Of Loss and Progress

By Lance Richardson

I was three months old when Dick Selma pitched the San Diego Padres to their first National League victory on April 8, 1969. Jerry Coleman would not join the Padre broadcasting team for another three years, and I would not become an ardent fan of baseball, and of the San Diego Padres, until four years after that.

In the ensuing decades, I conservatively estimate that I have attended, watched, or listened to four thousand major-league baseball games. The bulk of those have been Padre radio and television broadcasts involving Jerry Coleman. So I figure I’ve shared about three thousand afternoons and evenings with him.

For six months each year, for as long as I can remember, Coleman narrated spring and summer. He’d have been the voice of each fall, too, if only he and I had the fortune of attaching ourselves to a ballclub that was worth a damn.  Now that he’s gone, it’s little wonder that his passing devastates me.

My experiences and resultant feelings are, of course, not unique. Thousands of middle-aged San Diegans have since Sunday carried heavy hearts. Our collective mourning speaks not only to the loss of Coleman, with whom we associate so many memories, but to the passing of our own youth and our growing awareness of our own mortality.

The twenty-first century is a wonderful time to be a baseball fan. Cable television and the Internet supply more content and better access to our game than we could have ever hoped possible. As with all great advances, however, there must be sacrifices. For most of my life, baseball has been delivered to me by local broadcasters like Jerry Coleman.  They became my family.  As we become a global society, such bonds will likely become relics of the past.

For years, we’ve lamented the likely extinction of the 300-game winner. We were wrong. The greatest pitchers will still win three hundred games. It’s just that their stories won’t be told by such familiar voices. And the most familiar of all voices, to me, will always be that of Jerry Coleman.

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