The San Diego Padres honored longtime broadcaster Jerry Coleman on Saturday night, unveiling a bronze statue of him at Petco Park.
In a 30-minute pregame ceremony, the club gave thanks to Coleman for his 70 years of major league service — 40 with the Padres — along with his career over two wars as a Marine Corps pilot.
”I think the greatest thing that happened to me was landing in San Diego,” said an emotional Coleman. ”I don’t know where to begin after 70 years. I don’t even remember 70 years ago.”
The 88-year-old Coleman thanked his wife, Maggie, broadcast partner Ted Leitner and his two daughters, among others.
”I start getting tears in my eyes when I start thinking about the past,” he said. ”I couldn’t find a better place to spend my final days than in San Diego.”
The statue depicts Coleman in his Marine Corp pilot uniform and was unveiled by four Marine Corps pilots. It is located near the east entrance to the stadium behind the right-field stands.
The 7-foot, 5-inch statue sits on a granite base and has three 4-foot by 8-foot panels behind the statue that display pictures of Coleman from his baseball, military and broadcasting careers.
In addition to his family, other guests at the ceremony included former New York Yankee teammates Don Larsen, Irv Noren, Charlie Silvera and Bobby Brown, along with former Padres stars Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman and Randy Jones.
There was a flyover by four F-18 jets from the same Marine squadron in which Coleman flew. Video messages were shown from former Padres and current San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, and fellow announcers Vin Scully (Dodgers), Jon Miller (Giants) and Marty Brennaman (Reds).
Colorado manager Jim Tracy, who has been involved in professional baseball for 36 years, said before the game, ”I guess tonight we’ll hang a star on him,” mimicking one of Coleman’s popular catch phrases.
Coleman played for the Yankees in a career that included playing on four World Series championship teams. His first season was 1949 when he was the AL Rookie of the Year. Coleman’s final season was 1957.
His major league career was interrupted twice as Coleman flew 120 combat missions in both World War II and the Korean War. He was the only major league player to see combat in two wars.
Coleman’s first season as a radio announcer with San Diego was in 1972. He also had a one-year run as the Padres manager in 1980 before he was fired and returned to the broadcast booth.
In 2005, Coleman received the prestigious Ford C. Frick award and was inducted into the broadcast wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.