Jerry Coleman was an integral part of the New York Yankees championship teams in the 1950s. Long before his Hall of Fame broadcasting career began with the Padres, Coleman joined Casey Stengel’s squad in 1949 as a second baseman. His offensive and defensive skills helped the Yankees make six World Series appearances, winning four rings. After winning the Rookie of the Year Award, Coleman earned his only All-Star berth in 1950. That same year, Coleman shined as World Series MVP with a stellar glove. He also drove home the winning run in Game 3.
Marty Appel, long associated with the Yankees as a publicist, producer and author, tells Tuned In that Coleman was the perfect player in Stengel’s world.
“He could play three positions and like Gil McDougald, gave Casey a lot of maneuverability for his system of platoon baseball,” Appel says. “A clutch player, a fine team man, and one of the ‘greatest generation,’ for his service to his country in two wars.”
His playing time was cut short because of flying hours with the Marine Corps during World War II and the Korean War.
Coleman would get another opportunity with the Yanks, beginning a seven-season stint as television play-by-play voice in 1963 on WPIX. There were a couple of pennant winning teams early for Coleman to announce, ahead of the late 1960s doldrums in the Bronx. However, one moment got everyone out of their seats when Mickey Mantle hit his 500th home run in May 1967.
“In many ways it sums him up,” Len Berman tells Tuned In. “[That’s] so different from how many broadcasters might try to ‘own’ the moment today.
Appel says Coleman’s style made him a natural to grab the mic, which in turn made him a hot commodity of sponsors. “He also hosted a pre-game show circa 1963 in which he would talk live to broadcasters in the other American League cities and get their reports of the day,” Appel recalls. “It was very advanced — more credited to WPIX’s technology– but not an easy assignment for a rookie broadcaster to host.”
Coleman also called games for CBS Radio. One of his on-air partners was longtime Yankee broadcaster Bill White.
“[I] enjoyed working with him,” White tells Tuned In. “A first-class gentleman, [who had] no ego and knew the game.”
Coleman arrived in San Diego more than forty years ago– and never left. In 2005 that longevity paid off. Coleman received the Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Two years later he was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
Still, as the saying goes, once a Yankee, always a Yankee.
“His popularity as a broadcaster in San Diego far exceeded his New York impact, but New York could claim his playing career, and with pride,” Appel says. “[He was] the second best #42 in Yankee history.”