In a nine-year career with the New York Yankees, Jerry Coleman didn’t put up huge numbers (.263/.340/.339, 16 home runs and 217 RBIs). He did, however, win six American League pennants, four World Series titles and a World Series MVP. He was also named to the All-Star team in 1950.
Twice, Coleman postponed his baseball career for military service. He flew 120 combat missions in World War II and Korea – the only baseball player ever to see combat in two wars. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (hence his nickname, “the Colonel”) and earned 13 Air Medals and two Distinguished Flying Crosses, among numerous other honors.
In 1972, Coleman became the radio announcer for the San Diego Padres, a position he held until his death three weeks ago. Before he passed, he won the Ford C. Frick Award in 2005 and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2007.
Coleman truly had an unbelievable life. It’s especially painful to lose him because there are too few people in this world who embody such selflessness and modesty. Still, there’s another former player and friend of Coleman’s who might be able to match the Colonel in terms of accomplishments and altruism both on and off the field.
Tim Flannery played his entire career with the Padres from 1979-89 (while Coleman was the radio broadcaster). He wasn’t an All-Star by any means (in his career he batted .255/.335/.317 with nine home runs and 209 RBIs), but he is an all-time fan favorite in San Diego. After his playing career was over, he continued his tenure with the Padres as a coach and briefly as a broadcaster.
After losing the World Series as a player in 1984 and coach in 1998, “Flan” finally earned a ring in 2010, and again in 2012, as the third base coach for the San Francisco Giants – a position he’s held since 2007. Indeed, Flannery is widely considered one of the best assistant coaches in the game.
Like Coleman, Flannery has had an outstanding career in the Big Leagues. Also like Coleman, he’s led an unbelievable life outside of baseball. Flannery is an incredibly talented folk/bluegrass singer, song writer and guitarist. Along with his band, the Lunatic Fringe, he’s been joined on stage by artists like Jackson Browne, Bruce Hornsby and Garth Brooks. He also teamed up with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead to sing the National Anthem prior to a Giants game.
Here’s why Flannery is a hero: all of the proceeds from his new album “Outside Lands” will be given to Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who was nearly beaten to death outside of Dodger Stadium on Opening Day two years ago. As though that’s not selfless enough, he’s also been performing benefit concerts to further help Stow’s family pay hospital and rehabilitation bills. Thus far, he’s raised $140,000 – and he hopes to raise tens of thousands more.
With all due respect to Peyton Manning, I think Flannery should have gained more consideration for Sportsman of the Year.
Flannery sang at Coleman’s memorial at Petco Park just over a week ago. Coleman was widely beloved from coast to coast and exemplified moral character that few possess. Though Flannery isn’t putting himself in front of a gun barrel, he’s continuing that noble code nonetheless.
In the midst of PED scandals and a broken Hall of Fame selection process, it’s comforting to know that not everyone affiliated with professional baseball is as selfish as guys like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez. Thankfully, there are those who weren’t the most talented of athletes, but who gave absolutely everything they had for their teammates on the field, and do everything in their power to help others off the field.