Thousands filled PETCO Park on Saturday to say goodbye to baseball legend Jerry Coleman. NBC 7's Diana Guevara reports
Humble. Modest. Passionate. Funny.
“Humble, modest beyond means, caring beyond kind, valor above duty,” said San Diego Padres broadcaster Dick Enberg, describing his friend and colleague to a crowd of nearly 5,000 fans at Petco Park. “He left us, as he lived: gracefully and without fanfare.”
“I feel he’s still up in the booth – like I should look up there and we should see that San Diego Padres cap and microphone and [him] chanting away: ‘Use both hands, don’t catch it with one hand!’”
Coleman’s daughter, Chelsea Coleman, also spoke before the large crowd, thanking fans on behalf of her family for their outpouring of love and support not only now, but throughout the years.
“Thank you for listening to 42 years of Padres baseball. Thank you for laughing with us. Thank you for sharing your memories of him. And thank you for being here today,” said Chelsea.
“If he were here, he’d probably play this moment down, ask if we’d known that he’d won the war single-handedly or suggest we should all have something better to do than focus on him,” she added.
“But deep down, he would be proud because here, represented in this space, are the three things he cared for most: his country, his game and the people who loved him and who he, in turn, loved. That includes you, San Diego baseball fans, because you were his second family.”
Chelsea also thanked the Padres and Marine Corps for their support during such a difficult time. And, in closing, Coleman’s daughter showed her playful side, undoubtedly inherited from her father.
“Semper Fi – and Beat L.A.!” she said with a smile, as the crowd went wild.
Saturday’s memorial, organized by the San Diego Padres, celebrated the life and legacy of Coleman, who died on Jan. 5 at the age of 89.
Featuring several key speakers, the baseball announcer's colleagues, friends and loved ones shared fond memories and stories of Coleman long, eventful life.
For instance, Padres broadcaster Bob Chandler – Coleman’s former broadcast partner who’s known him for more than four decades – recalled the moment he and Coleman first started working together.
“He told me, ‘You know, Bob, it’s a long season and it’s a small booth,’ so in other words, it’s a good idea to get along,” recalled Chandler with a chuckle.
“I can honestly say I never had a serious argument with Jerry in all those years of broadcasting and I guarantee you, there aren’t many broadcast booths that can say that,” he added.
Chandler also said that he and his colleagues would agree that Coleman is “the most beloved sports figure in the history of San Diego.”
Padres broadcaster Randy Jones also spoke, recalling memories of sitting with Coleman at the ballpark, taking in a game and munching on peanuts. He said that in their 40 years of friendship, there was never a dull moment with Coleman.
“I can’t remember one day in the 40 years that I looked up at Jerry Coleman and wasn’t excited to see him,” said Jones. “I’m honored to call Jerry Coleman my friend and he’ll be part of our Padres family for life.”
Between tears, Coleman’s longtime radio partner Ted Leitner also shared some emotional words and anecdotes about his dear friend.
“That’s my partner. That’s my guy,” said Leitner.
“You are the best man I have ever known,” he said, speaking directly to Coleman.
Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler said Coleman’s death has left a large void for the Padres, but he will never be forgotten.
"Jerry was the very soul of this organization," said Fowler before the crowd.
Coleman – who coined the memorable phrases “Oh, Doctor!” and “You can hang a star on that baby!” during his long career in the Padres announcer booth – spent more than 70 years in pro baseball, a career that included four World Series titles with the New York Yankees.
His baseball career 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.
In honor of his time as a U.S. service member, the U.S. Marine Corps paid their respects to Coleman with a 21-gun salute. The Marine Corps Recruit Depot Band played “Taps” and more than 150 Marines attended the service.
There were two flyovers at the stadium – including one by a T-6 SNJ aircraft from 1942, similar to the one Coleman flew in World War II – all to honor the former Marine, Hall-of-Famer and one of San Diego’s most recognized voices and heroes.
For fans who’d like to make a donation in Coleman’s memory, the Padres say the Coleman family recommends making a contribution to the Semper Fi Fund, a non-profit that supports injured and ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
Farewell, Mr. Coleman.