Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cobb show - Cobb Museum, Royston, Georgia, July, 2008

My first contact with the Ty Cobb Museum was a letter I wrote to the Museum in April 2007 to Candy Ross, secretary to Julie Ridgeway, Museum curator. I explained who I was and mailed a press kit. Candy and I had many phone conversations and said she would pass the information to Ms. Ridgeway. Julie told me she would consider me for the 10th anniversary of the Museum's opening in July, 2008.

The Ty Cobb Museum is  located in Royston, Georgia where Cobb was raised and is located about seventy-five miles northeast of Atlanta. It was officially dedicated in July 1998 and honors one of baseball's all time greats, Tyrus Raymond (The Georgia Peach) Cobb.

The Museum contains art and memorabilia, video, books and historical archives of Cobb. These include Cobb's 1907 American League batting champion medal, rare photos, a beautiful mural collage that surrounds The Cobb Theater, with stadium style seating. 

The Museum is located at 461 Cook Street in Royston.

Museum is located inside Cobb Memorial Hospital

Cobb used his wealth to establish the Cobb Memorial Hospital in Royston, that is now one of the crown jewels of an integrated rural healthcare system that serves thousands of patients throughout northeast Georgia. 

Cobb was often accused of being a racist, as he was born in rural Georgia 23 years aftr the War Between The States. Cobb discuss this toward the end of the show reminding the audience about the history of racism in America and his taking on the thinking of many folk  in the South

He points out, "there was as much hatred, prejudice and discrimination of the coloreds in Boston, New York and California as there was in Mobile, Alabama, Memphis, Tennessee,
Jackson, Mississippi and Atlanta, Georgia. Baseball was segregated and during World War 2,
while the United States wasfighting for liberty, freedom and democracy throught Europe and Asia, the Military was segregated.

I exchanged numerous e-mails and had many conversations with Ms. Ridgeway in the spring of '08. She was polite and informed me the directors of the Hospital and Museum were considering my proposal and she would get back to me.

Thanks to my friend and mentor Wesley Fricks's determination and the video of my show he taped in Lakeland, Florida, helped persuade Julie to finally say yes for me to attend the three day celebration and to perform on Saturday evening July 19.

Now that my wish to perform in Royston has come to pass, it hit me the pressure to perform at my best, in his hometown, his Museum in front of his relatives and friends, I had better be at my best. To knock it out of the park, to hit a home run, to be as great on the stage as he was on the field.

Clay Beatty, my assistant and I rehearsed repeatedly for weeks and flew out of San Francisco to Atlanta on Tuesday July 15. Wesley met us at the airport on a dark, stormy rainy evening and we were on our way to  Royston, about 75 miles away. A thunderous rainstorm hit  half way there with thunder and lightning lighting up the sky as we traveled the two lane road through rural Georgia.

It rained so hard, the windshield wipers couldn't clear the rain from the windshield so we pulled of the road until the storm let up. Wesley said not to worry, he knew the road and this was a typical Georgia storm. He confidently predicted it will pass, and it did.

Wesley, who lives and breathes Cobb insisted we drive into the Rose Hill Cemetery to view Cobb's Tomb. But it's one o'clock in the morning we protested. Wesley grinned a mischievous grin saying he knew, this was the best time to visit a cemetery he said, laughing his head off.                                                                                                    

The stars shined brilliantly in the pitch black night sky. He slowly drove his pick-up into the cemetery, lights dimmed and parked near Cobb's Tomb. It was quiet, beautiful but weird and freaky, not a sound to be heard. We spoke in whispers so as not to disturb the sleeping spirits.  

Using his flashlight, he walked us to the Tomb explaining Cobb was there with his mom and dad. He walked us to some other graves, informing us who was buried there without reading the names on the grave stone. "Let's go" I said explaining how tired we were. It  was two o'clock when we left the cemetery saying politely,  we would like to come back tomorrow in the daytime to pay our respects.

We checked into the Days Inn Motel when Wesley, wide awake with great passion explained to Mr. Shilpan Patel, the manager whom we had waked from a deep sleep that we just arrived from San Francisco, I was an actor Wesley told Shilpan who was going to perform as Mr. Ty Cobb Saturday evening. He wasn't impressed. Wesley informed in detail to the startled Mr. Patel all about Ty Cobb. We sheepishly smiled at the manager and asked him for the room key. Wesley helped us with our bags and bid us good night. We went right to sleep. It was three o'clock in the morning.     

Show flyer
It was Wednesday we slept late, then went into town for breakfast consisting of grits, omelets, potatoes, bacon, ham and coffee. Only $4.25. We're not in San Francisco anymore I told Clay. We then drove to the Museum to meet Julie and toured the Museum that sits in the lobby of the hospital.

Wesley let us use his pick-up and we toured the small charming town and visited many merchants on Main St. We shook hands with the owners and customers informing them we would be performing Ty Cobb SaturdayI evening and hoped they will attend the show.
We drove down Main Street in in five minutes we were out of town. Royston is a charming  small whistle-stop village, population, 3,500.

Thursday evening, July 17, we attended a Candlelight Reception at the Rose Hill Pavilion at the cemetery. Attendees included the Mayor, City Council members, Cobb's family, friends and officials from the Hospital and Museum, me, Clay and Wesley. 

Neither of us golf so we passed on the Ty Cobb Memorial Golf Tournament so Clay and I toured and hiked the beautiful Victoria Bryant State Park, and then drove 45 miles outside town to a large Peach farm. We purchased a barrel of the most fabulous Georgia peaches we had ever tasted. The sweet juice rolled down our faces as we devoured the worlds finest peaches. Clay mailed some to his parents and I sent some to my family.     

Saturday morning, July 19, we attended a vintage baseball game  followed by lunch with

Cobb's Tomb at Rose Hill Cemetery 
Southern smoke Bar-B-Q and potato salad. A Hearse was on exhibit that carried Ty Cobb's body from Cornelia to Royston. Don Rhoades, author, celebrity from Augusta, GA
did a book signing of his new book, Safe At Home, the latest Cobb Biography and gave me an autographed copy. Mr. William R. Cobb, Ph.D edited a book called Busting 'Em and autographed a copy for me too.

This was followed by a Ty Cobb limited edition baseball card; then a "Cobb Family Cookbook"
went on sale. I did not get an autographed copy.

The dinner show was scheduled for 6PM at the Swails Center, Emmanuel College Campus, ten miles outside Royston in Franklin Springs, GA. Mr. Fricks drove me and Clay to the College but given that many Cobb relatives would be in the audience gave me a fright.  He thought we should go to the cemetery so I could commune with Cobb's spirit before going on stage. Wesley likes cemeteries. And now we do too.

The theater at the college is huge, as is the stage. A smaller stage was prepared for me below the massive stage. Julie arranged for Clay to have two assistants as the sound system in the theater was massive. Many rock shows and Broadway musicals perform here.

Although I was well prepared, with many rehearsals, I was more nervous than usual given the large crowd of local folk, many of them distant relatives of Ty Cobb. They probaby know more about Cobb than I do and I was more concerned than usual, hoping they would like the show.

The tables seating three hundred people for dinner were arranged with a fabulous floral display plus peanuts, popcorn and crackerjacks. Diner consisted of Southern Fried Chicken, Cobb Salad, Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice cream and coffee. We did a sound check before attendees entered the room and I went into the huge green room behind the stage where I remained during dinner.

After dinner, Julie made a brief speech; Dixie was played, followed by an introduction, Clay
played Take Me Out To The Ballgame and I entered the stage. It was Showtime!
Julie and me on the air

Act 1 is forty-five minutes, at intermission, I returned to the green room and layed down.
Clay and the two interns entered the room. Clay asked me what was wrong as I looked sad. I said the audience was to quiet, they didn't laugh at the laugh lines.  Clay said, "no way, they love the show, they're paying attention, you have them eating out of the palm of your hands".
I felt much better.

San Francisco, Open Your Golden Gate opens Act two, that is forty minutes long. At shows end,
the audience rose giving me a loud, long standing ovation. I started to walk off the stage but Julie said "don't leave, the Mayor wants to say a few words". I didn't leave and he did. He also paid me a compliment and said, "I have a gift for you" and he presented me with the key to the city. Several people came over asking for my autograph and I posed for pictures with the Mayor and several families. They loved the show and I was extremly pleased.

As I hadn't eaten since lunch, Wesley took me and Clay to dinner at an all night diner.
I devoured a turkey sandwich, potato salad and a coca-cola and we talked about the show.
Julie told me how much she enjoyed the show and heard many positive comments. Wesley said
this show was way better than the Lakeland, FL show and Clay, who is quiet said I hit a home run.

Me and Clay at the Cobb Memorial Hospital

"I am proud of funding the Cobb Memorial Hospital in Royston,  and the Cobb Healthcare System for poor families.  This nation never has had a good health care system for its poor.  The Cobb Health care system was designed to help poor folk, regardless of color.  That is the Christian, American and humane thing to do.  I thank the Lord for enabling me to be in a position to help those less fortunate than myself".
Tyrus Raymond (The Georgia Peach) Cobb

Mural in downtown Royston
 "I believe the most important thing a youngster could do was to get a good education.  For those students who qualified, regardless of race, but were unable to stay in school due to financial reasons, the money was there to help the future stars of engineering, law, medicine and teaching.  As of today, May 20, 2015,over 10,000 students have received scholarships to the college of their choice in Georgia". 
Ty Cobb

We relaxed all day Sunday, swam in the motel pool while I basked in the hot sun knowing I  was a success in Royston and dreamed of where on this Heavenly road I was on I would be next.  We bid farewell to Julie, Candy and Mr. Patel. Wesley drove us to the Atlanta airport and Clay and I flew to our cool fog laden home in Half Moon Bay, CA.

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