I'm going to write about Jerry Coleman today; someone who more than half of you have never heard of. Your loss. Jerry was the purest form of love, the most decent human being one could ever hope to meet.
Jerry Coleman was the baseball broadcaster for the San Diego Padres for four decades. Jerry Coleman was the worst baseball broadcaster I've ever heard. His achilles heel was that he loved the game so much, had such excitement for the game, that he would get caught up in the excitement of a spectacular play, or a dramatic score, that he would completely forget to tell you what happened on the field. When I lived in San Diego and listened to Jerry call a game I have frequently been driven to pick up the radio and throw it against the wall, such was my anger at this bumbling broadcaster who couldn't contain his excitement long enough to tell the listener what was going on.
And then you forgave him his limitations…it was just Jerry being Jerry. You forgave him his malapropos, clearly as bad as those spoken by Yogi Berra, a former teammate. You forgave him because of the pristine life that he led.
Jerry Coleman was a young man when World War II broke out. A slick fielding second baseman in the Yankees farm system, when the war began Jerry joined the Marines and became a Marine aviator. He flew more than 50 missions in the Pacific Theater winning more than his share of chest lettuce, including the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war Jerry came home and won a spot on the great Yankee teams of the 40's and 50's. He was selected Rookie of the Year, batted 275, played second base flawlessly, and helped the Yankees win all of those World Series championships year after year.
At the very height of his career, like the great Ted Williams, Jerry was recalled to active duty for the Korean War. Giving up his lucrative baseball career, Jerry was again in the Marines, flying slews of bombing missions over North Korea. He narrowly escaped death a dozen times, surviving flack hits and malfunctioning engines….and he collected three more Distinguished Flying Crosses and another few rows of chest lettuce for his Marine uniform.
Having given more than almost anyone to his beloved country, Jerry returned to his Yankees and his second base post. His teammates said he was so nervous that day that they couldn't talk to him, he didn't even know who they were. Jerry played a few more years for the Yankees, then served in the club front office for a time. He would finally begin his broadcasting career, working with the great Mel Allen, and then later with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese on the weekly Saturday broadcasts nationwide.
Eventually Jerry would end up doing baseball coverage for the California Angels in southern California. And then, when McDonalds mogul Ray Kroc bought the Padres, Jerry moved into the Padres broadcasting spot, where he would remain for the next forty years.
Jerry became an iconic figure around San Diego. He never met anyone that he didn't greet with a smile. Folks in his neighborhood could set their watches as Jerry set out on his morning three mile walks and when Jerry began doing promos for a local bank he felt the need to actually start banking with one that he was promoting so he would often walk into his bank branch and visit as if he owned part of it. Folks who knew Jerry intimately say he never showed anger and never uttered a curse word.
Jerry Coleman is in the baseball Hall of Fame, respected and admired as both player and broadcaster, has been feted many times by both the Padres and Yankees, always received a boisterous ovation as he showed up each year for Old Timer's Day, but is most proud of his Marine service.
Right up to his death Jerry, at 89 years old, was healthy and fit, as youthful as someone three decades younger. Sadly, like the mishaps of many of the elderly, Jerry slipped in the bath back in early December. In and out of the hospital in the weeks following, he died from those injuries Sunday morning. He will be missed beyond measure and that San Diego sunshine is just a tad less bright this week.
Rest in peace Jerry. You've flown your last mission and can now join your creator…and we are all better off for having known you.
P.S. If you find that I am now moderating comments before they are published, that is because we had a flaming liberal use extreme vulgarity and I deleted him. He has since posted over 50 times the same rant that I won't let him use this blog for his own personal libtard crusade…thus, I cut his water off. All comments will now be reviewed before they are published. I will later change the settings to allow all comments by certified 'followers' only so we know who's inflicting the spam.