HANG A STAR ON COLEMAN.
The magic of malapropism and legitimacy brought upon by longevity explain as much as anything else why Jerry Coleman will be visiting Cooperstown, N.Y., this weekend as an honored guest.
Yet, as the latest recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence, the 80-year-old Coleman, into his 33rd season as the radio voice of the San Diego Padres, will be as worthy to be on the podium at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on Sunday afternoon as Ryne Sandberg and Wade Boggs.
``All I do is have a mike and love the games and tell the people what's happening and try to get it right,'' said Coleman when told there's plenty of baseball fans this far north of his current digs who tune into The Mighty 1090-AM, or have access now to the Internet or satellite radio, to hear his call.
``With so many people able to tune in, that really ruins my day,'' he added in typical self-effacing manner. ``Now I have to be right all the time.''
But that's really never stopped him.
``Colemanisms,'' as they have come to be known, aren't just his well-known mangling of the English language, but have become an endearing quality of someone who admits he got into broadcasting by accident after a
promising career as a second baseman for the New York Yankees in the 1950s was interrupted twice by active duty in the Marines during World War II and the Korean Conflict.
In baseball broadcasting historian Curt Smith's new book, ``Voices of Summer,'' Coleman is ranked No. 19 of the 101 all-time best announcers, with perfect marks in language, popularity and persona as well as longevity, voice and knowledge.
``I voted for him (for the Hall),'' said the Dodgers' Vin Scully, who himself was inducted in 1982. ``Bless his heart. We've never worked together but I have so much respect and admiration for him. I mean, what a background. He's done it as a player, broadcaster and Marine. It's marvelous to have a true hero in the Hall.''
Dodgers radio analyst Rick Monday, Coleman's radio partner for four seasons in the early '90s with the Padres, told the San Diego Union-Tribune: ``I never walked into a stadium where Jerry Coleman was not 100 percent enthusiastic about his job. ... He's been the epitome of an optimist, year in and year out.''
The Padres were the team Coleman wanted to work for when he ended a run as a Yankees radio broadcaster in 1969 and moved back West. A native of San Jose, Coleman ended up in Los Angeles at KTLA-Channel 5 as a weekend anchor, replacing Dick Enberg (who went to NBC) and sharing duties with Tom Harmon. Several of Coleman's bios say he did Angels games and their pregame shows in the early '70s, but Coleman says that wasn't so. The misconception may come from the fact the station and the team were owned by Gene Autry.
``Being in a studio and reading off a TelePrompTer, I didn't mind it, but it's nothing like doing play-by-play, especially on the radio,'' Coleman said of being an L.A. sportscaster. ``I got to do some UCLA basketball, hockey, football, boxing ... but never the Angels. But when I got the Padres job, that really made me happy.''
In 1972, the Padres' fourth season, Coleman arrived and quickly made phrases like ``Hang a star on it!'' and ``Oh, doctor!'' popular. Eight years later, the team did the almost unthinkable thing of hiring him as their manager - they started the season in last place and ended it there. He gladly returned to broadcasting in `81.
``That made me realize how different players were (to when he played),'' Coleman said. ``A lot are more interested in having a good year than in winning.''
Starting this season, Coleman's broadcast schedule has unfortunately been cut in half to 81 games, and in those, he does just the middle three innings. Publicly, it was a mutual agreement between him and the team, although Coleman is not only willing, but able to do a full season.
But he also doesn't mind being considered the No. 2 broadcaster to Ted Leitner, his partner for 26 seasons. Former Padres infielder Tim Flannery has been added to the booth for the other 81 games with the thought he's being groomed for the full-time role when Coleman decides to retire.
That date isn't anytime soon, if Coleman has any say about it.
``I still got a daughter in college that I have to pay for,'' said Coleman, who has two years left on his contract. ``To me, the game is still exciting. I've never lost that. When our team does better, it's even more fun. The fans know if you're not enjoying it. I'll keep going unless the people say I'm losing it. But I don't think I'm done yet.''
Before Sunday's ceremony in Cooperstown (carried live on ESPN Classic at 10:30 a.m.), Coleman will make a stop in Virginia to be enshrined this morning in the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame. As a Marine pilot, he flew 120 missions, received two distinguished flying crosses, 13 Air Medals and three Navy citations, earning the title of lieutenant colonel.
The only active player to have seen combat in two wars, Coleman knows his duty in the military took years off a nine-year playing career that started with the 1949 Rookie of the Year honor and included the 1950 All-Star game and World Series MVP. But he has no regrets.
``I really can't compare the two,'' Coleman said of the two Hall of Fame honors. ``I've had three lives - 30 with the Yankees, 30-some with the Padres and five in the Marines. And those five were the most defining years of my life. I'm so proud to be a part of them.''
--Spanning the Globe: Also recognized during the Hall's ceremony this weekend and soon to be added to the ``Scribes & Mikemen'' exhibit is Peter Gammons, recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award that honors baseball writers for their ``meritorious contributions.''
According to his bio on the Hall of Fame Web site, Gammons' ``effortless transition from print reporter to TV analyst helped open the door for many baseball writers at various electronic media outlets across the continent. While later generations grew to know him best as an electronic journalist, the hallmark of Gammons' career remained his service as a print reporter.
Jerry Coleman was doing a Yankees-Indians doubleheader for the Yankees' flagship radio station, WPIX, one afternoon, and for the first six innings of the opener, he had been telling the audience how it was unusual that day that Sam McDowell's control was so much better than normal. Finally, in the sixth inning, someone at the station called to ask him to double-check the Indians pitcher.
Turns out it was Jack Kralick, another left-hander who was scheduled to pitch the second game.
That isn't the only memorable malaprop Coleman has made in a baseball broadcasting career that has spanned almost 45 years, starting at the CBS Radio Network in 1960:
--``(Dave) Winfield goes back to the wall ... he hits his head on the wall ... it's rolling all the way back to second base. This is a terrible thing for the Padres.''
--``On the mound is Randy Jones, the left-hander with the Karl Marx hairdo.''
--``The first pitch to Tucker Ashford is grounded into left field. No, wait a minute. It's ball one. Low and outside.''
--``Ozzie Smith just made a play that I have never seen before. And he's done it more times than anyone else.''
--``(Derrell) Thomas is racing for it, but (Willie) McCovey is there and can't get his glove to it. That play shows the inexperience, not on Thomas' part, but on the part of Willie McC ... well, not on McCovey's part either.''
--``George Hendrick simply lost that sun-blown popup.''
--``Larry Lintz steals second standing up - he slid, but he didn't have to.'' ``If Pete Rose brings the Reds in first, they ought to bronze him and put him in cement.''
--``Before Glenn (Beckert, who had announced his retirement) leaves, I hope he stops by the booth so we can kiss him goodbye. He's that kind of guy.''
--``(Manager Steve) Boros is not with the team today because he's attending his daughter's funeral. Oh wait, it's her wedding.''
--``I've made a couple of mistakes I'd like to do over.'' Coleman, who like Yogi Berra or Ralph Kiner before him, cops to all those. But he says one that was attributed to him is one he never said.
``The only one I deny is that 'Rich Folkers is throwing up in the bullpen,' '' Coleman said. ``I said he was 'throwing 'em up in the bullpen.'
``Most of the time people know what I mean. My mouth just gets ahead of my brain. Fortunately, the fans have taken to it. They've let me come into their homes. That's what 99 percent of good broadcasting is. If they don't like you, it doesn't work.''
- Tom Hoffarth
no caption (Jerry Coleman)
FAMOUS `COLEMANISMS' (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jul 29, 2005|
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