By Ashley Mackin
The Bishop’s School honored San Diego Padres announcer and World War II and Korean War veteran Jerry Coleman with the Bishop’s School Medal at a ceremony on Nov. 2. A former Yankee, Coleman is the only major leaguer to have served in two world wars.
Head of School Aimeclaire Roche said in celebration of Veterans Day, “Today we’re going to enjoy a distinctly American tradition, the honoring of those who have served in our country’s armed forces.” She also said the Bishop’s School Medal “is given to individuals who support the core values of Bishop’s School in the ways they live their personal and professional lives (and) in recognition of their demonstrated leadership achievements in their communities and to this nation.”
The Coleman family has a longtime connection to The Bishop’s School. Jerry Coleman’s wife, Maggie, was on the school’s Board of Trustees from 2003 to 2005; their daughter, Chelsea, graduated from the school in 2003. The school also has a Jerry Coleman Athletic Leadership Award.
After a video tribute including messages from “Mr. Padre” Tony Gwynn and San Francisco Giants coach Bruce Bochy, Coleman accepted the award. Joking about his academic skills, he opened with “If I had to go to Bishop’s, I might have made it one year.”
He outlined his history with the marines, which began with the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He explained he was 17 years old when Pearl Harbor got hit, so he enlisted in the marines on his 18th birthday, Sept. 14, 1942.
He spent the next several years serving in World War II as a naval aviator. After World War II, Coleman played second base for the New York Yankees. He paused his baseball career to return to combat for the Korean War in 1952.
During his time as a Yankee, Coleman played in six World Series games, won eight Division Titles, was the 1949 Rookie of the Year, and was named the 1950 World Series Most Valuable Player. After his retirement in 1957, he began broadcasting for several major league teams. In 1972, he began his career with the San Diego Padres, a position he holds today.
Through it all, Coleman said he stills remembers what he calls the “greatest day” of his life: April 1, 1944. “I was commissioned to second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, got my Navy Wings of Gold. It makes me tear up to think about it.”
In addition to discussing military life, Coleman spoke to Bishop’s students about the importance of education. “I get kids ... and I say, ‘what’s your greatest weapon?’ They answer, ‘My arm, my running, my legs.’ No, it’s your brain. Never forget that,” he said. “(That is) the thing that will carry you farther than anything else you’ll ever do; your knowledge and your brain.”
After a standing ovation, Coleman wiped tears from his eyes.
Roche returned to the podium to tell the students “Veterans Day is Sunday, Nov. 11. Between now and then, please take a moment to thank a serviceman or woman for his or her sacrifice and willingness to put themselves in harms way on our behalf.”