A few years ago, coastside resident Norm Coleman made a little visit to the Half Moon Bay Library to find a book on baseball great Jackie Robinson.
Coleman wanted to learn more about the man who broke baseball’s color barrier back in 1947.
Sitting next to the Robinson book, however, was another title on one of baseball’s most notorious players — Ty Cobb.
Coleman didn’t know much about Cobb other than he was one of the sport’s most celebrated early characters.
So, the retired former photographer checked out both books.
It was a decision that would change his life.
Reading the Cobb book peaked Coleman’s curiosity about the man who set the standard for baseball greatness in the early part of the 20th century and who spent much of his life after baseball living in Atherton.
Cobb was known to be extraordinarily aggressive on the field. He was also a racist in young adulthood who turned to Christianity in the later part of his life and reformed his ways.
He set 90 records during his career, some that still stand, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the 1936 inaugural ballot.
He played and then also managed the Detroit Tigers for 22 seasons before ending his career with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1928.
Cobb was nicknamed "The Georgia Peach.”
Coleman knows all of these facts and so many more about Cobb.
He has become a bit obsessed with the baseball legend.
After closing down his San Mateo photography business in 1997, Coleman had lots of time on his hands to pursue other interests.
He figured he would dabble in acting.
In 2006, Coleman performed with the Coastal Repertory Theatre and Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City. He became struck by the acting bug.
He wanted to combine his interest in acting with his interest in Ty Cobb. He wrote a script, bought a Detroit Tigers uniform and created his own-man show.
He first performed his one-man play for the Pacifica Rotary Club in 2007 and hasn’t looked back.
On stage, Coleman becomes Ty Cobb.
"I fell in love with the idea of doing this show. I wrote the script, memorized the script and am my own director,” Coleman said. "I am Ty Cobb on stage. I’m not Norm Coleman.”
Ty Cobb was into visualization, Coleman said.
"He believed in visualization so I visualized myself on stage,” Coleman said.
He threw himself into the character and it has paid off. Coleman has performed his one-man show all over the country and has even performed for Cobb’s relatives at a museum in his honor in Royston, Ga. He performed for Detroit Tigers fans during spring training at Lakeland, Fla. and the President Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich.
He returns to Georgia and South Carolina this August to perform his show again.
He also performs every week at Cameron’s Restaurant and Pub in Half Moon Bay.
When Coleman first developed the show, it was only 10 minutes. He has expanded it to 80 minutes in four acts with 22 pieces of music.
The show is called "Ty Cobb – The greatest player that ever played the game.”
Coleman is most attracted to how Cobb turned his life around. After retirement, Cobb visited with baseball players in the Negro leagues extensively in the 1930s and 40s and funded a hospital in his home town that still serves the poor and disadvantaged.
He lived in Atherton from 1931 to 1961 and took up the game of golf after leaving baseball.
Coleman has thrown himself into Cobb’s world and developed other baseball-related interests, such as the proliferation of women in the front offices of professional baseball teams.
He currently writes for Baseball Digest Magazine online and has published numerous profiles on women in baseball’s front offices. He hopes to collect enough material to write a book.
All this from a visit to the library.
"Ty Cobb is keeping me young,” Coleman, 74, said. "Life begins at 70.”
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: email@example.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.