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Baseball legend Jerry Coleman dies

The SportsXchange

Jerry Coleman, an All-Star New York Yankees infielder who became a decorated veteran and a Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster, died Sunday in San Diego. He was 89.

According to the UT San Diego newspaper, Coleman's death was related a head injuries he sustained in a December fall, in addition to pneumonia.

"Jerry Coleman was a hero and a role model to myself and countless others in the game of Baseball," Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "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."

Coleman signed with the Yankees in 1942, then spent three years as a Marine Corps aviator, flying 57 combat missions over the Solomon Islands.

He returned home and finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 1949, when he batted .275 with a .367 on-base percentage in 122 games for the Yankees. Coleman helped the Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series this fall.

The next year, he was selected an All-Star for the lone time in his career. Coleman hit .287 with a .372 on-base percentage, drawing 67 walks and striking out just 37 times.

He helped the Yankees win two more World Series in 1950 and 1951, then missed most of the next two seasons when returned to military service for the Korean War. Coleman flew 120 missions and was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses among numerous other military honors.

Coleman played with the Yankees through 1957, finishing with a .263 batting average, a .340 on-base percentage, a .339 slugging percentage, 16 homers and 217 RBIs in 723 games. He won a fourth World Series ring in 1956.

"My family was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jerry Coleman," said Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner in a statement. "First and foremost, he was an American hero whose service to this country is his lasting legacy. He was also a great Yankee, a true ambassador for Baseball, and someone whose imprint on our game will be felt for generations. On behalf of the entire New York Yankees organization, we send our deepest condolences to the Coleman family."

Coleman transitioned into a broadcasting that including stint calling Yankees games and California Angels games. He spent 33 years as the voice of the San Diego Padres, and he received the Ford C. Frick Award, the broadcasting equivalent of induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 2005.

In a break from his broadcasting career, Coleman managed the Padres in 1980, leading the team to a 79-83 record. His players included future Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield.

Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully said of Coleman, according to UT San Diego, "Bottom line: People loved Jerry and respected him, because you could tell from listening to him what a wonderful person he was. I considered it a great privilege for me to be one of those who voted for Jerry's induction into Cooperstown. What an amazing life."

The Padres issued a statement that read, in part, "On behalf of Padres' fans everywhere, we mourn the loss of a Marine who was truly an American hero as well as a great man, a great friend and a great Padre."

The team opened the gates of Petco Park on Sunday night to allow fans to pay tribute at the statue of Coleman.
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