Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Coleman passed over the weekend in San Diego, but lived a full long life of 89 years and with a list of accomplishments and experiences that would fill the hearth and warm the heart. For myself, growing up here in San Diego in the 80’s and playing little league ball, my memory is dotted with Colemanisms about Tony Gwynn and Padres, and of course his very memorable line -“Oh Doctor! You can hang a star on that one!” He was a former Yankee that won the World Series MVP in 1950 in spite of average stats, demonstrating his value as a teammate and the intangibles he brought to the table. He took a hiatus from a sports career and game playing to fly fighter planes and face death head on in World War II as well as the Korean War. Although I’ve never met the man, I can only imagine the feeling and presence of someone that is that consummate and that driven by personal virtue and values, and having the strength of conviction to follow through.
I was listening to NPR today and they ran old interview of the late Jerry Coleman, about his life and his career as a broadcaster, and the genesis of the hanging star phrase. Mr. Coleman replied that in grade school, his teacher would award a gold star for something really spectacular. He was rather frank and said he never quite got that gold star, but he did get stars, and as his career grew as a broadcaster, he began to use it on some of his home run calls and it just stuck. To me, it was also just the way he said it, the muted excitement in his voice, from a man who had probably seen everything. Jerry Coleman was the Dos Equis “most interesting man in the world” with class and fervor. Jerry Coleman was Ron Burgundy in spirit and without the shtick, a visionary, a person who would call it as he saw it, and most importantly, a San Diegan. All the class in the world, and a little humor too with the quips and quotes.
Here’s a link to some of his more memorable lines. You can hang a Gold Star on that one.