Half Moon Bay resident Norm Coleman performed his first solo one-man show depicting Ty Cobb at Cameron’s Pub when he was 67 years old. That was 16 years ago.
Due to lingering health issues, Coleman, now 83, took the stage as the famous baseball player for the last time on Saturday at the Half Moon Bay Public Library. That, coincidentally, is where he read his first book on Cobb.
Coleman worked as a portrait photographer in San Mateo before relocating to Half Moon Bay with his wife and son in 1994. After picking up a book on Tyrus Raymond Cobb at the library in 2006, Coleman became fascinated with his story. As a lifelong baseball fan, Coleman knew the name, but knew nothing of the player. He joined the Society for American Baseball Research, where he learned even more through baseball historians.
Rumor and tall tales surrounded Cobb, an outfielder with the Detroit Tigers from 1905-1927. Cobb’s 4,191 hits are second-all time, and his .367 career batting average is still the game’s all-time best. By the time the “Georgia Peach” retired in 1928, he’d amassed 90 major league records, and was the first inductee in the inaugural Hall of Fame vote in 1936, ahead of Babe Ruth. Cobb was baseball’s first millionaire, had big money endorsements, and made a Hollywood movie. He was a celebrity.
“I saw something in him which really attracted me to the way he worked,” Coleman said. “Not just as a ballplayer, but the complex character he was, and the misinformation that was told about him over the years.”
Though Coleman has no experience acting or writing, Cobb’s story and personality resonated with him, and Coleman pursued it with all his passion. After reading over a dozen books on Cobb and his contemporaries, Coleman wrote a script and began his show at Cameron’s and local rotary clubs. He’s brought the famous ballplayer to life, telling stories around the country for more than 15 years, acting in venues such as the President Gerald R. Ford Library and the Ty Cobb Museum in Royston, Ga. His own book, “The Life and Times of Ty Cobb,” published in 2018, and his entire performance for that matter, is an attempt to set the record straight on one of the most complex, compelling and controversial characters in the sport.
It was the late Broadway actress and Coastside resident Lyn April Statten who showed him the acting ropes and taught him the importance of rehearsal.
“You don’t think about the words,” Coleman said. “People don’t think you’re acting, they think you are the character.”