Ty Cobb Comes Home: Actor Norm Coleman brings one-man show about baseball legend to DetroitWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In the annals of the national pastime, few individuals were more polarizing than Ty Cobb. One of the undisputed icons of the game, Cobb’s legacy as an on-field legend during his playing years (almost all for the Detroit Tigers) was strong enough to get the “Georgia Peach” inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame almost unanimously in the Hall’s first-ever vote. But his legacy has long been tainted by tales of Cobb’s racism and violence off the field, as well.
But there was more to Cobb than that, argues Norm Coleman, actor and lifelong baseball fan. And on the weekend of September 5, he’ll work to demonstrate that by bringing his one man show, “Ty Cobb: The Greatest Player That Ever Played the Game,” to the Masonic Temple in Detroit — a stone’s throw away from Comerica Park, where Cobb’s former club the Tigers will play that night.
“As a baseball fan, and a statistician — I was really into stats, looking at all the books — I saw the name ‘Cobb’ over and over and over again,” Coleman said in an interview with Toledo Free Press. “So I just figured he was obviously a great ballplayer, he had lots of records. I knew nothing about him. But when I picked up a book and started reading about him, I discovered that this is a very interesting, complex, misunderstood man.”
For Coleman, this show — indeed, his career as an actor — seems a culmination of a lifelong passion for baseball. Born in Brooklyn, the young Coleman had a chance to sample from some of the great cathedrals of the game — Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium.
“When I was a kid and I was taken to my first game, I fell in love with the game. It’s hard to understand why, exactly, but basically what I love about baseball is, you never know what is going to happen. It’s full of drama. It can be slow, and then things happen quickly. There’s no repetition. Hey, there’s no clock. So games go on until they’re over and done with.”
His love for the sport carried through his entire life, as he worked as a photographer and entrepreneur. But he had never performed a day in his life until, at the tender age of 70, the acting bug bit him, hard.
“I took to the stage for the first time at a local theater,” Coleman said. “And I fell in love with the theater. At the same time, I started reading about Ty Cobb. And it kind of clicked — maybe the second book I read — that this has the potential for a one-man show, because he’s such an interesting man, and most people don’t know anything about him.”
The one-two punch of Coleman’s dueling passions for the theater and the game manifested themselves with a 90-minute performance that tries to put a human face on a man who history regards as an icon on the field and a demon off of it. Over the past seven years, he has given over 100 performances of the piece all over the country.
“For me, it was the fact that I never acted a day in my life, I never wrote anything except business letters. I took it as a challenge. It turned out to be the biggest challenge of my life.
“I read probably ten, twelve books — and not just about Ty Cobb. I read books about people he knew. Obviously Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, people like that. And, of course, the fact that he knew all the presidents — from William Howard Taft to Dwight D. Eisenhower. How many people could walk into the Oval Office and say, ‘Hey, Mr. President, want to go play some golf today?’”
Coleman added that there is a special feeling about bringing Cobb to the city where his legend was born. “It’s not that I feel pressure to give the best show I have ever done — I always try to do that. It’s like, when a pitcher goes out there, he wants to pitch a no-hitter,” Coleman said.
“But this is different. This is Detroit. This is where Cobb played. So, do I feel pressure? I don’t think about it. I rehearse, I rehearse daily. My analogy is like, there’s a great pitcher who gets to start game one of the World Series. Is there pressure? Yes. But once you’re on the field, all you want to do is get those guys out.”
“Ty Cobb: The Greatest Player That Ever Played the Game” will be performed Friday, September 5 at 4:30 pm and Saturday, September 6 at 6:30 pm at the Masonic Temple in Detroit. Tickets available through the Masonic Box Office at 313-638-2724 or at ticketmaster.com.
Tags: Babe Ruth, Baseball, Baseball Hall of Fame, Brooklyn, Comerica Park, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ebbets Field, Georgia Peach, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Masonic Temple, Norm Coleman, Polo Ground, racism, Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, violence, William Howard Taft, Yankee Stadium