San Diego Padres' Jerry Coleman: A Man to Respect, a Voice to Remember

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer IFebruary 6, 2010

COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 31:  Jerry Coleman points to his wife in the crowd after receiving the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually to a baseball broadcaster for major contributions to the game, during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 31, 2005 at the Clark Sports Complex in Cooperstown, New York.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

You can hang on a star on that baby! A catch phrase that many of us San Diego Padre fans have gotten so used to hearing over the years from him.

He was Padre baseball before Tony Gwynn became Mr. Padre. He was Padre baseball before Steve Garvey hit his famous home run on Oct. 6, 1984, off Lee Smith to beat the Cubs in Game 4 of the National League Championship series.

For a lot of us Padre fans, Jerry Coleman is and will always be synonymous with San Diego and with the San Diego Padres.

Although his run may be coming to an end as the Padres are limiting Coleman to just 20 games this season, it's been a long and successful run for the now 85-year old broadcaster.

It didn't start in the booth for Coleman; it started on the field as a second baseman for the New York Yankees, for whom he played his entire career.

Coleman wasn't just a baseball player, he was a soldier. He served in the Korean War as well as during World War II, delaying his entry into Major League Baseball, as a Marine Aviator. It's where Jerry Coleman earned the nickname "The Colonel" by being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel during his time as a pilot.

Coleman flew 120 combat missions earning several military medals including two Distinguished Flying Crosses , becoming the only Major League Baseball player to see combat in two different wars, though he wasn't the only Marine Aviator, the other being former Yankee teammate Ted Williams. Though Williams only saw combat in the Korean War, he did serve as a flight instructor during World War II.

After Coleman's time in the military, he returned to baseball and began his time with the New York Yankees in 1949. He was teammates with baseball greats like Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle, even calling Mantle's 500th home run as a broadcaster in 1967.

Coleman was a better than average second baseman, hitting .275 as a rookie and led all second baseman in fielding percentage, finishing third in the rookie of the year voting.

In his second season with the Yankees, he avoided the sophomore slump by being selected to the All-Star team in 1950 and earning the MVP for the World Series that year.

After an injury in 1951, Coleman's career began its decline and he was relegated to a bench role, eventually retiring in 1957 but doing so on a high note, hitting .364 in a World Series loss to the Milwaukee Braves.

Three years later, in 1960, saw Coleman's career as a broadcaster begin as he was hired by the CBS Radio Network. In 1963, he began his first of seven seasons behind the mic for the New York Yankees on WCBS Radio and WPIX-TV.

Coleman would end his run with the Yankees in 1970, moving on to be the voice of the California Angels until 1972 where he made his final stop in the broadcasting booth, becoming the voice of the San Diego Padres. It was a position he would only relinquish just once (1980) when he was hired as the Padres' manager.

Two years after his move to San Diego, the Padres were in jeopardy of being sold to Joseph Danzansky, who was the president of Giant Food LLC .

Fortunately for the Padres their owner at the time, C. Arnholt Smith, changed his mind and instead sold the team to McDonalds' co-founder Ray Kroc, who had no plans of moving the team from San Diego.

Over his 37 years with the San Diego Padres, Coleman has been the voice of so many memorable moments in the team's history.

  • October 6, 1984: Steve Garvey's walk off home-run to beat the Cubs
  • October 7, 1984: San Diego Padres clinch their very first National League Pennant over the Chicago Cubs
  • October 14, 1998: San Diego Padres clinch their second National League Pennant over the Atlanta Braves
  • August 6, 1999: Tony Gwynn gets hit No. 3,000 against the Montreal Expos
  • May 6, 2005: Trevor Hoffman records save No. 400 against the St. Louis Cardinals

He's become a very decorated broadcaster long after his playing days were through. In 2005, Coleman was award the Ford C. Fricke Award for broadcasting excellence becoming one of only four recipients to have played Major League Baseball (Joe Garagioloa, Tony Kubek, Bob Uecker). Two years later, Coleman was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame as a broadcaster.

No longer the play-by-play voice of the San Diego Padres, those duties now in the all too capable hands of Ted Leitner, Coleman still covers the color analyst duties during the middle innings.

Going in to the 2010 season, Coleman's voice may rarely be heard on the airwaves. No longer the sounds of "OH DOCTOR" after every home run or "YOU CAN HANG A STAR ON THAT BABY" after every great defensive play blaring through the radio.

But make no mistake, Jerry Coleman's voice will forever be engraved in our memory and when his days in broadcasting are through, I'm sure fans will still see him walking the halls of Petco Park.

Jerry Coleman is and forever will be a part of the San Diego Padres, long after his famous voice has called the last game.

Looking back on his life as a ballplayer and his time as a broadcaster, you can certainly hang a star on that baby.


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