Sunday, January 05, 2014

R.I.P. Jerry Coleman

So sorry to hear of the passing of Jerry Coleman. He was 89. Jerry was a standout second baseman for the New York Yankees in the ‘40s and ‘50s, a Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Yankees, CBS radio, and Padres, decorated war hero who as a fighter pilot flew hundreds of missions in World War II and Korea, loving husband and father, and most important to me – my broadcast partner with the San Diego Padres for three years.

I loved Jerry.

He was your favorite uncle. Always cheerful, always there for you. His passion for the game of baseball was infectious and his zest for life was inspiring. Other than having to broadcast meaningless spring training games, I can’t think of anything Jerry Coleman didn’t view in a positive light. You can see why it was such a pleasure to be around this man.

He was also incredibly humble. To baseball fans of a certain age, Jerry was a God in New York. Whenever we would go into New York to play the Mets, the pressbox attendants and TV tech people treated Jerry as if he were Prince Charles. And yet he always downplayed it. He shook everyone’s hand, asked how they were, and joked with them.

When my son Matt was bar mitzvahed Jerry drove up to Los Angeles to attend the reception. When we were on the road I picked his brain for hours, and he graciously and patiently answered all of my questions. A lot of what I know about baseball I learned from “the Colonel.”

Jerry is known of course for his malapropos. A typical example: "Winfield goes back to the wall. He hits his head on the wall and it rolls off! It's rolling all the way back to second base! This is a terrible thing for the Padres." But truthfully, calling play-by-play for three hours every day, every baseball announcer has those. I’ve had my fair share, believe me. Many way more embarrassing. What I learned (from Jerry) is to take it in good humor. It all goes back to not taking yourself too seriously. Thank you, Jerry.

Jerry Coleman worked Padres games up until his death. He led a rich full life. He would often point out how lucky he was. So many of his friends had died young in a war. He lived to be 89 in relatively good health.  There was not one day he didn't appreciate his good fortune. 

I will miss him greatly. And I can almost hear him. “At least I won’t have to do the damn spring training games from Peoria.”

RIP Jerry Coleman.  You will forever be a Hall of Famer.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute Ken, RIP Colonel

Anonymous said...

Jerry Coleman your voice is silent now but the memories will always be a part of all who knew and loved you. Thank you not only for your contribution to MLB but more importantly for our country. R.I.P. Jerry. You will be missed.

Randy 92109 said...

Thanks for posting that Ken. I literally bumped into Jerry Coleman about a year ago at a Sprouts Market. He had on a Marines sweatshirt and Padres cap - at age 88 he looked like he could kick my butt. When I looked back I saw him let a couple people go ahead of him in line. He seemed to be so humble and always seemed so approachable.

For those in San Diego, he was the sound of summer and baseball. Baseball announcers have a special connection to the audience and Jerry really was everyone's favorite uncle. What a fabulous life he lead, I hope those who were unaware of this fine man take a little time to read of his accomplishments.

Howard Hoffman said...

So sad that the storytellers are departing. You did him proud with this, Ken. Rest in Peace, Jerry.

Vet said...

Amen

Gabriel G. said...

Oh doctor! You can hang a star on his career.

Knightster said...

Knightser:

Wow. I had Jerry in my studio in 2006 cutting the radio spots for Petco. Wish I had the photos on the notebook here, I would post them in his memory. RIP Jerry Coleman, proud to have had you in my booth. And what a kind, gentle and happy soul.

And you can hang a Star on that baby.

Doug said...

The Colonel has been part of the Padres literally my entire life. I can't begin to imagine how his passing will effect everyone and everything associated with the Padres this year. Please forgive me for bringing up another broadcaster's bit; but I think I might miss "So Jer, what did you do today?" the most.

Hamid said...

Sorry for your loss, Ken. Being from the UK, I'm not that familiar with the world of baseball, but your tribute was very moving and evocative and I pay my respects to a good man and a veteran. RIP

Dale said...

Ken.
I am sorry to learn of the loss of your friend.
May he rest in peace.
Cheers. Dale

Richard Y said...

As a San Diegian and did not closely follow the Padres you knew Jerry. Indeed a humble person and full of life. He brought baseball to life to those who did not fully understand the game. His Colemanisms will be missed as well. RIP Jerry, you are missed.

Michael said...

In one of the obituaries, Ted Leitner complained that the malaprops overwhelmed what his reputation would have been otherwise, and that the Colonel resented that a bit. He should have, but I think most knew better. Coleman himself said that a few of them simply weren't true, and he would like to send the guy who collected them on a rocket to the moon. But he was a fine broadcaster, from all I've heard and read an even better person, and truly an American hero. San Diego fans (and Yankee fans before them) were lucky to have him in their homes for so long.

Canda said...

Great piece. You fort to mention that Coleman has an autobiography he helped write, called "An American Journey: My Life On The Field, In the Air, and On the Air". Good read.

Exile in Philly said...

I grew up in NYC listening to Jerry Coleman do Yankee baseball. I was raised by a Yankee-hating Dodger fan, so I was a Mets fan from Day One (1962) but I always enjoyed Coleman's work. (New York in the '60s was blessed with many of the greatest baseball announcers ever: Red Barber, Mel Allen, Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson, Ralph Kiner.)

Coleman was constantly offering baseball tips to "you kids out there." He was the calmer antidote to his frequent broadcasting (and infield) partner, Phil Rizzuto, who was amusingly, but often overbearingly, prone to hyperbole and homerism.

As Rizzuto used to say... "Yes, Jer." Oh, Doctor, he'll be missed.

Sue said...

Thanks for the heartfelt tribute to the Colonel,Ken. It is truely a sad day for Padres fans and all of San Diego. Most feel like they lost a family member. He will be missed, though we were lucky to have him for so long.

LouOCNY said...

Ken, my heartfelt sympathies. Losing such a close personal and professional friend is very, very hard.

Having really too young to hesr him when he was a Yankee announcer, and of course, being on the wrong coast to hear his Padres work, so I cannot comment on his broadcasting work properly. What should be mentioned is that he was one hell of a ballplayer. He may nevrr had the numbers, but he was one many Yankees of those days who did nothing but WIN. Guys like Bauer,McDougald, Woodling. Him and Rizzuto were the best DP combo in the game before he got drafted. Hail to your Mr Coleman!

VP81955 said...

Ken, a splendid salute to a true gentleman and American hero. I hope that when the Padres made their annual trip to Washington over the past few years, Jerry was able to visit the Marine Corps Museum near Quantico. He certainly would have appreciated it.

I vaguely remember him from the Yankees' broadcast team of the late '60s (an all-former player trio of Coleman, Phil Rizzuto and Joe Garagiola). He was always easy to listen to, something that continued with the few times I heard him do Padres games, either on the Coast or on AFRTS via shortwave.

Hang a star on that life.

Cap'n Bob said...

I'm another who was lucky enough to hear him do the Yankee games in the sixties. He and his cohorts made every game a joy to hear. Your words were welcome, Ken, as deserved praise for this good guy.

steve said...

My uncle,Lyle Bond introduced me to Jerry Coleman back in '72.I was in awe,as he had been a baseball legend for decades.Listening to the Padres just won't be the same without him...R.I.P. Mr.Coleman

Jeffro said...

Ave atque vale, Mr. Coleman.

noncanadianguy said...

As a non-San Diegan, my main experience with Mr. Coleman was listening to him do postseason games on CBS Radio. They usually teamed him up with Jack Buck, and that duo was as listenable and informative as you'd hope for.

Farewell and Godspeed to him.

noncanadianguy said...
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Joe said...

Even in his later years, Mr. Coleman would call a game with that unique connection that comes from a hustling, enthusiastic former player, albeit one of years past. His passing is a profound loss.