Goodbye, Jerry Coleman.

Following Jerry Coleman’s death back in January of 2014, I posted this on 90 Feet of Perfection. Today marks 3 years since The Colonel passed away, so I’ve decided to share it again here on The 5.5 Hole, as it seems relevant to the blog and is a fitting memorial. I think I speak for everyone reading this when I say that I still miss Jerry in the booth. Padres games haven’t been the same since he left.

Jerry Coleman Tribute Image

Last Sunday afternoon, I received a text message from a friend in San Diego that simply said, “The Colonel died.” Nothing more, nothing less. Immediately, I had to google it to see if this was indeed true and when I saw the reports slowly start to pour in, my heart sank. Someone I’ve admired, looked up to, and who has captured my imagination on many levels for the majority of my life had passed away. It may seem silly saying this, but in a way, it felt like I’d lost a family member. This feeling of loss has only grown since I’ve had time to reflect on my memories of Jerry Coleman.

I often take issue with the word “hero” but I look at Jerry Coleman and that’s the only word I can use to describe him. Looking at just his life in Baseball, which lasted over 70 years, I think it’s safe to say that he had one of the most impressive resumes imaginable. I certainly don’t want this post to be a stat and accomplishment driven tribute, but these are the facts and they paint a picture of how relevant Jerry Coleman was to the world of Baseball. If you were to add his military accomplishments, which lead to him being the only Major League player to see combat in 2 wars and resulted in his playing career getting put on hold both times, this list would be much longer:

-In 1939, he was a bat-boy for the San Francisco Seals of the old Pacific Coast League.
-From 1942 to 1957, he spent his entire playing career in the Yankees organization, where he played on 6 World Series teams.
-Placed 3rd in the 1949 Rookie of the Year voting.
-In 1950, he was voted to the All-Star Game and won the World Series MVP award.
-From 1958 to 1960, he worked in the Yankees front office.
-In 1960, he began his broadcasting career, where he did the CBS MLB game of the week.
-In 1963, he began his 7 year tenure as part of the Yankees broadcast team.
-In 1970, became part of the California Angels broadcast team.
-In 1972, became the voice of the San Diego Padres, which lasted over 40 years.
-In 1980, left the broadcast booth to manage the Padres for 1 season.
-In 2005, was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
-In 2007, was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
-In 2007, was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.
-In 2012, in honor of “Jerry Coleman Day” in San Diego, a statue was built and unveiled in his honor at Petco Park.

Jerry Coleman passed away at the age of 89, yet as anyone familiar with the Colonel knew, he had to be the youngest 89-year-old around as he was still quite active in both the booth and Padres organization. He had the youthful exuberance of a man much younger than him. He was still physically able, sharp, funny, and it was apparent to anyone who listened that he was still very much in love with the game of Baseball. An irrational side of myself honestly thought that Jerry would be around forever due to these reasons. He did not seem like a man approaching 90 years old and that’s a hard pill to swallow due to the fact that Jerry Coleman’s death was a result of a fall he had in December. Not due to age, disease, or whatever mother nature has in store for most people in their golden years. Due to this, I’ll always wonder how long we could have had Jerry Coleman? I’m convinced that some great years were stolen from us.

I associate Jerry Coleman with my love of the game. I’ve watched and listened to Padres games since I was a kid and Jerry Coleman has always been the one constant in that organization through my entire life. Along with Tony Gwynn, there’s not a person involved in the game of Baseball that’s meant as much to my family and myself and that’s the honest truth. I’ll always associate family with Jerry Coleman and to this day, my dad still quotes Jerry’s trademark “Oh Doctor, You can hang a star on that baby!” If I ever have children, I know that I’ll continue this tradition and while telling them of great (and not so great) Padres of the past, much like my parents and Grandmother did with me. Rest assured, Jerry Coleman will be at the top of that list.

To some, Baseball may be just another corporate sport filled with millionaire athletes; and this may be true on a level. However, there’s more to Baseball below this surface and that’s why the game is special. Jerry represented this as he reminded me of the raw and genuine love of the game that many of us discover as children. He played in the Golden Age of Baseball and was one of the last remaining people left from that era who was still involved and relevant. I don’t like to generalize and disregard other generations, but the players from the Golden Age brought something to the table not found in generations since.

While watching and reading tributes to Jerry this last week, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t shed a tear. When spring training games start up again late next month, I won’t be surprised if this happens again. Baseball lost someone very special last Sunday and I feel as if I lost someone special as well. Jerry Coleman, you were a good one and will be missed by many.

In typical 90 Feet of Perfection fashion, I pay tribute to Jerry Coleman with some photos I both enjoy and find interesting. I hope you do as well.

Jerry Coleman Billy MartinJerry and Billy Martin relax at second base during a 1950’s spring training. Coleman and Martin are two of my favorite players in Baseball history for various reasons and the fact that they both came from the Bay area certainly contributes to this. Although Coleman was almost 4 years older than Martin and they came from different sides of the Bay, I’ve often wondered if they knew of each other, or crossed paths prior to playing with the Yankees?

Jerry Coleman Padres Manager'In 1980, Coleman left the confines of the broadcasting booth to manage the team. Legend has it that Coleman took the job after the Padres promised that he could return to his job in the booth after his tenure was over. The Friars only went 73-89 that season, but up to that point, it was the best record the club had accomplished in its 11-year existence.

In my opinion, the Padres should retire his #2 that he wore that season solely based on his significance to the team. Everth Cabrera currently wears the number for the team.

Jerry Coleman HOFJuly 31st, 2005. Jerry Coleman during what he described as one of the greatest days of his life. He ended his acceptance speech with the line “On this golden day here in Cooperstown, a journey that started 63 years ago, I feel that finally, finally, I’ve come home. Thank you.” I will always remember this fondly due to the fact that I felt like one of “my” guys made it to Cooperstown.

Dave Winfield may have gone into Cooperstown as a Padre, but not without some controversy, and Tony Gwynn was still a couple years away. Coleman may have played for the Yankees, but he was Padre through and through and it was quite special to see him honored with the Ford C. Frick Award. To watch a video of his induction speech, click HERE.

Jerry Coleman double play

“The best second baseman I ever saw on the double play.”Casey Stengel on Jerry Coleman

Jerry Coleman in Booth

I’ll never hear Jerry call a Padres game again and this is saddening. Yes, he didn’t do as many games as he used to, but the fact that I always knew he was there and still calling games, regardless of how often, was comforting.

I came across THIS video of Coleman’s last game in the booth and it made me both happy and sad. Andy Masur shared the booth with Jerry for what was the final home game of this last season, which resulted in the Padres beating the Diamondbacks on a walk-off single in the 11th inning by Alexi Amarista. Jerry finished the game by piping in with an ecstatic “What a finish!” This captured his childlike enthusiasm for the game of Baseball in a very heartwarming way.

The Friars of Sports Illustrated.

It’s no secret that the Padres go under the radar in regards to national press. While some take issue with this and are quick to call out the “East Coast Bias,” or something else along those lines, I could care less. Even when they do make the postseason, the Padres are generally viewed as “meh.” Which, from an objective stance, I understand due to the history of the organization and the city they represent. With all this said, you have to admit that when the Padres do get recognition by the larger media outlets, it’s usually pretty cool and memorable. The exception to this, of course, was dealing with the deaths of Tony Gwynn and Jerry Coleman last year. I think we can all agree that as Padres, this is media recognition that everyone could have done with out due to the heartbreaking nature of it all.

Sports Illustrated is one of the biggest sports publications out there and years ago, I realized a fair amount of Padres had graced the cover of the iconic magazine. In 2010, I decided to create a post on 90 Feet of Perfection with some of these covers. When I realized it wasn’t appropriate for the site, I deleted the post. Oh yeah, I can’t fail to mention that it also sucked and was incomplete, so yeah it had to go. Well, when I created The 5.5 Hole, I thought it would be cool to do it again and right. So here is (as far as I know), every Padre featured on the cover of SI. I hope you enjoy these gems.

July 12th, 1976.
Randy Jones Sports Illustrated
After coming in second to Tom Seaver in Cy Young voting in 1975, Randy Jones was honored with the prestigious pitching award in 1976. Sports Illustrated took notice of the season he was having and gave him the cover in July. Their headline surely jinxed his chances at 30 games though. Speaking of, Jones ended up finishing with a 22-14 record that season. If the Padres were any good (they finished 5th in the West), Jones would have most likely won 30 games. Even though wins are kind of a lame stat, that would of been a cool accomplishment for Jones and the Padres.

August 27th, 1979
Gaylord Perry Padres Sports Illustrated
Prior to the 1978 season, the Padres acquired the old spitballer, Gaylord Perry. At 39 years old, he went on to win the Cy Young award and place 8th in MVP voting. The following season, at now 40 year old, he was having another hell of a season, and Sports Illustrated acknowledged this by lumping him in with various other aging baseball stars. Unfortunately, Perry’s time in San Diego didn’t end well though, as he quit the team less than 10 days after this issue came out (another SI jinx?). He threatened to retire if the team didn’t trade him back to the Rangers, which they did in the offseason. I understand that he was sick of losing and was butting heads with management, but that was a douchey move on his part.

April 25th, 1983
Steve Garvey Padres Sports Illustrated
The Padres signed former Dodgers star Steve Garvey prior to the 1983 season and with that, he carried over his consecutive games played streak. Sports Illustrated honored Garvey and his streak by giving him the cover in April, however in July Garvey broke his thumb in a home plate collision against the Braves. This lead to the him going on the DL and ended his streak. If you ask me, this sounds like another SI Padres cover jinx.

April 16th, 1984
Goose Gossage Graig Nettles Padres Sports Illustrated
In what may be my favorite Padres Sports Illustrated cover, former Yankee stars turned Padre stars Goose Gossage and Graig Nettles were featured early on the cover in the 1984 season. I’ve never read the article that accompanied the cover, but would love to check it out sometime. Anything related to the 1984 season fascinates me and I wish I was old enough to of been able to experience it.

April 5th, 1989
Benito Santiago Padres Sports Illustrated
If you were a Padres fan in the late 80s/early 90s, Benito Santiago very well could have been your favorite player behind Tony Gwynn. I’m pretty sure he had to be mine at some point due to a being a rookie of the the year, 4 all-star appearances, 4 silver slugger awards and 3 gold gloves. Maybe it had nothing to do with any of the awards though, and it was probably based solely on the fact that he threw guys out from his knees. This blew mind mind as a kid and even more now, due to the fact that I now catch from time to time.

Sports Illustrated took note of San Diego’s rising star and featured him on the cover of the special “1989 Baseball” issue that coincided with the start of the regular season. This is a great shot, but it strikes me odd that Santiago got a cover before Gwynn ever did. Also, I’m pretty sure a photo from the same shoot was used for his 1991 Topps card.

July 28th, 1997
Tony Gwynn Padres Sports Illustrated
After 16 seasons in the big leagues, Tony Gwynn was finally given a Sports Illustrated cover and boy was it awesome. Anytime you compare someone to Ted Williams, it’s going to garner attention and this cover boldly said, without question that Tony was “The Best Hitter Since Ted Williams.” I own this issue and will never get rid of it.

October 12th, 1998
Greg Vaughn Padres Sports Illustrated
I wasn’t aware of this cover until a couple years ago, which is is due to the fact that there were 4 different covers made for this issue. Each cover featured a player from the final four teams in the postseason, with Greg Vaughn getting the honor for San Diego. Vaughn was a good choice due to the fact that he hit 50 home runs and ended up placing 4th in the MVP honors. While looking over the MVP voting for 1998, it caught me off guard because there were 4 Padres in the top 20. Man, what a year 1998 was for the Padres…

May 13th, 2002
Trevor Hoffman Padres Sports Illustrated
In 2002, Sports Illustrated was somehow convinced that Trevor Hoffman was the best closer ever and gave him a cover. Hey, I loved Trevor as much as the next guy, but to say he’s the best closer ever is silly, even in 2002, before both his and Mariano Rivera‘s legacies were not entirely solidified yet. I come from the frame of mind where I take modern closers with a grain of salt and think they pale in comparison to those of the past. Still, Hoffman was great and this photo is incredible. Hoffman’s leg kick still blows my mind all these years later.

July 25th, 2007
Gwynn Padres HOF Sports Illustrated
In 2007, Sports Illustrated published a Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative issue with covers featuring both Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. I’ve never got my hands on the Gwynn issue, but I will one of these days. An article by Tom Verducci entitled “Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr on the Art of Hitting” is something that I need to read.

June 4th, 2012
ken caminiti padres sports illustrated
You can file this under mainstream media coverage of the Padres that we could all do without. As we all know, the Padres were not immune to PED drama, as the late Ken Caminiti was potentially the first MLB player to openly discuss the growing steroid problem in the game. He did so back in a 2002 issue of Sports Illustrated (read HERE) and in 2012, they revisited the issue, which featured a cover with Caminiti in his Padres uniform. I’ve always felt that it’s a haunting image that stays with you after looking at it.

April 1989
Tony Gwynn Padres Sports Illustrated for Kids
And for an honorable mention, I present Tony Gwynn’s cover of Sports Illustrated for Kids. I had a subscription to SI for Kids when I was a little boy but never had his issue, which is weird because I swear I had a subscription for the first year of the publication. It’s too bad I never owned this, as I would have been SO stoked on it. Honestly, I’d still love to read the his article in it.

A Blast From The Past: “The Heartbreak of Being a Padres Fan.”

In 2012, I wrote “The Heartbreak of Being a Padres Fan” for 90 Feet of Perfection and recently got the idea to share it here on The 5.5 Hole. I’ve generally kept my rooting interest for the Padres at a minimum on that site, but at that time I had no other outlet for a post of that nature. This was written prior to losing both Tony Gwynn and Jerry Coleman in 2014, so that’s not included. Also, the perception on some situations have changed a bit over the years, but the overall theme of the post still remains the same. This is why I’m leaving everything intact from the original post and not updating it; minus fixing a few grammatical issues that caught my eye.

The Swinging Friar

The San Diego Padres are not a baseball team that many people give much thought to due to the fact that they are a small market team on the West Coast lacking franchise success in terms of post-season achievements. Many fans can not name 5 players currently on the Padres roster due to their lack of “superstars” and their decision to embrace the youth movement which often comes hand in hand with teams in rebuild mode.

Being a San Diego sports fan is a tradition in my family. To this day I still bond with my Father and Grandmother over the Padres. In fact, my Grandmother is in her late 80’s and still a Padres fan. During my childhood, my parents, older half-brothers, and Grandmother all filled my head with various stories about the Padres that still resonate with me. Hearing stories about watching the Padres prior to their MLB debut in 1969 while still part of the PCL blew my mind. Hearing my Dad quote Jerry Coleman (“Oh, Doctor!” “You can hang a star on that baby!”) will always entertain me and bring me joy. Stories about players with names like Nate Colbert, Willie McCovey, Ozzie Smith, Goose Gossage (My Mom’s favorite player), Rollie Fingers, Dave Winfield and Randy Jones all held my attention and captivated my imagination at a very young age. I still retain these stories in my memory bank and always will.

When I discovered Baseball around 1987 or 1988 I quickly found a baseball hero of my own and his name was Tony Gwynn. I could be wrong but I believe my Grandmother thinks Tony Gwynn is a saint and she has every right to believe so, as he is still the one shining beacon of joy, hope and pride that Padres fans never lost or felt betrayed by. Even with potential free agency looming at the end of contracts and when being pursued by large market teams such as the Yankees; he stayed with San Diego more than once and often for below market value. Unfortunately this is where the joy for many Padres fans end.

I am now 32 years old and I started to follow the Padres around the age of 8. What this means is that I have 24 years of baseball heartbreak in some shape or form. I’m not implying that this heartbreak is as bad as what Red Sox fans went through during their 86 year drought or what Cubs fans have gone through since 1908. That would be ridiculous to compare the teams as the Padres are only entering their 44th year in Major League Baseball. However, It hasn’t been easy though.

In my years as a Padres fan there have been a number of heartbreaking moments that still do not sit well with me and that is the purpose of this post; to list my most heartbreaking Padres moments. If you see the list and wonder why I did not list the 1984 or 1998 World Series defeats, the answer is easy: they were not heartbreaking for me. I was too young to remember the 1984 World Series and I never thought for a moment that the Padres could beat the Yankees in 1998. I was just happy to see them in the World Series and to see them get National recognition and respect.

So with all this said, I now give you my most heartbreaking moments a Padres fan in a somewhat chronological order:

-The Padres 1992-1993 fire sale.

I was too young to completely understand what was going on but there were 2 things which were very apparent to me. The first is that all of the Padres stars were being shipped off at an alarming rate, with the exception of Tony Gwynn. The 2nd being that to this day my Dad has never said or heard the name “Tom Werner” without following it up with an explicit name not to be said around those easily offended. I too have inherited this trait from him and would like to think if I ever met Werner I would give him a piece of my mind.

The only positive aspect of the fire sale was that we got Trevor Hoffman. Andy Ashby may have been good, but not good enough to erase the sting of the team getting gutted. (Screen capture courtesy of Baseball-Reference)

-Cardinals defeating SD in the 1996, 2005, and 2006 NLDS.

With the exception of 1998, I have not personally seen the Padres win a playoff series. I have seen the Cardinals knock out my Padres on 3 different occasions. To add insult to injury, out of all three of these playoff series, the Padres only managed to win one game (Game three of the 2006 NLDS ). This post-season domination by St. Louis is both embarrassing and frustrating.

With that said, I must proclaim that Chris Young will forever have my respect and admiration for his performance during Game 3 of the 2006 NLDS. (Screen capture courtesy of MLB)

-October 1st, 2007: Game 163 against the Rockies.

An extra inning battle which was settled in the 13th inning after Trevor Hoffman blew a save and was rocked to the tune of 3 runs for a final score of 9-8. I really thought they had this nailed shut when Scott Hairston crushed a home run in the top of the 13th inning off of Jorge Julio. Unfortunately the Baseball gods thought otherwise.

I’ll always be somewhat bitter towards Umpire Tim McClelland and will forever hold the stance that Matt Holliday did not touch the plate. It’s safe to say that it still hurts when I think about this night.

-Losing Adrian Gonzalez and Jake Peavy.

  • 2008 opening day payroll: over $73 million.
  • 2009 opening day payroll: under $43 million.
  • 2010 opening day payroll: under $38 million.

After reading the payrolls above, you may be asking yourself how did the Padres payroll drop so dramatically in such a short period of time? Well, the majority of the blame is to be pointed at soon to be former owner of the Padres, John Moores. His nasty divorce screwed the Padres in terms of payroll and led to him beginning the selling process of the team in early 2009. Add this to an outdated television deal and the results were a financial nightmare for San Diego with the main casualties being Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez, as the Padres were not able to retain their stars through this transition period. Thankfully, the completed purchase of the Padres and new TV deal should be finished in the next couple weeks.

It still stings to see the both of them in other uniforms, especially Peavy as he is without a doubt my favorite Pitcher in Baseball.

Note to owners: Don’t be idiots in regards to your marital affairs, it can and will screw your team in some way shape or form as both the Padres & Dodgers can attest.

-Trevor Hoffman leaving San Diego.

Trevor Hoffman was the face of the Padres after Tony Gwynn retired and he should have played out the rest of his career in San Diego. This did not happen. Take the above mentioned payroll issues into consideration along with the fact that now former Padres CEO Sandy Alderson is a egomaniac with an attitude problem who retracted a contract offer to Hoffman. What you have left is Trevor playing his last 2 seasons with the Brewers.

Much like Tom Werner, I wish nothing but failure for Sandy Alderson in regards to the rest of his career in Baseball.

-The 2010 late season collapse.

This still stings. 2010 could have been, in many ways, the Padres unexpected year of greatness. Overall it was a very good year but a monumental 10 game losing streak late in the season, smack in the middle of a division race will screw any team. Add that to a loss to the Giants on the final day of the season and their chances of the post-season were destroyed.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the loss on the final day of the season fell on my birthday? It was a birthday that I will never forget, although it is one that I would love to, as I was almost brought to tears by the team’s collapse.