Nicknamed “The Colonel” by his friends and fans, Jerry Coleman has been involved in baseball since the age of 18. He served during WW2 and Korea as a pilot and twice earned The Distinguished Flying Cross Medal. During his baseball career, he was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1949 and the World Series MVP in 1950.
After retiring in 1957, he became personnel director with the Yankees, which involved Jerry scouting minor league players. In 1960, Jerry made the jump into broadcasting with CBS and in 1963 moved on to do radio for the Yankees. He spent 7 years broadcasting for the Yankees and then jumped ship in 1970 to broadcast for the California Angels. After 2 years with the Angels, he was offered the chance to be the voice of the Padres, and accepted the job. He has remained the voice of the team every year since, except 1980 when he was hired to manage the San Diego Padres. His signature broadcast line of, “Oh doctor, you can hang a star on that baby!” is legendary here in San Diego, with the radio team hanging a star out the window after every great play the Padres make.
During his broadcast career he has won the Ford C. Frick Award and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2008, with the help of Richard Goldstein, he wrote his autobiography American Journey: My Life on the Field, in the Air, and on the Air. It is an excellent book and I recommend reading it.
On September 15, 2012, the Padres honored Jerry Coleman by unveiling a statue of him at Petco Park. It is located toward the back entrance of the park and it shows Jerry in his pilot’s uniform with a 3 part backdrop recognizing his career in the military and sports.
I was able to catch up with Jerry at the Padres Awards dinner and talk to him about players. Jerry said the best player he ever saw was Joe DiMaggio. He said of Joe; “he only struck out 369 times in his career while some great players have struck out over 1700 times in their careers. Ted Williams was the best hitter I ever saw, but Joe was the best player.”
Jerry Coleman is an American hero..a great broadcaster..and a great man. We are blessed to have him here in San Diego.