Hang a star on that baby: Padres salute Coleman

Hang a star on that baby: Padres salute Coleman

Hang a star on that baby: Padres salute Coleman
SAN DIEGO -- On more than one occasion Saturday, longtime Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman made reference to the fans who have tuned in during his many years of calling games on the radio, thanking them for their unwavering loyalty.

Then, in true Coleman fashion, the Hall of Famer questioned their sanity.

"I think they're brave people to survive with me for 40 years," said Coleman, who turned 88 on Friday.

It was a night for a few jokes and even a few tears on Saturday, as the Padres honored Coleman for his 70 years in baseball, the last 40 of which have been spent here in San Diego.

In a ceremony that lasted 35 minutes and caused the start of the Padres game against the Rockies to be delayed 13 minutes, Coleman was showered with the kind of attention and accolades that he has been quick to deflect for all these years.

In short, Coleman doesn't like talking about himself. On Saturday, he had no choice.

"Try to enjoy yourself, Jerry," implored Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn, during a video presentation that was played following the ceremony.

The Padres paid homage to Coleman with the unveiling of a seven and a half foot statue that is located just inside the East Village Gate, not far from the statue the organization put up to honor Gwynn not long ago.

The statue depicts Coleman in the way he wanted -- in a Marine fighter uniform, modeled after the one he wore during harrowing bombing missions in World War II and later in Korea. Coleman is the only Major League player to have seen combat in two wars.

The statue includes three 4-by-6 graphically designed panels that depict highlights and achievements from Coleman's military, playing and broadcasting career.

"It's perfect," Coleman said afterwards. "I was stunned."

There were video messages shown before the game and during it, from former Padres manager Bruce Bochy; broadcasters Marty Brennaman (Reds), Vin Scully (Dodgers) and Jon Miller (Giants); former Padres player and coach Tim Flannery and several current Padres broadcasters.

In addition to family members, former Padres president Dick Freeman, current president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, executive chairman Ron Fowler and Padres owners Peter Seidler, Tom Seidler and Kevin O' Malley were in attendance.

Four of Coleman's former Yankees teammates -- Irv Noren, Charlie Silvera, Bobby Brown and Don Larsen -- were in attendance as well.

The master of ceremony was Coleman's longtime friend and broadcast partner, Ted Leitner, who got a high-five after Coleman was introduced during a two-minute standing ovation from the crowd.

San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders proclaimed Saturday as 'Jerry Coleman Day.' There was a Marine Band and even a flyover from four F-18's. Coleman was asked if he saw them during the ceremony.

"No, but I heard them," Coleman said.

After the ceremony, Coleman spoke to reporters before heading off to meet with his family and former teammates to enjoy the game in a private suite. On Sunday, he'll be behind the microphone, calling the final game of the series against the Rockies.

He's hoping normalcy returns to his life.

Make no mistake; Coleman was honored by Saturday's ceremony. At several points, he rubbed the tears from his eyes. But he still bristles at being called a hero. That moniker, he said, are for those he served alongside with, those Marines who never came home.

"What gets me is when I start thinking back in the past," Coleman said. "People talk about great heroes. The great heroes are the ones not with us."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.