Congratulations, Jerry Coleman
"The Yankees were not our team, they were our religion."
The news just out that Jerry Coleman will be
this year's recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award beating out nine other
finalists for the prize honoring baseball broadcasters --is so well
deserved. My connection to Jerry goes back to 1975 when I was
researching and interviewing for my first book - - A BASEBALL CENTURY -
the 100th anniversary tribute to the National League.
I met Coleman in San Diego and did a very in depth interview with the
charming baseball lifer. I sat in the stands with him and, it was there
that he suggested that someone, me, do a book on baseball in New York
City in the 1940s and 1950s, what he called "the last golden age."
The book is now out in its fourth life, and I have Jerry Coleman to
thank for the idea.
Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch thought so much of Jerry Coleman he claimed
the handsome Californian would one day join him in Cooperstown. Injuries
and two different tours of military duty denied Coleman that honor. But
he ranks in the top echelon of infielders ever to wear pinstripes.
Gerald Francis Coleman was born on September 14, 1924 in San Jose
California. Baseball was his way of life all through his growing up
years. In 1942, Coleman was signed by the Yankees and sent to Class D
Pony League, the Wellsville Yankees. World War II interrupted his
budding career. He flew 57 bombing missions in the Solomon Islands.
"Spring training of 1948," Coleman said, "I was in Florida trying to
make the Yankees. I was the last man cut. I played for the Newark Bears
in the International League and came up to the Yankees at the end of the
season. I didn't even think I would be brought up. I'd had a poor season
"My first major league game was April 20, 1949. We were playing the
Senators. The first batter hit a ground ball to me and it went right
through my legs. The next guy up was Sherry Robertson. He hit a one hop
shot at me. I caught it, turned it into a double play and the day was
"The way we were indoctrinated. The Yankees were not our team, they
were our religion. That was what we lived for. It wasn't money then, it
was winning or losing. If you came in second place, you lost. It was the
glory of winning and the ring."
An All Star in 1950 and that year's World Series MVP, Coleman
experienced the glory of being on six Yankee pennant winning teams and
batting .275 in half a dozen World Series.
The biggest hit of his career was on October 2, 1949, the last day of
the season, Yankees versus Red Sox. The winner would be the American
League pennant winner. Going into the eighth inning, the Yankees clung
to a 1-0 lead. A four run eighth inning put the game away for the
Yankees - the key hit was Coleman's bases loaded single.
The sure-handed Coleman was the regular second baseman from his rookie
season in 1949 when he led AL second basemen in fielding through 1951.
His 137 double plays in 1950 set a Yankee record for second basemen.
When the Korean War broke out, the gentlemanly Coleman went back into
military service and missed 1952 and 1953 baseball seasons. He flew 120
missions and won two distinguished flying crosses.
Jerry Coleman played nine seasons for the Yankees, was in 723 games and
had a .263 career average. This true American hero, who gave some of the
best years of his life in service of his country, could have had much
grander career stats had it not been for military service in two wars.
He is a class act all the way.
# # #
You can reach
Harvey Frommer at:
About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
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