You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Honored and Beloved

As the snow piles up and the Arctic Vortex descends on most of the continental United States, we can probably all use something heart-warming to read.

Jerry Coleman passed away today at age 89. He may not be a household name nationally, but elderly and diehard Yankees fans will remember him as a solid second-baseman on some exceptional teams, and it is not an exaggeration to say that the city of San Diego is in mourning, for his statue stands outside of the Padres stadium. Nonetheless, the rest of you are probably wondering all the more who Jerry Coleman was.

After he was drafted by the New York Yankees, the start of Coleman’s Major League Baseball career was delayed for three years by his service as a decorated Marine aviator who flew almost 50 missions in the South Pacific during World War II. After being discharged from the service, he played four seasons at second base for the Yankees, being named the American League Rookie of the year in 1949. From 1949 to 1952, the Yankees won four successive World Series. Coleman was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1950 Series, and he was named to two American League All-Star teams over most of those four years. In 1953, the Yankees won the World Series for a fifth straight year, but Coleman was not with the team that year. Instead, he was in Korea, flying more than 60 missions with the Marine Corps. Although he returned to the Yankees for two more seasons, the interruptions caused by his military service and a series of injuries left him unable to maintain his skills.

The Yankees offered Coleman first a position with their minor league staff and then a position as a radio announcer. After serving as a Yankee announcer for a decade, throughout the 1960s, Coleman accepted a position with the Los Angeles Angels in 1970, and after two years, he then joined the Padres as a play-by-play announcer in 1972. He would become a fixture in that role, announcing a more limited number of home games in recent years but still remaining active. In 2009, his autobiography An American Journey: My Life on the Field, in the Air, and on the Air, which he had co-written with New York Times reporter Richard Goldstein, was published to affectionate reviews.

Nonetheless, as a longtime broadcaster for the San Diego Padres, Jerry Coleman, became widely beloved, eventually being inducted as a broadcaster into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. He was not, however, the most polished broadcaster in the history of the game. Indeed, he became known for his “Colemanisms”—somewhat regular, unintentionally hilarious manglings of the English language. You have to wonder if it was something in the water in the Yankees’ dugout since those exceptional Yankees teams also included Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto.

You will need to know something about baseball to get some of them, but here are my favorite 40 Colemanisms taken from several long lists provided in a chat forum at the Fantasy Baseball Café [http://www.fantasybaseballcafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=25204], as well as several obituaries and several other online sources:

“Winfield goes back to the wall. He hits his head on the wall and it rolls off! It’s rolling all the way back to second base! This is a terrible thing for the Padres.”

“From the way Denny’s shaking his head, he’s either got an injured shoulder or a gnat in his eye.”

“Edwards missed getting Stearns at third base by an eyeball.”

“Rich Folkers is throwing up in the bullpen.”

“I sure hope you’re staying alive for the upcoming Dodgers series.”

“Ron Guidry is not very big, maybe 140 pounds, but he has an arm like a lion.”

“Shirley and Griffey get along like a rattler and a parrot.”

(At Kansas City Royals Stadium) “The sky is so clear today you can see all the way to Missouri.”

“Hector Torrez, how can you communicate with Enzio Hernandez when he speaks Spanish and you speak Mexican?”

“There’s two heads to every coin.”

“The Phillies beat the Cubs today in a doubleheader. That puts another keg in the Cubs’ coffin.”

“Jesus Alou is in the on-deck circus.”

“Kent Abbott is in the on-deck circuit.”

“There is someone warming up in the Giants’ bullpen, but he’s obscured by his number.”

“Grubb goes back, back… he’s under the warning track and makes the play.”

“Billy Almon has all of his in-laws and out-laws here this afternoon.”

“Sanguillen is totally unpredictable to pitch to because he’s so unpredictable.”

“Vaughn’s in a–I don’t want to call it a slump–it’s more a semi-active role.”

“At the end, excitement maintained its hysteria.”

“I don’t mean he missed him, but he just didn’t get him when he put the tag on him.”

“Johnny Grubb slides into second with a standup double.”

“They throw Winfield out at second, but he’s safe.”

“All the Padres need is a fly ball in the air.”

“Davis fouls out to third in fair territory.”

“There’s a shot up the alley. Oh, it’s just foul.”

“The first pitch to Tucker Ashford is grounded into left field. No, wait a minute. It’s ball one. Low and outside.”

“It’s a base hit on the error by Roberts.”

“McCovey swings and misses, and it’s fouled back.”

“There’s a long fly left centerfield, he got all of that one, it’s to the wall, at the wall, and that ball is caught, no I mean he dropped it, wait a minute he caught it! That was the best play Greg Vaughn made of his life!”

“A bouncer out toward the mound, drifting foul.”

“I’ve made a couple of mistakes I’d like to do over.”

“A day without newspapers is like walking around without your pants on.”

“On the mound is Randy Jones, the left-hander with the Karl Marx hairdo.”

“If Rose’s streak was still intact, with that single to left, the fans would be throwing babies out of the upper deck.”

“He can be lethal death.”

“Hats off to drug abusers everywhere.”

“The Spanish language broadcasts are proving to be an excellent outlet for people who speak only Spanish.”

“If Pete Rose brings the Reds in first, they ought to bronze him and put him in cement.”

(Repeating an anecdote from a player) “… who shall be renamed nameless.”

(Discovering the given name of pitcher Hilly Hathaway is Hillary) “What an unfortunate name to have. Especially when the President of the United States has the same name.”

“Sept. 5, 1993 might be a watershed day for the Braves. Had it been the other way around, it would have been a death throttle.”

“If I knew how to spell it I’d say ‘deja vu.'”

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