Thumbs up to the Colonel!
It's Saturday, September 15, and today's the day the Padres will honor long-time radio voice Jerry Coleman prior to tonight's game. The ceremony's piece de resistance is to be the unveiling of a statue of Jerry's likeness. The much-deserved honor is an overdue one, but will allow Jerry to live forever at Petco Park. He will, however (if you'll allow me...), live in the hearts of Padres fans in perpetuity.
Being that Jerry has been broadcasting Padres baseball since before I was born (save for his stint as Padres skipper in 1980), there's certainly the element of having always been there that plays a part in my admiration. He's like a member of the family. Good or bad, (during baseball season) Jerry was always on the air to call the action. With humility and a fantastic sense of humor, Jerry pulled from his years of baseball experience to paint a beautiful picture for the listener.
Sitting in the stands as a kid, my eyes always shot to the KFMB booth after a great play. "Is Jerry going to do it?", I would wonder to myself. And sure enough, there was the giant gold star dangling from the booth. Literally, hang a star on that, baby.
Now, you have to understand...it wasn't always a clear picture that Jerry would paint for the listener. Online, he's known as the "master of the malaprop". That's what's so great about San Diego's relationship with Jerry; he wasn't always technically perfect, but his unique delivery and undeniable charm allowed us to embrace him as one of ours. Much like Rickey Henderson, Jerry Coleman quotes have taken on a life of their own. Some of them actually happened, some of them did not. Most are pretty great, though.
“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.”
“Rich Folkers is throwing up in the bullpen.”
"On the mound is Randy Jones, the left-hander with the Karl Marx hairdo."
Or, my favorite Coleman-isms, which I actually heard during a Padres/Indians game in Cleveland a few years ago. A fan kept playing a drum in the stands, which Ted and Jerry had made note of a few times. Finally, Jerry lets loose with this gem, which made Ted absolutely loose his shit. Uncontrollable laughter.
"Why doesn't that guy go home and bang something else?"
As Jerry has gotten older and Ted Leitner did a little more of the heavy lifting during broadcasts, we got the "What'd you do today, Jer?" portions of the broadcast. And, surely self-aware, Jerry would tell what should have been a generally uninteresting story about going for a walk (generally, with his beloved dog, Gus) that would have Ted and listeners rolling by the end of it. Only Jerry Coleman.
These days, it seems like Jerry calls most of his games with Andy Masur, and we've pretty much seen these segments done away with. I am a fan of Andy's work, but the chemistry just isn't the same as it is when Jerry and Ted are working together. So, it was a treat the other day when I turned on the radio, and sure enough Jerry and Ted were in the booth. At that moment, I heard those magic words - "What'd you do today, Jer?"
I wish I could tell you today what Jerry talked about, but I was so happy. And I suppose that's what it boils down to with Jerry, he makes me happy. Always has. He's an American hero, a Hall of Fame broadcaster (both National Radio Hall of Fame and a Ford C. Frick winner, giving him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame), Rookie of the Year, World Series Champion, and All-Star. To me, though, he's Jerry. He's an integral part of my baseball family....and he makes me happy.
Congratulations, Jerry. All honors are deserved, and then some. I think I speak for all Padres fans when I say that we have a deep affection for you and hope to hear you for years to come.
Here are a couple of quotes I'm partial to, as much as we love the Coleman-isms:
"Oh, Doctor! You can hang a star on that, baby! A star for the ages for Tony Gwynn! Number 3,000!"
"A one-hopper to Nettles to Wiggins, and the Padres have the National League Pennant! Oh, Doctor! You can hang a star on that, baby!"
"Here's the 1-1 pitch. It's on the way to Tucker. Drive left-center field in the air coming on quickly. Finley. He's under it. He's got it! And the Padres drape the National League flag around their shoulders for 1998! Oh, Doctor!"
Late night update:
Here are a few photographs I took at the unveiling of Jerry's statue.