September 14 – Happy Birthday Jerry Coleman
Oh Doctor! True baseball fans know these words as the signature phrase of long-time San Diego Padre play-by-play announcer, Jerry Coleman. Only very long-time baseball fans, however, can remember when that same Jerry Coleman was the starting second baseman for the first three of Casey Stengel’s five straight New York Yankee championship teams from 1949 through 1951. Where was Coleman when the Yankees won the ’52 and ’53 titles? He was in the Marines flying a fighter jet during the Korean War while his starting Yankee position was taken over by Billy Martin. Coleman had also spent the three years before beginning his Yankee career as a Marine aviator during WWII, making him the only big league baseball player in history to see combat action in two different wars.
He spent a total of nine seasons in Pinstripes. His best year was 1950, when Stengel used him in 153 games and he batted .287. Coleman also had a .275 lifetime batting average in six World Series.
When I was a kid, I would have to pilfer my older brother’s GE transistor radio to listen to radio broadcasts of Yankee games on the front porch of our house on Guy Park Avenue. That was my first encounter with Coleman, who was doing New York’s games on the radio back then.
The older I get the more respect and awe I have for athletes like Coleman, who excelled at their sport, served their country in an active combat position during what would have been their peak performance years and then excelled in the careers they entered, when their playing days were over. Coleman was born September 14, 1924, in San Jose, CA. Update: Coleman passed away on January 5, 2014, at the age of 89.
Coleman shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher who was acquired by New York in exchange for the great first baseman, Moose Skowren.