26 May, 2007

More Padres and Patriotism

At age 19: Combat Air Support in WWII (mostly Pacific theatre), 1942-46.

Three years later: .275 batting average for the NY Yankees; World Series; Rookie of the Year.

The following year: American League All-Star team, Most Valuable Player in the World Series.

Korean War: attack pilot; final total of two Distinguished Flying Crosses, 13 Air Medals and three Navy Citations.

He soon returned to baseball and played with the Yankee greats for a couple years, but was never the same.

This year? Nominee to the National Radio Hall of Fame at age 82 (after other awards); currently in his 33rd year broadcasting Padres baseball games.

His thoughts
on the sacrifice of a blossoming baseball career cut short by military service?

"The best thing that ever happened to me was my time in the service," Coleman said. "I have said this over and over again, but there's only two things that are more important to me -- the people who love me and that I love my country. Period."

In typical humility, his sympathies lie with others:
"The people I feel sorry for are the [Joe] DiMaggio's, the [Hank] Greenberg's, the [Bob] Feller's," Coleman said. "These guys had a chance to get all-time records. They were out three or four years and never got it back.

"For me ... I was a Minor League player at the time, and I would have never missed any records anyway. But some of these guys, they lost records. Feller won 266 games, but he would have won over 300. DiMaggio was never the same. Greenberg gave up four years. Those are the people who really lost."

Lt. Col. Jerry Coleman: humble gentleman... baseball player... USMC pilot... patriot.

I imagine he and Brannan will get along just fine.