Display honors 3 facets of Hall of Famer -- Marine Corps pilot, player, broadcaster
By Bill Center
San Diego Padres |
Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.
During the majority of his 42 seasons with the Padres, the press box was Jerry Coleman's second home.
On Sunday, the Padres unveiled a tribute case honoring Coleman in the media dining room at Petco Park, which can be viewed by fans as one of the stops when taking a ballpark tour.
The display captures the three major segments of Coleman's life - his career as a Marine aviator and as the only Major League player to see combat in two wars, his playing career with the New York Yankees and his Hall of Fame career as a broadcaster.
"This is an incredible tribute for Jerry," Maggie Coleman said Sunday as she viewed the display of her late husband, who died Jan. 5, 2014, at the age of 89.
"Jerry loved being at the ballpark," Maggie Coleman continued. "He loved being around people at the ballpark. This is beautiful."
Prominent in the display are the awards from the three national Halls of Fame where Coleman is enshrined - the U.S. Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame (inducted 2005), the Ford C. Frick Award for Meritorious Service to Broadcasting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. (inducted '05) and the Radio Hall of Fame (inducted '07).
Coleman was also inducted into the Padres Hall of Fame in '01, and in '13 he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Breitbard Hall of Champions in San Diego.
Among other prominent items in the display, which were loaned to the Padres by his widow, is the letter of commendation sent to Lt. Col. Jerry Coleman in 1952 by General Lemuel C. Sheppard Jr., the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corp, a 1940s Yankees cap, his flight jacket from the Korean War, a picture of the F4U Corsair he flew in Korea and a Yankees picture taken with Joe DiMaggio.
There is a copy of the tribute story printed by USA Today after his passing that includes one of Coleman's more remembered quotes: "There are only two important things in life: the people who you love and who love you, and your country."
Coleman was the radio voice of the Padres from 1973-2013, with the exception of the 1980 season when he served as the club's manager at the personal request of owner Ray Kroc.
To the Padres, Coleman was more the soul of the franchise beyond being the voice and ambassador. To fellow Americans and veterans, he was an American hero. And to past and present ballplayers, Coleman was a player who despite twice having his career interrupted by the call to duty, was a World Series MVP and an All-Star while playing for the New York Yankees (1949-57) in six World Series.
As a Marine aviator, Coleman flew 120 missions in two wars -- 60 in a Dauntless dive bomber in World War II and 60 more in Korea. The Petco Park display features one of his two Distinguished Flying Crosses and several of his 13 Air Medals and three Navy Citations.
On Sept. 15, 2012, the Padres celebrated "Jerry Coleman Day" by unveiling a statue at Petco Park that celebrates the three major phases of Coleman's live - war hero, player and broadcaster. The ceremony marked Coleman's 70th year in baseball and 40th with the Padres.