The Padres are honoring a San Diego treasure Saturday night with the unveiling of a statue of Jerry Coleman at Petco Park.
The only major league player to see combat in two wars, Coleman joins Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn as the second person represented by a statue at the Padres downtown home.
A day after the Hall of Fame announcer's 88th birthday, the Padres celebrated the former Yankee second baseman's 70th year in baseball and his 40th with the Padres. Thirty-nine of those years were spent in the Padres broadcast booth, one (1980) as the Padres manager.
"Jerry Coleman is one of those very few men who achieve iconic status," Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler said recently. "I have never heard anyone say a bad word about Jerry. He has a role with this team forever."
Coleman was a Marine pilot in World War II and Korea -- flying 120 combat missions in Dauntless dive bombers (World War II) and F4U Corsairs (Korea). Coleman, who retired as a Lt. Colonel, was honored with two Distinguished Flying Crosses as an aviator.
He played eight seasons as the second baseman of the New York Yankees at a time when the Yankees dominated baseball. Coleman was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1949 by the Associated Press, was selected to the American League All-Star team in 1950 and later that season was voted the Most Valuable Player of the World Series.
Coleman's baseball career was both delayed then interrupted for two seasons by his military service.
"I've never thought about what my baseball career might have been if I hadn't been in the service," Coleman once said. "Because that's not the way it was. I was asked to serve my country and I did. I was not alone. And what I sacrificed in my baseball career is insignificant compared to the sacrifices made by so many thousands of others."