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Congratulations, Jerry Coleman

        "The Yankees were not our team, they were our religion."   

The news just out that Jerry Coleman will be this year's recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award beating out nine other finalists for the prize honoring baseball broadcasters --is so well deserved. My connection to Jerry goes back to 1975 when I was researching and interviewing for my first book - - A BASEBALL CENTURY - the 100th anniversary tribute to the National League.

I met Coleman in San Diego and did a very in depth interview with the charming baseball lifer. I sat in the stands with him and, it was there that he suggested that someone, me, do a book on baseball in New York City in the 1940s and 1950s, what he called "the last golden age."

The book is now out in its fourth life, and I have Jerry Coleman to thank for the idea.

Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch thought so much of Jerry Coleman he claimed the handsome Californian would one day join him in Cooperstown. Injuries and two different tours of military duty denied Coleman that honor. But he ranks in the top echelon of infielders ever to wear pinstripes.

Gerald Francis Coleman was born on September 14, 1924 in San Jose California. Baseball was his way of life all through his growing up years.  In 1942, Coleman was signed by the Yankees and sent to Class D Pony League, the Wellsville Yankees. World War II interrupted his budding career. He flew 57 bombing missions in the Solomon Islands.

"Spring training of 1948," Coleman said, "I was in Florida trying to make the Yankees.  I was the last man cut. I played for the Newark Bears in the International League and came up to the Yankees at the end of the season. I didn't even think I would be brought up. I'd had a poor season at Newark.

"My first major league game was April 20, 1949. We were playing the Senators. The first batter hit a ground ball to me and it went right through my legs. The next guy up was Sherry Robertson. He hit a one hop shot at me. I caught it, turned it into a double play and the day was saved.

"The way we were indoctrinated.  The Yankees were not our team, they were our religion. That was what we lived for. It wasn't money then, it was winning or losing. If you came in second place, you lost. It was the glory of winning and the ring."

An All Star in 1950 and that year's World Series MVP, Coleman experienced the glory of being on six Yankee pennant winning teams and batting .275 in half a dozen World Series.

The biggest hit of his career was on October 2, 1949, the last day of the season, Yankees versus Red Sox. The winner would be the American League pennant winner. Going into the eighth inning, the Yankees clung to a 1-0 lead. A four run eighth inning put the game away for the Yankees - the key hit was Coleman's bases loaded single.

The sure-handed Coleman was the regular second baseman from his rookie season in 1949 when he led AL second basemen in fielding through 1951. His 137 double plays in 1950 set a Yankee record for second basemen. 

When the Korean War broke out, the gentlemanly Coleman went back into military service and missed 1952 and 1953 baseball seasons. He flew 120 missions and won two distinguished flying crosses.

Jerry Coleman played nine seasons for the Yankees, was in 723 games and had a .263 career average. This true American hero, who gave some of the best years of his life in service of his country, could have had much grander career stats had it not been for military service in two wars.

He is a class act all the way.

#   #   #

You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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Dr. Frommer is the Official Book Reviewer of Travel-Watch. 
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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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