The baseball world received sad news on Sunday when the San Diego Padres announced that longtime broadcaster and 2005 Ford C. Frick Award winner Jerry Coleman died at the age of 89.
During his wonderful and full life, Coleman played and excelled at many roles in baseball. That includes a playing career that spanned nine seasons (1949-57), all of which were spent as an infielder with the New York Yankees. He finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1949 and made an all-star appearance in 1950. When all was said and done, Coleman finished with a .263 career average to go along with 16 home runs and 217 RBIs.
From there Coleman would enter the broadcasting world, covering games for CBS from 1960-62, the Yankees from 1963-69, the Angels from 1970-71, and the Padres from 1972 through this past season. He only made one little detour from his broadcasting job in 1980, and that was to take over as the Padres manager. They finished 73-89 and Coleman went right back to the booth.
His contributions to baseball were many, and he certainly had a lot to be proud of when it comes to his broadcasting achievements (he was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2007), but his greatest contributions and proudest moments came while serving the United States in World War II and the Korean War. In doing so, Coleman became the first major league player to fly combat missions in two different wars.
That alone is a lifetime achievement.
Early Sunday evening, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement recognizing Coleman for his dedication to the game of baseball and his country.
"Jerry Coleman was a hero and a role model to myself and countless others in the game of Baseball. He had a memorable, multifaceted career in the National Pastime - as an All-Star during the great Yankees' dynasty from 1949-1953, a manager and, for more than a half-century, a beloved broadcaster, including as an exemplary ambassador for the San Diego Padres. But above all, Jerry's decorated service to our country in both World War II and Korea made him an integral part of the Greatest Generation. He was a true friend whose counsel I valued greatly.
"Major League Baseball began its support of Welcome Back Veterans to honor the vibrant legacy of heroes like Jerry Coleman. Our entire sport mourns the loss of this fine gentleman, and I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends, fans of the Padres and the Yankees, and his many admirers in Baseball and beyond."
The San Diego Padres have opened the gates of Petco Park to allow fans to pay tribute and leave mementos at the statue of Coleman.
Our condolences go out to Coleman's family, friends, and the many people he has touched through his actions, broadcasting and genuine kindness.
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