Sunday, January 19, 2014

Good-bye, Jerry Coleman

January 5th, 2014, was one of the most bittersweet days in the history of San Diego sports. The Chargers, a seven-point underdog, went on the road and beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round of the NFL Playoffs. San Diego State's basketball team beat Kansas in Lawrence, capturing the school's biggest win in regular season history. Somewhere in between those events, the Padres lost legendary broadcaster Jerry Coleman at the age of 89.

Jerry has always held a special place in my heart. As a child of nine, I was captivated by the game of baseball and the Padres were my team from day one. I didn't have a constant influence teaching me about the game -- a lot of what I learned came from Jerry.

Back in 1994, the year I followed the Padres for the first time, money was tight. I didn't grow up in a house with cable, and the Padres broadcasts on television weren't very plentiful. If I was lucky, KUSI might broadcast a few games a month. In order to follow the team, you had to catch the team on radio. I did so nightly.

The Padres were God-awful in those days, but it didn't matter to me. Jerry made every game relevant, interesting and exciting to me. Every hit by Tony Gwynn,every homer by Ken Caminiti, every save from Trevor Hoffman. Coleman's voice and enthusiasm are honestly one of the best things I remember about my childhood.

Back in 1998, the Padres made the World Series. It was an amazing time for me -- a team I loved might be remembered forever and win a championship. The Padres played the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS that year and the series-deciding Game 6 was on in the middle of the day. As a 13-year old baseball junkie, I attempted to sneak a Walkman into class and listen to the game through ear buds.  My math teacher noticed after 15 minutes and told me to take them off. A few minutes later, I told the teacher I had to take a dump. I left the class and listened to the game in a bathroom stall. I faked illness during the next class. Jerry told me the story the entire way.

There has been a lot of things said about Jerry's life: Playing for the Yankees, winning championships, becoming the only Major Leaguer to see combat in two wars. However, I will always remember him as the man who made me love baseball. He truly was one of the most interesting people that ever lived in San Diego.

Due to life getting in the way, I was not able to attend the funeral yesterday at Petco Park. I just thought I would share my thoughts on Jerry here. I am fighting back tears as I write. It is the end of an era for Padres baseball, a lost icon in my personal life and the end of an amazing man. I only wish I got to shake your hand at some point, Jerry. Thank you for everything.

No comments:

Post a Comment