January 12, 2014 by Wayne McBrayer
Hang a Star on this Hero!
This time last Sunday, I was in Las Vegas spending time with family. The Chargers had beaten the Bengals in the Wild Card game and I was on my phone keeping up with the SDSU at Kansas game while at the same time enjoying the sights and sounds that are Las Vegas. It was a GREAT sports day in San Diego — the Chargers had won and the Aztecs were about to take down the Jayhawks! But then it all changed …
We had decided to walk over to Caesar’s Palace to buy a gift for Padres360 co-author Rebecca Herman when I received a text from her that the Padres had announced the passing of Jerry Coleman. It didn’t take long for me to start crying and reflecting on my years being a San Diego Padres fan.
He was the voice of the Padres and, I would learn as I got older, an American Hero who served in WWII and the Korea War. He managed the club for one year in 1980 and returned to the broadcast booth where he would stay continuing to call games for the Padres and hang stars on great plays. To me, he (along with Tony Gwynn) was face of the franchise.
For many years, I stopped attending Padres games. Work and raising a son took priority over going to the ballpark but I would still catch a game on TV now and then; however, it was/is never the same as being there in person. In 2008, I was invited by Rebecca Herman to go to some Padres games and I once again got hooked into going to games in person and always enjoyed getting there early for BP. This is where Jerry Coleman comes in. Jerry would come to the Friday-Sunday games and often come on the field before the game and stop to chat with players and fans. He was always friendly, had a smile on his face, and you could tell he loved being on the field.
We had the opportunity to meet Jerry a few times. The first time I talked to him face-to-face was at the Padres Foundation dinner of 2012. I walked up to him and asked if I could take a picture with him and he said, “yes, most certainly.” After the picture, we talked about a mutual friend who was running for mayor, Nathan Fletcher. I then asked Jerry what he thought of the Padres team for 2012. He looked around and whispered in my ear, “I don’t know who in the hell half of these guys are.” I laughed and understood what he meant. We had made a lot of changes in the off-season.
Rebecca recalls that 2012 was a year she listened to many Padres games on the radio. As a Time Warner Cable customer at the time, she was without TV coverage because TWC wasn’t (still isn’t) carrying FoxSportsSD. Reflecting, she said she was blessed that she needed to hear the away games on the radio that year because it gave her an opportunity to love The Colonel as the Padres announcer.
In 2013, we met Jerry once again at the Padres Foundation dinner. This time, I wanted to ask him who his favorite all-time MLB player was so I could write about it for my Casual Fan page. His favorite was Joe DiMaggio but he thought Ted Williams was the best hitter he ever saw play. You can read the entire story HERE
During the 2013 season, we would go to games early and see Jerry on the field talking baseball and watching players warm-up. I had bought a copy of his autobiography “An America Journey” and asked him to sign it. He told me, “I hope you didn’t pay too much for that book” and then he signed it for me. I ended up buying another copy to give to former Padres Pitcher, Dave Freisleben. He remembered Dave and said, “I thought he could have been an announcer” and that the Padres “could use him as a player now.” We also bought a copy for former Houston Colt 45’s player, John Paciorek, as a thank you for signing autographs for our kids. John was very happy to get an autographed copy of The Colonel’s book. If you are interested in buying a copy, check Amazon.com as they usually have great deals on used books.
In June, I acquired an early 1980’s Padres jersey on ebay for $35.00 that had no name or number on the back. I had decided I wanted to make a jersey for the one Padre I knew wouldn’t get cut, released, traded or walk away as a free-agent: Jerry Coleman. He wore #2 as a manager so I had that number and his name put on the back of the jersey and brought it to Petco Park and asked him to sign it August 2nd before the game with the Yankees. He was stunned I selected him for my jersey saying, “I wasn’t a very good manager” but I told him I wanted his name on my jersey. He signed it and I thanked him.
We saw Jerry a few more times before the end of the season. He appeared at the August 9th event by SABR: Memorable Moments in Padres History with Tony Gwynn where Bob Chandler, Jerry’s former broadcast partner, said Jerry and Tony were the 2 greatest Padres ever. When the Giants came to town, Jerry came out and talked to Bruce Bochy and Tim Flannery while the Giants were taking batting practice. He spent about 10 minutes talking to both men and then walked off the field and that was the last time I saw Jerry Coleman.
Baseball in San Diego will never be the same without Jerry Coleman but each night at Petco Park, when the sun goes down; God will give all the fans in attendance a reminder of our fallen hero with each star that He places in the sky. Each one is a reminder of our beloved Jerry Coleman, who Hung a Star on each great Padres play.
Wayne and Rebecca
If you are in San Diego and a fan of Jerry Coleman – we hope you are able to attend the memorial service at Petco Park to be held: Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 10:30 am.
Full information HERE.