Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Aiken, South Carolina - Aiken County Historical Museum

Immediately following the conclusion of our show in Atlanta, my assistant, Clay Beatty and I packed our bags for the three hour journey to Aiken, SC where we were scheduled to perform at 2PM the following day.

Milledge Murray, an Augusta businessman I met in Royston, GA when I performed at the Ty Cobb Museum drove us to Aiken for the show scheduled Sunday. He loved the show I did at the Cobb Museum and referred us to the curator at the Aiken County Historical Museum,  (a) Ms. Brenda Barrato. We arrived in North Augusta, South Carolina across the border from Aiken and checked into the Rosemary Inn, (b) a breathtaking majestic  and elegant mansion, now a bed & breakfast.

The Inn is one of two mansions built at the turn-of-the-century overlooking the beautiful town of North Augusta along the Savannah River.

Our Innkeeper, John Kelly Combs gave us a tour of the mansion and introduced us to the rich heritage of Southern hospitality he was proud of. His wife, Diana was  on business on Los Angles.

In 1921 and 1922, the Detroit Tigers, managed by Ty Cobb, brought the  Tigers for spring training  to Augusta at Warren Park which is the current location of the Exchange Club Fairgrounds. The team stayed at Lookaway Hall and Rosemary Hall in North 

Rosemary Inn, night view

After checking in, he walked us across the street to Lookaway Hall, Rosemary's sister property.
Construction on the mansions was completed in 1902. Both mansions were fully restored to their original look after Mr. Combs bought them a few years ago. We drank a few beers and went to bed early as we had a big day ahead of us in the morning.

We had an early breakfast with John Kelly and Don Rhodes, (c) the author of Ty Cobb, "Safe at Home" and an Augusta celebrity and sports writer. Don picked up Clay and I after breakfast and drove us to the Aiken Museum where we met our curator, Ms.  Baratto. We looked over the theater and stage facility with Clay approving the facility.

Brenda told us they would serve hotdogs, peanuts and crackerjacks to the attendees after the show and a local retired Major League baseball pitcher, Lou Brissie would attend and sign copies of his book.

Don drove the three of us back to Rosemary Inn where Don and I chatted and recorded an interview that would play on local radio later in the day. Don then proceeded to give Clay, Brenda and me a tour of Augusta that included the Augusta National Golf Club where  they play the Masters. He showed us a ball field, Warren Park where Cobb played professional baseball for the first time in March 1904  and where Ty later would bring the Detroit Tigers team for spring training as player manager. He drove us to the home where Ty and his wife Charlie Lombard raised their five children.

Don Rhodes, author "Safe at Home"
Don knocked on the door and a charming women answered inquiring, "Don, what are you doing here so early Sunday morning?".

He introuduced the three of us saying I was an actor from San Francisco who would be performing Ty Cobb at the Museum and wanted to see Ty's home.

With her friendly Southern charm, she invited us into her home. showed us Ty's office, where he stored his large collection of guns and golf clubs. She told us when she bought the home, how long they lived there and yes, tourists did come by to see the home.

Don showed us around the house, the two car garage though when the Cobb's lived there, that is where Ty's children kept their horses. We thanked the charming lady for her gracious hospitality and drove back to the Museum where a television reporter from Augusta TV
was waiting to interview me for the evening news.

Rosemary Inn
The TV newscaster from Augusta News WJBF-TV channel 11 interviewed me asking me about the show and several other questions. The newscast appeared at 6PM and 11PM that evening. 

NNorm "Ty Cobb" Coleman on Augusta News - YouTube

Brenda introuduced me to Lou Brissie who was busy signing books. Lou was introduced to Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack by Ty Cobb and pitched for the Athletics from 1947 to 1951. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians and pitched for them from 1951 to 1953. 

The stage was small, not much room to work on and a few feet from the first row. I engaged a young lad who was sitting in the front row with his dad asking him to hold my bat and glove. He was delighted to become part of the show and his father later told me, "my son will never forget being part of the Cobb show".

During the Q&A after the show, a local resident namedAlice
Kierspe told me she was a nurse at Emory University in Atlantawhen Cobb was battling cancer, and became her patient. "How was he?" I asked her. "He was very chaming to me," she said. "He autographed two baseballs for me and I couldn't wait to go home and tell my family about it."

Leland Victor (Lou) Brissie
Lou Brissie was in heavy fighting in Italy with the 88th Infantry Division and on December 2, 1944, a shall exploded shattering his left leg and shinbone. Doctors told him his leg had to be amputated but Lou pleaded, "doc, I'm a ballplayer and I want to play when the war ends." He insisted his leg be saved and it was.

He received a Purple Heart (with oak leaf cluster) and a Bronze Star Medal. 

Despite severe pain, he returned to baseball after the war and pitched with a metal brace on his leg. He retired September 1, 1953 and finished with a 44-48 record.

I asked him if he enjoyed the show. He said, "I knew that tough SOB Cobb, you  nailed his aggressive way of playing but you also showed the kinder, gentler side of Ty."

Lou's book, The Corporal Was a Pitcher: The Courage of Lou Brissie has a Foreward by Tom Brokow. Lou died on November 25, 2013 at the VA Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. He was 89.

After the show, I mingled with the audience, signed some programs and chowed down on a few hot dogs. Brenda told me and Clay there was a private party at Rosemary Inn later in the evening. She drove us to the Inn, we drank some wine, relaxed and waited for my public.

Lou Brissie with John. K. Combs, Owner, Rosemary Inn

The party was attended by numerous local folk including Brenda, Don Rhodes, Milledge Murray and his friend Lamarr Garrard, a Ty Cobb historian, Kelly Combs, Clay and many others.

Wine, punch and sweet tea was served and we dined on Cobb salad, corn-on-the-cobb. bar-b-que
peach pie and other delicacies.

The following day, Brenda drove
me and Clay to the Atlanta airport. We stopped at a charming restaurant for a delicious breakfast as she insisted on sending us back to San Francisco with a full stomach.

Brenda mailed a letter to me stating, "the presentation was educational, informative, entertaining and inspirational; also amusing, thoughtful and poignant. You hit it out of the park."

"The show was a well-researched historical production."

Brenda Baratto,
Assistant Director
Aiken County Historical Museum
Aiken, South Carolina 29801

Aiken County Historical Museum

Brenda Baratto, Aiken Museum 

The majestic, elegant Rosemary Inn (photo by Clay Beatty)

In front of first apartment building built by Ty Cobb in Augusta.

(a) The Aiken County Historical Museum is located in downtown Aiken and features a wide  variety of collections relating to the history of Aiken County,

from its earliest settlers to today.  The museum’s collection is housed in Banksia, a 1931 winter colony mansion.

(b) Rosemary Inn 

Rosemary Inn echoes the classic style of the antebellum era, although the interior reflects the fashion of the Gilded Age. 

In 1992, Rosemary Hall and Lookaway Hall were completely renovated and restored as a pair of historic inns with twenty-three guest rooms. In 1996, scenes for Disney’s remake of “That Darn Cat” were filmed at both Inns.  Kelly and Diana Combs purchased Rosemary Hall in 2009 to create Rosemary Inn Bed & Breakfast.  Today, Rosemary provides the perfect setting  for a relaxing stay in a lovely historic Bed & Breakfast Inn.

(c) Don Rhodes, author of Ty Cobb-"Safe at Home" is an editor at Morris Communications Co. based in Augusta, GA. For 37 years he has written Ramblin' Rhodes, a weekly music column, and his byline appears in many daily newspapers and national magazines. He resides in North Augusta, South Carolina.


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