Amid this day of NFL action and joy in San Diego following the Chargers' victory over the Bengals, the Padres announced some sad news about their Ford C. Frick Award-winning broadcaster, Jerry Coleman:
We are deeply saddened to announce that Jerry Coleman passed away today. We mourn the loss of an American hero and a great man.— San Diego Padres (@Padres) January 5, 2014
This news is unfortunate for not just Padres fans, but Yankees fans as well. Coleman was the Yankees' second baseman for the majority of his nine-year career from 1949-57. Although it was just 723 games long, it was interrupted by a two-year stint in Korean War that took up most of his 1952-53 seasons. Coleman also spent three years in the Marines during World War II, missing out on development time from 1943-45. He wasn't the typical athlete-soldier who played on military teams, according to Baseball-Reference Bullpen:
During [World War II], he was a fighter pilot, attaining the rank of 1st Lieutenant and piloting SBD Dauntless dive bombers on 57 missions in the Solomon Islands... During [the Korean War], he attained the rank of Captain and flew 63 missions in F4U Corsairs. Overall, during his military career, he earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses and 20 Air Medals. When he returned to the Yankees, it was as a utility infielder, but he appeared in the World Series three more times, from 1955 to 1957.
Coleman was a remarkable human being, not just an smooth defensive second baseman.
In his debut season of 1949, Coleman finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .275/.367/.358 with 21 doubles and 2.5 rWAR in 128 games. The Yankees won the first of five consecutive World Series titles, and the next year, he made the AL All-Star team for the only time in his career with a similarly productive campaign. In the Fall Classic that year, he hit .286/.375/.357 in the four-game sweep over the Phillies, marking a career highlight with a walk-off single in Game 3 that put the Yankees up 3-0 in the series. Coleman took home the then-consensus World Series MVP, the Babe Ruth Award.
When Coleman returned from Korea in '54, he unfortunately wasn't nearly as good as he was in the years prior. Still, he stayed on Casey Stengel's teams through '57, earning another World Series ring in '56 and ending his playing career with a flourish in '57; he had a 101 OPS+ in 72 games, then hit .364/.440/.455 in a narrow seven-game World Series loss to the Milwaukee Braves.
A few years after his playing career ended, Coleman found a new path in baseball working as a broadcaster. He began working for CBS in 1960 and became the Yankees' broadcaster for WPIX and WCBS from 1963-67. It was Coleman's voice behind Mickey Mantle's 500th career homer in '67.
He then returned home to the West Coast, where he worked as an Angels broadcaster for a few years before finally carving out a true niche as the recently-established Padres' radio man. From 1972 until his death, he worked for San Diego, as his "Oh, Doctor!" calls earned him fame and eventually the aforementioned Frick Award in 2005. The Padres honored him with a statue in 2012, immortalizing him the way he wanted to be remembered: as a solider.
Coleman was one of the oldest-living former Yankees, and his presence will certainly be missed.