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Why Jerry Coleman Made Baseball Great

Donald Miralle

I had a grandpa once that I was very close with. The great thing about grandparents is that so much of what is new to you was also new to them once. You get ready for your first homecoming, and an old man's eyes light up as he tells you the story of how he missed that last bus home so that he could ask your grandma for a dance. We don't see the special moments in our own lives as they happen. There is a crossroads where hope meets memory, and it fuels a timeless kind of relationship between those who have seen so much, and those at life's doorstep itching to open their eyes.

For many of us, Jerry Coleman was like that grandpa. Everyone here loves baseball, but there was a time in our lives when we didn't know the infield fly rule. In the erstwhile days of our fanhood we soaked up all the baseball we could, and it was all new to us. Over 50+ years in baseball, the Colonel had seen it all. As eager as you were to experience baseball, Jerry was just as eager to share it with you. He loved the game, and all he wanted was for you to love it with him. He was an institution in San Diego and little leaguers who tuned in to the Padres after practice could one day listen to the Colonel with their own children. We grew up thinking Jerry would always be there, like crackerjack man, or the smiling friar, or the fast crack of the bat echoing through the stands.

Jerry Coleman was special in much the same way that baseball is special. For a few hours every day in summer you don't have to think about Benghazi or unemployment or twerking. The warm sun over a mellow breeze, the soft buzz of the radio, and the effervescent narrator there to guide you through the innings and the hitters and the teams and the cities. Hours melt away in sense that is hard to remember. What even happened in this game? What's the score? What year is it? The Colonel's broadcast accompanied the game in a way that was as timeless and charming as baseball itself. His presence was the embodiment of a day spent at the ballpark.

A lot of people will remember the spirited calls of "Oh Doctor!" and the delighted proclamations of "You can hang a star on that one!" but for me the wonderful thing about a person like Jerry Coleman was that he was able to bring the otherwise excruciating minutiae of life and baseball together and deliver something special to you. When I remember Jerry Coleman I don't think of the 1998 penant-winning call - I think of the four-pitch walks by Matt Clement and the long at-bats by Wiki Gonzalez. I think of strange anecdotes about the hotel bellhop.

Like the north star on a moonless night, Jerry was a constant in a world that was always changing. Without him, the sky is a little darker and a happy part of our lives has gone painfully and conspicuously silent. No matter what awful things were happening in your world or mine, he always managed to elicit the softest, most imperceptible chuckle when it wad needed most. His words filled the unnamed, unremembered moments that drifted away peacefully into the ether. Jerry, who had experienced so much in his exciting and incredible life, always seemed the most eager to tell you about the great cone of ice cream he had at the ballpark that day, or the kind stranger he met at the hotel. He married the spectacular with the everyday in a way that made every inning we spent with him into the the smallest treasure.

We'll all miss you.