Veterans Memorial to honor Jerry Coleman

By Kris Grant

It was October 1951 when Jerry Coleman, the second baseman on the New York Yankees, which had recently completed its third straight World Series win, received a call from a major at the Marine Corp detachment in Alameda, Calif. informing him that the Marine Corp wanted him back for another year and a half of service.

This time, Capt. Gerald F. Coleman would be serving in Korea, where the Marines were in need of experienced pilots.

“Do me a favor,” Coleman asked. “Take me now.”

While he was hoping he’d only miss one baseball season, Coleman’s overriding thought was that service to his country was more important than anything one could do in his private life.

It wasn’t until the following May that he was finally called up, but Jerry Coleman – the Most Valuable Player in the 1950′s World Series – was once again off to war.

During his 38 months of active service with the Marines during World War II and the Korean War, Coleman flew 120 combat missions. He twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross, citing his heroism and extraordinary achievement in flight, for his scout bombing missions over the Solomon Islands during the WWII.

This Memorial Day, May 26 at 2 p.m., Jerry Coleman – the Voice of the San Diego Padres for the past four decades – will receive another high honor: He will be inducted onto the Veterans Memorial Walls at the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial.

And his lifelong friend, Dr. Bobby Brown, who played third base for the Yankees during those heyday years and went on to serve as American League president for a decade, will speak in Coleman’s honor at the tribute ceremony.

“For a service guy to get an honor like this is really special,” said Brown from his home in Dallas, Texas. “It means more because it’s different, it’s a tribute in San Diego and it couldn’t go to a better person.

“Jerry is a first-rate guy. He is what you are supposed to be when you are an American. First he’s a patriot, and secondly, he’s been an exemplary citizen, doing so much for charity and his community over the years.”

Coleman played on eight pennant-winning teams with the New York Yankees.

He is the only major leaguer to have seen combat in both WWII and the Korean War, flying dive-bomber and attack-plane missions with the Marine Corps.

For the past four decades, he has been a broadcaster with the San Diego Padres (except the year 1980, when he served as the team’s manager) and earlier broadcasted for the Yankees and CBS.

Click here for information on Mt. Soledad Memorial Day events.

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