The Wayward Word Press notes with sadness the recent death of Jerry Coleman, a Hall-of-Fame baseball broadcaster.
Though I hadn’t heard his voice for almost two decades, I was immediately able to recall it, and how much pleasure I enjoyed over the years listening to it, on the CBS Baseball Game of the Week.
That made me realize this is the true test of a great baseball broadcaster — if you can recall their voice, and smile when you do so.
Only a handful of announcers I have followed over the years, mainly as a New York Mets fan, pass this test:
The Times’s obituary says in part:
As a Marine pilot, he flew in the Pacific during World War II and was recalled to fly during the Korean conflict, becoming the only major league player to survive combat in both wars.
And as a broadcaster for the Padres since 1972, he was known to get lost in the clouds of the English language as he never did in the cockpit.
He once blurted: “Winfield goes back to the wall, he hits his head on the wall and it rolls off! It’s rolling all the way back to second base. This is a terrible thing for the Padres.”
And then there was this: “On the mound is Randy Jones, the left-hander with the Karl Marx hairdo.”
Coleman acknowledged that there was a “term that’s associated with me — ‘Colemanisms,’ or what you might call flubs,” he said in “An American Journey: My Life On the Field, In the Air, and On the Air,” a memoir written with Richard Goldstein and published in 2008.
“Maybe I talk too quickly, too soon,” he added. “I may have said the one on Winfield. ‘Winfield goes back. He hit his head against the wall. It’s rolling toward the infield.’ I meant the ball, of course. I just didn’t get around to saying, ‘It wasn’t his head rolling toward the infield.’ I skip a word here and there.”
But he could be entirely clear when he had something to say on an issue. After baseball began to acknowledge the enlarged physiques of some players and their ballooning home run totals, in 2005, Coleman spoke out in favor of strong penalties for abuse of steroids. “If I’m emperor, the first time, 50 games; the second time, 100 games, and the third strike, you’re out,” he said.
Major League Baseball adopted that penalty structure by the end of the year.
Though I didn’t recall his getting lost in the clouds, that passage brought a smile to my face, especially noting the miraculous recovery of Dave Winfield after losing his head.
See also Jerry Coleman Quotes and Legends Of The Err Waves: Jerry Coleman and Ralph Kiner give their listeners tongues of fun by William Taaffe