The city of San Diego lost an institution and the game of baseball lost a real treasure when war hero, former major leaguer and Hall of Fame broadcaster Jerry Coleman died on Jan. 5 at the age of 89.
On Saturday, the Coleman family and the Padres organization gave fans an opportunity to say goodbye to their longtime voice during a public memorial at Petco Park.
The memorial service included several heartfelt comments from the likes of Joe Torre and Dick Enberg. Coleman's longtime radio partner Ted Leitner delivered a particularly emotional eulogy.
"You are the best man I have ever known." Leitner told his departed partner. He recalled he had spent 15 years in the booth and on the road with Coleman before he revealed that his Yankee years saw him roommates with Mickey Mantle.
"That's typical of how humble he was," Leitner said.
Leitner said he grew he grew up in New York watching Coleman's Yankee team, and then was with the Padres when Coleman came west to join the broadcast team.
"I was starstruck from day one," Leitner said.
There was also a large Marine presence with the color guards and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot-San Diego band on hand to perform patriotic songs and both Navy and Marine hymns. In addition to that, there was a 21-gun salute and a fighter jet flyby in Coleman’s honor. But this wasn‘t just any flyby according to Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune. This one had very special meaning to the Coleman family.
Vintage copy of WWII aircraft flown by Jerry Coleman passes over Petco Park after Marine gun salute and Taps.
— Tom Krasovic (@UTkrasovic) January 18, 2014
What a wonderful tribute that is. Hats off to those who arranged that very special moment.
In another cool touch, the Padres also revealed the team will be wearing a special star patch with the initials JC on their uniforms this season. The star, of course, is a nod to Coleman’s signature “hang a star” call which followed exceptional defensive plays.
San Francisco Giants third base coach Tim Flannery was also on hand to perform a song he wrote in Coleman's honor 11 years ago.
Obviously it was a very emotional day in San Diego, but what better way to send off a true legend and a true hero than by celebrating his wonderful life.
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