Jerry Coleman Baseball Legend Dies At 89

Ballplayer, Broadcaster, World War II and Korean War Combat Hero, Jerry Coleman Passes Away

Jerry Coleman Phil Rizutto 1949

Vaudeville Tactics

New York: Jerry Coleman, second baseman for the Yanks does a nip-up like a vaudevillian to get the ball down to first after putting out Bobby Dillinger of the Browns in the first inning of the game at Yankee Stadium on August 6. The throw was not fast enough to get to first before George Elder who had grounded out to Bobby Brown at third. Yankees won, 9-8. That’s Phil Rizzuto, Yankees shortstop lurking in the background. Credit: (ACME) 8-6-49

Jerry Coleman died at Scripps Hospital in San Diego, CA January 5, 2014 of complications from head injuries he suffered in a fall last month.

In his major league baseball career he hit only 16 home runs and batted just .263, but the slick fielding Jerry Coleman was a beloved baseball legend by fans on both coasts.

Coleman played his entire career for the New York Yankees from 1949 -1957. He appeared in six World Series, was the MVP of the 1950 World Series and appeared in one All Star game.

After his playing career ended Coleman worked in the Yankees front office. In 1960 he became an announcer, first with CBS television on the Game of the Week, then in 1963 he rejoined the Yankees and stayed with their broadcast team for the next seven years.

Coleman then moved west and joined the California Angels, hosting the pre-game show. In 1972 he became the voice of the San Diego Padres which he did for the next 42 years with only one hiatus.

In 1980, without any previous coaching or managing experience, Padres owner Ray Kroc named Coleman as manager. He guided them to a 79-83 record which was their second best record up to that time. But one year was enough and he returned to the Padres broadcast booth in 1981.

For his broadcasting work he received the Ford C. Frick award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.

Like movie producer Samuel Goldwyn, who was known for his malapropisms which were called Goldwyn-isms, Coleman said things on air that became “Coleman-isms.”

Coleman-isms like:

“There’s a deep fly ball… Winfield goes back, back… his head hits the wall … it’s rolling towards second base.”

“Jesus Alou is in the on-deck circus.”

“Mike Caldwell, the Padres’ right-handed southpaw, will pitch tonight.”

“Hector Torrez, how can you communicate with Enzo Hernandez when he speaks Spanish and you speak Mexican?”

Described by friends and colleagues as self effacing, Coleman was proud of his service in the military. Coleman is the only major league baseball player to see combat in two wars. Coleman was a Marine Corps aviator from 1943-1945 in World War II and also during the Korean War, which interrupted prime years from his playing career in 1952 and 1953. He flew over 120 combat missions and received two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

The players of those championship Yankee teams of the 1950’s are dwindling, and in Jerry Coleman’s passing the world has lost a true gentleman and a bonafide hero.

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2 thoughts on “Jerry Coleman Baseball Legend Dies At 89

    1. B.P.

      Williams served in both wars but never saw combat duty, making Coleman the only player to see combat in both wars. According to Williams’ biography:

      Williams voluntarily enlisted in the Navy reserve and was called to active duty in November of 1942.

      He missed the next three baseball seasons, spending his time studying and learning how to fly. As he did with baseball, he excelled at his new craft. During his training, he set records for hits, shooting from wingovers, zooms and barrel rolls. He also set a still-standing student gunnery record, in reflexes, coordination and visual reaction time.

      He never got called into active combat and was discharged in December of 1945.

      Reply

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