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Local Sports

Turning the Page

The passing of a legend

“Oh Doctor!”

Those words might not mean much around this part of the country, but for me, they bring back childhood memories of triumph and jubilation.

This past week former New York Yankees second baseman, San Diego Padres manager and most importantly radio broadcaster Jerry Coleman passed away at the age of 89.

Coleman may have played for the Yankees for more than eight years, but he was most beloved as the voice of the Padres. He doesn’t have the national notoriety of a Vin Scully or a Jack Buck, but Coleman became a staple of San Diego sports from the moment he graced the microphone with his soothing vocal cords in 1958.

He spent some years bouncing around. He started out with the Yankees, moved on to CBS, and he moved out west in 1970 to take over as the radioman for the California Angels before finally settling into his role as the Padres main broadcast man in 1972.

Coleman was best known for some silky catch phrases such as “You can hang a star on that one, baby,” “The natives are getting restless” and my personal favorite, “Oh Doctor!”

I know most people here think of San Diego as a big city. It is, but it’s not like most other big cities. There is a real community feeling, a shared value system. It feels like a small town, and everywhere you go, you feel like you’re with friends.

Where Coleman’s and my paths coincide is back in the fall of 1998. The Padres were on their way to just their second World Series appearance, and the only one so far in my lifetime. Although the Friars didn’t really show up in the Series, the city was and is still incredibly proud of that ’98 team.

Anyway, I was left after school for daycare, as was typically the case because my parents were working. The Padres were playing the Braves in the NLCS. It was Game 6 in Atlanta, top of the sixth. Our pitcher at the time, Sterling Hitchcock, was twirling a gem and led off the inning. He hit a ball into left field that should have been an out. I remember the call like it was five minutes ago.

“Bautista settles under it, easy fly ball. Oh and he dropped it, and the Friars are in business.”

Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox then went to bring in the infamous John Rocker for Tom Glavine. Rocker gave up singles to Quilvio Veras and Tony Gwynn. We scored five runs that inning. Hitchcock held strong, and in the ninth, future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman closed it out.

Coleman had it perfectly from the time he came in, and when Trevor shut the door, yet again Coleman was all over it.

“Were we back in San Diego, he would be hearing the bells right now, but instead, there is just a silent Turner Field crowd. Trevor has never looked more focused.” … “Trevor with the kick and the pitch to Tucker. It is a lazy one into left field, Vaughn has it and the Padres are going to the World Series!”

I, along with thousands — if not millions — of others listening shared that moment, and we will all have Coleman’s voice in our heads to sync it with.

Jerry Coleman was one of the best ever. His career delighted those who listened, and it will never be duplicated. There was only one Jerry Coleman. You can hang a star on it.

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