Sunday, January 5, 2014

Jerry Coleman 1924-2014

Jerry Coleman, the only major league baseball player who served in combat during two wars, died earlier today of complications from head injuries suffered in a fall.  Besides playing for the New York Yankees, Coleman served in World War II and the Korean War, and had a long career in baseball broadcasting.

A native of San Jose, Coleman was originally signed by the New York Yankees in 1942, but joined the Marines as a bomber pilot in the Pacific theater during World War II.  He joined the Yankees farm system in 1946 and worked his way up to the major league club in 1949, becoming their regular second baseman.  He was named American League Rookie of the Year for 1949 by the Sporting News, and was an All-Star in 1950.  That fall, Coleman was named World Series MVP as the Yankees swept the Philadelphia Phillies.  He rejoined the Marines in 1952, flying a total of 120 bombing missions in Korea during the next two years and attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  During September 1953, Coleman was discharged and then returned to the Yankees.  Because he never regained his earlier level of skill, and because of injuries, Coleman eventually was relegated to utility infielder.  His last hurrah was batting .364 in the 1957 World Series, which the Yankees lost to the Milwaukee Braves.

After his playing career was over, Coleman worked briefly for the Yankees as a minor league scout.  He was hired by CBS in 1960 as a pregame interviewer for their Game Of The Week broadcast, a job he kept until 1962.  Coleman then worked as radio and TV broadcaster for the Yankees (1963-1969), the California Angels (1970-1971), and the San Diego Padres (1972-1979, 1981-2013).  In 1980, he became the Padres' manager, but returned to the broadcast booth a year later.

On a personal note, Jerry Coleman was one of the first sports broadcasters I remember listening to, when he and Phil Rizzuto were TV announcers for Yankees games on WPIX.

Read more at CBS Sports, the New York Daily News, Fox5 San Diego, U~T San Diego and Fansided.

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