Thursday, May 7, 2015

In the beginning, research, writing and acting

I have gently joshed with a few librarians about the mis-filing of the book I took home with me along with the Robinson book. It was Ty Cobb by Charles C. Alexander. As a long time baseball fan, I was aware of the name Ty Cobb but knew nothing about the man. 

Alexander introduced me to the volatile, proud, intelligent, fierce, complex man who was determined to be the best player in the game. He allowed no-one to get in his way, opponents or teammates. I devoured the book and read two more by a man named Al Stump:  Ty Cobb, My Life in Baseball and Cobb. I was hooked on Cobb and read some more. 

Stump had a reputation for being one of America's most famous sports writers and Cobb hired him to write his autobiography. Over time, Stump's reputation took a hit and he fell from grace. Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox and a friend of Mr. Cobb and Ron Cobb, baseball historian among others questioned the veracity of Stump's stories about Cobb.

Oil Painting by Dick Perez

The movie Cobb with one of my favorite actors Tommy Lee Jones came out in 1994 based on the Stump books. Jones was great as Cobb but the film was a stinker and presented Cobb as a devil in spikes, a monster wearing a Tigers uniform. The film had several scenes in it that were not based on fact, some of this due to misinformation Stump wrote about Cobb and some based on the Hollywood script writer that made Cobb look like a savage beast. It was a financial disaster at the box office.

When I decided after reading a few more books and speaking with a Cobb historian at the Hall of Fame, I convinced myself Cobb's story could make a fascinating one-man show. I was intent on showing all sides of the man. He may not have been a saint, but he was not an unredeemed sinner, lots of shades of grey as is the case with most people. He was a complex and misunderstood man, with a negative press, particularly among more modern sports-writers and I wanted to show all sides of him, worts and all.

The gentleman at the Hall, also a Cobb historian suggested I join SABR, Society of American Baseball Research located in Cleveland, Ohio. It was there I was told for an annual fee of $40, they would provide me with about a dozen Cobb historians around the country. I am still an active member of SABR.

I had lunch several times with a Cobb historian from Mt. View, CA who was helpful but the man who would become my mentor, was most accommodating and supportive was Mr. Wesley Fricks from Tampa Bay, FL. We are friends until this day and I owe my success to Wesley.  More about him later.   
In famed wide stance-hands apart

It was around this time, early December 2005 that I had a wild and crazy idea to auditione for a part in a play called Inherit The Wind, scheduled to open at the Coastal Reportory Theater on Main St. in Half Moon Bay in February, 2006. I had never acted a day in my life and didn't know stage left from stage right, but I could read.  I went to the audition that Saturday morning. I was one of about twenty men who showed up to read.

Young Ty 1907

I had been an award winning professional photographer, entrepreneur for the previous thirty years, had never written anything but business letters and had never been on the stage. Talk about thinking out of the box. My thought was, what was the worst that could happen at the audition? I would read a few lines, they might say thank you, next, and I would go home.

That is what happened. But on the following Wednesday, a nice lady from the theater called and asked if I would return on Saturday to read for a small part. I went, I read, and was told, somebody from the theater would call in a few days. Someone did call, and I was accepted.
I was stunned, but delighted. Little did I know my life was about to change.

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