Dickson: The importance of Oscar Charleston

From Paul Dickson at The National Pastime Museum on July 21, 2014:

In the year 2000, Lee Blessing’s play Cobb opened in New York and immediately attracted attention by provocatively placing another man into the context of Ty Cobb’s combative and talented life.

In the play, Oscar Charleston—who played for 10 teams in the Negro Leagues between 1915 and 1954 and was known, among other things, as the “black Ty Cobb”—came on stage at the beginning of the play and proclaimed that nobody really knows anything about him, and because he was always compared to Cobb, he will become the interpreter of Cobb’s life.

As the play progresses, Charleston haunts and taunts Cobb, reminding him that the Negro Leagues also had Hall of Famers like Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige. How, Charleston asks, could Cobb call himself the best without having gone up against them? And, more to the point, against him.

When Cobb opened in Pittsburgh, the actor who played Charleston told the Post-Gazette that he had done some research on his character and concluded that Charleston was just as combative and driven as Cobb, adding, “I don’t know that I would have liked him.” Charleston was not the “black Ty Cobb,” but rather, as one writer put it, Cobb was the “white Oscar Charleston.”

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/importance-oscar-charleston

Originally published: July 21, 2014. Last Updated: July 21, 2014.