San Diego Padres Voice, Jerry Coleman, Broadcaster Marine Aviator Succumbs
The San Diego Padres Hall of Fame broadcaster Jerry Coleman died Sunday January 5th at age 89. He spent more than four decades with the Padres as a broadcaster, and managed the team in 1980.
Jerry won four World Series titles as a player with the New York Yankees major league baseball club when his career was interrupted by World War II where as a Marine Corps pilot he flew fighters bombers and other missions in Korea.
From the annals of the: Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation
THE STUFF OF BOYHOOD DREAMS …
BY FRANK LOREY III
September 1952 and July 1953, Coleman flew 63 missions with VMA-323, mostly air to ground support sorties. The squadron’s Corsairs would carry up to 3500 pounds of bombs, as Coleman said “the same as many bombers in World War II.” He also flew some night missions as a Forward Air Controller vectoring in other planes.
According to Coleman, “The worst thing about Korea was sitting in the ready room. Every time the klaxon went off everything went flying.” He believed he was a “very safe pilot—I only took the chances I had to take, nothing more than that.” He could remember back to an instructor pilot at Corpus Christi who did slow rolls at fifty feet off of the ground—“I didn’t like that!”
At the K-6 airfield in Korea, Coleman had his closest call. The engine on his Corsair quit during the take off roll, and the plane flipped with about 200-250 feet left of the 5500-foot runway. The bombs went skidding on down the runway, Coleman was knocked out, and the plane suffered damage to the prop, tail and canopy.
On another occasion, Coleman’s radio went out shortly after takeoff. He made his way back through five layers of clouds, and related “I got back to K-6, but just as I was landing an F-86 Sabrejet ran over the top of me and crashed into the end of the runway.”
After 18 months of service in Korea, Coleman returned to the United States and professional baseball. It was August 1953. He played major league baseball four more years. However, Coleman recalled that his first year back in baseball was the most difficult. He commented, “1954 was a bad year. I had many injuries and I had eye problems from Korea.”
He retired from the New York Yankees after the 1957 season. His career came to a close with a .263 batting average in 723 major league games. Coleman also had a .275 batting average in 26 World Series games. He retired from the Marine Corps reserves in 1964 as a Lt. Colonel.
Coleman still loved baseball, so he decided to work his way up in the Yankees organization. He worked with the 1959 Rookie League, and ultimately became the Yankees’ Personnel Director for ten Western states. Around this time, Coleman met Howard Cosell, who talked him into try broadcasting.
His big break came doing the “Game of the Week” with Pee Wee Reese and Dizzy Dean. Coleman was assigned to interview legendary St. Louis Cardinal second basemen Red Schoendienst, and all of a sudden it occurred to him he was on live television, coast to coast. He made it through the interview, and as a result spent the next nine years broadcasting Yankees games.
Coleman always wanted a west coast job. In 1969, Buzzie Bavasi tried to get him for the San Diego Padres broadcasts. It took awhile, but he finally made a deal with the Padres in 1971. Coleman’s broadcast career with San Diego began at the start of the 1972 season. Coleman has been broadcasting every year since, except 1980 when he tried his hand at managing the Padres—as he called it—“the biggest mistake I ever made.”
Coleman was selected to the broadcast wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and recently had a replica of his Corsair dedicated and put on display at the San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park. LtCol Gerry Coleman is a member of the Foundation’s Board of Advisors, and is an active supporter of the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.
… Jerry Coleman, thank you for sharing your amazing life with us! Semper Fi. May you rest in peace.