My Tribute to Jerry Coleman

Starting in 2014, the San Diego Padres will never be the same: longtime announcer Jerry Coleman has passed away.

As longtime fans know, Coleman was more than just a broadcaster: he was also a decorated World War II hero, a second baseman for the New York Yankees who rubbed shoulders with greats like Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, and Whitey Ford and played in several World Series, and a manager (with San Diego in 1980).

Sadly, many will seek to remember him for his errors behind the mic–and to be honest, some of them were pretty funny. But let us not forget that broadcasting over the air is much more difficult than it looks, and he did it very well for nearly half a century. So to focus on his mistakes would be an error in judgment.

Jerry Coleman was also a gentleman. When I was 13 and lived in San Diego County, my Dad took me to hear him speak. I got to shake his hand, and talk to him. He even let me answer the first question during the Q&A session: I asked if he was nervous the first time he broadcast a baseball game. His answer (admittedly from memory) showcased his sense of humor: “Well, the first inning I broadcast a game there were eight hits, six runs, three errors a hit batsman, and a blown call by the umpire. So no, I wasn’t nervous.”

Even though there were many businessmen who wanted to bend his ear–it took place at a Kiwanis luncheon–he took a lot of time to talk to me, and answer my questions, which I really appreciated.

I moved to Florida in 1998, the year the Padres won their second pennant, so I wouldn’t get to hear their games on a regular basis. But whenever I returned to visit family, I would always try to catch a game. Just a few months ago, I was able to listen to a few on Sirius XM Radio, and even though he had just turned 89, Jerry Coleman was still on, still giving wise and insightful comments on the game and team he loved so much.

Jerry Coleman will be missed. He had fans all over the country and even the political spectrum. I discovered this when I saw Keith Olbermann’s recent tribute to him, which was touching and heartfelt. Though Olbermann and I agree on very little, we now have one thing in common: we both have a high regard for Jerry Coleman, and will miss him dearly.

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