Brenda drove Don, Clay and Norm on a tour of historic Augusta, the second largest city in Georgia. They visited the park (it is no longer there, it is now a fairgrounds) where Ty Cobb played his first professional game for the Augusta Tourists in 1905.  They also visited the first apartment building built in Augusta by Ty Cobb called appropriately, Cobb Apartments.

The name Shirley is proudly displayed over one of the entrances to the two-story white building.  Shirley was one of Cobb’s two daughters, and his favorite.  They then went to the Augusta Golf course where they play the Masters. (although it is hidden by a serious of large trees making it impossible to see the golf course.)

The highlight of the day was a visit to the Cobb house, currently owned by a local Augusta family. The gracious lady of the house, Beverly Ford, being friends of Don, invited the group into her home.  Her daughter Marg Katherine Ford was also in attendance.

According to Coleman, it was an honor and a thrill to walk through Mr. Cobb’ home in Augusta where he raised his five children, Tyrus Raymond Cobb Jr; Shirley Marion; Roswell Herschel; Beverly and James Howell.

He stepped into Ty’s office where he worked and kept his large gun collection.  Walking outside the house and around the corner, they saw the stables where the Cobb children kept their horses and many of their pets.

The four of them drove to the Aiken County Historical Museum in Aiken, South Carolina for the three PM show. A cameraman from Channel 6, Augusta TV interviewed Coleman before the show.  The interview played on the 6PM and 11PM news along with footage from the show.

The show took place in the main room of the museum, a large fireplace directly behind Coleman with a framed portrait of a prominent Aiken woman on the wall above him.

The audience of ninety included Mr. Lou Brissie, 80 who pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics and Cleveland Indians from 1947-53. Brissie suffered massive injuries during WW2 when an artillery shell exploded nearby, wounding his legs.  Army surgeons were about to amputate the leg but Brissie begged them not to as he dreamed of pitching in the Majors after the war.

Coleman and Brissie

Former Philadelphia A's pitcher Lou Brissie meets Ty Cobb again

Brissie was a friend of Ty Cobb who scouted him in High School and referred him to Connie Mack, manager of the Philadelphia Athletics. Coleman spoke with Lou after the show and he told him, “I had great physicians in the service. They did unbelievable things to allow me to come back and play baseball.”  When asked how he liked the show, he told Coleman, “I enjoyed it, you came across as Ty Cobb,” whom he knew.

After the show, Coleman had a Q&A with the audience asking Cobb numerous questions. An Aiken resident named Alice Kierspe said, “fifty years ago I was a nurse at Emery Hospital in Atlanta when you, (Mr. Cobb) were battling cancer and you were my patient.”

Coleman asked her how he was and she said, “Ornery. He insisted on walking around the hospital instead of allowing me to push him in his wheelchair. He kept swearing he would walk out of the hospital. Two days later he died.”

“He was very charming,” said Alice. “He autographed two baseballs for me and I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my family about it.”

They were photographed together and the story made the front page of the Aiken Standard. (http://www.aikenstandard.com/results/0809-ty-cobb). An additional story also appeared in the Augusta Journal.

After a meet and greet with audience members, and dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, the group of four returned to Rosemary House for another meet and greet, lemonade and peach cobbler prepared by Ms. Baratto.  The two historic buildings were purchased and fully restored by the Combs family.  “All houses have hearts and stories to tell” Diana Combs said.  “These two houses started North Augusta, and are beloved by the community” she added.

The following morning, Brenda drove Clay and Coleman to the Atlanta airport and they left the hot, humid South for the cool, fog-laden village of Half Moon Bay.

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Norm Coleman is an actor, writer and photographer. He resides in Half Moon Bay, California. He has performed the Cobb show for three years.

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