I definitely would not have been able to write this a few days ago. When I heard the news of Jerry Coleman‘s passing it hit me hard. Real hard. My day essentially came to a halt and I locked myself in the bedroom for the rest of the evening. There was no chance I could visit the statue and, to be honest, I don’t even think I ate dinner that night. I was a zombie walking around in disbelief. Yeah he was 89 but it felt like he was someone who would be around forever. He was truly a great man that will be dearly missed here in San Diego and Padres baseball will never be the same again. Today on Thursday January 9th, 2014 I sit here with a smile on my face where the sadness once was. After seeing the numerous tributes and hearing all the great stories, I have shifted into “celebrate his life” mode. I compiled some of my most memorable Jerry moments down below. I hope they bring a smile to your face.
Hang a star!
My earliest memory of the Colonel is likely the same as many of you. My family was always huge Padre fans and we’d listen to Jerry, Ted & Bob any chance that we got. At games my dad always would point to the booth when the star was thrown out and I always thought that was the coolest thing ever. When I started playing Little League, my dad cut out a wood star, painted it gold and attached it to a string and pole and would throw it out every time there was a great play (for either team). Kids loved it and at the end of the season he made replica stars for each kid on the team to have. I gave it my all at 2nd base striving to make “star worthy” plays and got such a rush when I saw that star come out of the dugout. I still have my replica star packed away somewhere and I’ll never forget those moments.
The elevator ride
Fast forward to 2001. As a young kid I got a job at Qualcomm Stadium working at an ice cream stand. On my very first day on the job I got there early, went to the deep dark dungeons of the stadium, checked in and then proceeded to take the elevator up to my level. I was the only one waiting for the elevator and as the doors opened I immediately saw the elevator attendant and next to him was the legendary Jerry Coleman, head down and going over his pre-game notes. I was star struck and stood there for a second not moving. The attendant asked if I was going to get in and I slowly stepped inside. I just stood there in the elevator staring at him the whole time. What seemed like a 5 hour ride was probably more like 30 seconds but eventually, as if he knew I was burning a hole in him by staring, he poked his head up, looked over at me and said: “So are we going to win today?” I replied cheeseily “I hope so Mr. Coleman!” He replied simply with “Oh, call me Jerry.” The doors then opened and I got off on my level. The rest of the night I had a huge smile on my face. That was the first time I ever met the Colonel.
The music video
As many of you know, sometime contributor of RJ’s Fro, Beautown, worked for the Padres up in the press box for a few years during the Qualcomm Stadium days. We were also in a band together called Troy’s Bucket. In late 2003 we decided that we were going to make a music video for one of our newly recorded songs called “Waiting for a New Day”. Being that we were all huge Padres fans, and with Beau’s connections, we came up with a baseball themed video. Press Gate Bruce, Jerry Coleman, Matt Vasgersian and Rick Sutcliffe all made cameos in it. Originally we only asked Matty V & Sut to be in it and ad-lib everything as if they were calling a baseball game despite it being a concert on the field. But as we were walking in the press box we ran into Jerry. He asked what we were doing and next thing we know he was joining in on the action. He ad-libbed his whole part and it was fantastic. What other band out there can say that Jerry Coleman hung a star on them? Long story short: the camera guy who was going to do the video for us ended up screwing us over. But we managed to get the Jerry, Matty & Sut clips on a VHS tape. I was able to get the audio off of it but I have yet to transfer the actual video. I will make it my new life mission to get that music video done now.
Spring Training 2010
I’ve been to Spring Training quite a few times over the years, but 2010 was my first time ever making it out to Peoria. My usual routine is to hit up the back fields first, go grab a bite to eat and then head to the game. After the game we hang out for a bit and then head to a local watering hole for the rest of the night. While en route to the watering hole, 9 times out of 10 we’d always see Jerry walking across the hot empty parking lot, by himself, dragging his suitcase behind him (always with the best posture you’ve ever seen) heading back to his room. The first time I saw that I asked a Padres employee if he does that by himself all the time. I mean I get exhausted walking across that lot, so how can an 85 (at the time) year old make it look so easy? They said that he does indeed do that all the time and Jerry always makes it look that easy.
That same Spring Training I managed to get a Press Pass. There were rules about not asking for photos but during one of my visits to the worlds largest urinals in the Press Box I crossed paths with Ted Leitner. There aren’t many people that I’d break the rules for but Ted & Jerry were definitely on that short list. I thought it would be weird to ask for a photo with him in the restroom so I waited until he came back to the booth. After exiting the booth I asked him if I could get a picture with him and Jerry. He obliged and jokingly told Jerry “Hey Jer, get your butt out here. We have a picture to take.” I now have that picture below to cherish. Spring Training definitely won’t be the same anymore.
When the Padres announced that they would be unveiling a statue in Jerry’s honor I knew I had to be there. It was a such a deserving honor for such a great man. With tickets already purchased, I came down with the flu the day before the game and had to stay at home sick in bed. But I watched the whole thing on TV and my room must have been really dusty that day. Jerry was his typical self though, deflecting all the praise onto other people such as Bud Black and the players. It was a great moment that will forever be etched in my mind.
Padres and Pints
After checking a couple Padres legends of the guest list during the last 2 seasons of Padres and Pints, I thought I’d shoot for the stars this year. When you think of stars you immediately think of Jerry Coleman. I have set up all my guests in the past on my own, but for Jerry I approached the Padres asking if it would be possible to help me setup an interview with him for the 2014 season. The first comment was “Jerry doesn’t drink though” which I followed up with, “yeah I know, but either does RJ and Steve Poltz and we made it work”. They responded with “Oh yeah! Well I think we can possibly set up something.” Nothing was confirmed yet but just the thought of sitting down with the Colonel and asking him questions made me giddy inside. There was absolutely no part of me that thought that he wouldn’t be here this season.
Rick posts under RJ’s Fro at Padres Public every Thursday. #RIPColonel