We at the San Diego Air & Space Museum were proud to be friends with Colonel Jerry Coleman. From his unwavering loyalty to his nation as a Marine Corps Aviator to his dedication to his San Diego community, he was a true hero. We were fortunate to know Jerry and in 2011 the Museum inducted him into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in both WWII and the Korean War. The Museum’s F4U-7 Corsair bears his name and will forever remind us of his support, passion and friendship .
Jerry Coleman, Marine aviator, professional baseball player, and hall of fame broadcaster, often known as “The Colonel,” is the only major league baseball player to have served in combat in two different wars. Coleman was born in San Jose, California, where he excelled as a baseball player. In 1942 Coleman was signed as an amateur free agent by the New York Yankees. After playing minor league baseball, and upon turning eighteen, Coleman joined the United States Marine Corps as an aviation cadet. He received his aviator wings on April 1, 1944. During World War II, Coleman flew 57 combat missions in the SBD Dauntless, receiving two Distinguished Flying Crosses and seven Air Medals. After the war, he was transferred from active duty to the inactive reserve list, and resumed his professional baseball career. Coleman was called up to the major leagues in 1949 and became the Yankee’s starting second baseman. That same year, he was named the American League Rookie of the Year, and, the next year, was named to the All Star Team. He played in his first World Series in 1950, and was named the Most Valuable Player in that Series. Coleman would eventually be part of winning six World Series titles with the Yankees. When the Korean War began, Coleman returned to active Marine Corps duty, flying 63 additional combat missions in the F4U and AU1 Corsair, including close air support and interdiction/strike missions. He was also assigned duties as a forward air controller. After the Korean War, Coleman returned to the Yankees, playing until his retirement in 1957. He continued in the Marine Corps Reserve until his retirement as a Lt. Colonel in 1964. Coleman began his long broadcasting career in 1960, working as the pre- game interviewer for the CBS Game of the Week. He joined the New York Yankees radio team in 1963, working Yankee games until 1969. He left the Yankees to work as part of the California Angels pre-game show, and anchored the evening sportscasts at KTLA-TV. Coleman relocated to San Diego to broadcast the Padres games in 1972. He was in the Padres booth since then, except for one year, 1980, when he served as the San Diego Padres manager.