SAN DIEGO – Hall of Fame broadcaster Jerry Coleman, a former second baseman for the New York Yankees who interrupted his pro career to fly as a Marine Corps pilot in World War II and Korea, died Sunday after a brief illness, the San Diego Padres said. He was 89.
Coleman spent 40 years with the Padres as a broadcaster, and managed them in 1980.
Padres president Mike Dee said Coleman died at a hospital Sunday afternoon. He said the team was notified by Coleman’s wife, Maggie.
“It’s a sad day,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “We’re losing a San Diego icon. He’s going to be missed.”
The Padres planned to keep Coleman’s statue at Petco Park open until 11:30 p.m. Sunday so fans could pay tribute. The team unveiled the statue in September 2012.
While recounting his military career in an interview days before the statue was unveiled, Coleman said: “Your country is bigger than baseball.”
Coleman spent more than 70 years in pro baseball, a career that included four World Series titles with the Yankees and was interrupted by World War II and the Korean War, when he served as a Marine Corps pilot.
He flew 120 missions combined in the two wars. Coleman was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, 13 Air Medals and three Navy Citations.
Around Petco Park and on Padres radio broadcasts, Coleman was known as “The Colonel,” having retired from the Marines with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was the only major leaguer to see combat in two wars.
Coleman was known for calls of “Oh, Doctor!” and “You can hang a star on that!” after big plays. He received the Ford C. Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.
Coleman’s best season as a player was 1950, when he was an All-Star and was named MVP of the Yankees’ four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.