By all accounts he was a racist and a jerk -- and a helluva ball player. One of the legends of the game, Ty Cobb is remembered in a new play by the author of A Walk in the Woods and Eleemosynary. Lee Blessing’s biographical drama, Cobb, received good-to-excellent reviews and was scheduled to end its run May 20. However, as reported by PBOL on May 19, the show was suddenly extended two weeks, to June 4. The show started previews April 10 and opened April 17.
The New York Times now reports (May 26) the extension came courtesy of none other than actor Kevin Spacey. Spacey, the lead and prime mover in last season's Broadway revival of The Iceman Cometh, came to Cobb to see co-star Matthew Mabe, who had been an understudy in Iceman. (In Cobb, Mabe plays "Peach," the young, just starting-out ballplayer.) Spacey liked the show so much that he pulled out a checkbook and apparently donated enough for the Melting Pot Theatre Company to run Cobb two more weeks. Spacey wouldn't tell the Times how much he gave, but he did say he was eager to get producers and industry people to see the production. "It's the kind of theatre I like to encourage," Spacey told the Times. "I don't mind kicking up a little dust to get people to pay attention to something like this."
Directed by Joe Brancato, Cobb looks at its subject, an early Hall of Fame inductee, through three stages of his life. Though he’s best remembered for his hustle and quality with the Detroit Tigers (where he was nicknamed “The Georgia Peach”), he had a nasty and prejudiced side to make John Rocker look like Mr. Rogers. The outfielder played with the Tigers from 1905-26 (managing them for the last six of those years), and then played two years for the Philadelphia Athletics. Cobb’s lifetime batting average was .367; most good-hitting ball players are lucky to make over .320.
Playing the three Cobbs in Blessing’s drama are Michael Cullen, Matt Mabe and Michael Sabatino. Clark Jackson will play an athlete in the Negro League.
Designing the show are Matt Maraffi (set), Daryl A. Stone (costumes) and Jeff Nelis (lighting). For tickets ($35) and information on Cobb at the Melting Pot Theatre, 311 West 43rd Street, call (212) 279-4200.
-- By David Lefkowitz
and Kenneth Jones