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Historically Speaking

Historically Speaking: Jerry Didn’t Invent the Art of Malapropos, He Just Perfected It

By Tom Morrow

Beginning in 1978, I, along with the late Dave Nuffer, began collecting malapropisms uttered by San Diego’s favorite baseball play-by-play broadcaster, Jerry Coleman.

The former 2nd baseman for the New York Yankees and Marine colonel fighter pilot was the beloved Padres man behind the mike for more than 30 years. Jerry never failed to “unintentionally” mis-speak some of the action.

One of my favorites from 1978, was during a game when Dave Winfield was playing for the Padres. Jerry exclaimed with excitement, “…and there goes Winfield sliding into second for a stand-up double.”coleman

Later in the game, “…he hit that on the second base side of second base!”

Jerry reckoned one evening after a big defeat, “You can’t win when they beat you.”

Shortstop Ozzie Smith was one of the greatest Padres to play in San Diego. Jerry was impressed with Ozzie leaping and catching abilities. “Ozzie, with his beautiful manipulated body, gets it.”

As the year continued, Jerry was ever the optimist. “Tonight the Padres got off the track on the right foot.” And the next night, Jerry was impressed with Padres fielding. “That’s the greatest play I’ve ever seen … in years.”

During the 1979 exhibition games of spring training in Yuma, the games were sponsored by Millers, but that didn’t stop Jerry from noting the heat during an afternoon game saying, “Wouldn’t a Bud taste good right now?”

During the 1979 season opener, Jerry summed up the Padres outlook for the season, “… We’re right down to where the short hairs are counting.”

Jerry was talking up a youngster who had just joined the team. “… Not bad for a 24-year-old who was only 23 a year ago.”

On one of Cy Young winner Randy Jones during a game he was winning, Jerry declared, “Jones is leather sharp tonight.”

After some outstanding defensive work that deserved one of Jerry’s famous “You can hang a star on that baby,” he pointed out to the radio audience by describing the play thusly: “Fernando Gonzalez made a great play. He pirouetted with a 363-degree turn to get the runner out.”

When Dave Campbell was asking Jerry about how long ago were his playing days with the Yankees, he lamented that it was long ago … “yes, many, many moons to go, as the Indians say.”

As Ozzie Smith ambled slowly up to the batter’s box, Jerry described the short-stop’s action to his radio audience: “Ozzie’s going to use the pine tar rage. That’s a rag filled with pine tar.”

As the 1979 season was nearing the end, Jerry was still hopeful the Padres would make the playoffs. “The Padres are behind by only nine games right now, but that may be putting the horse ahead of the cart.”

Trying to explain away some of the Padres less-than stellar play, Jerry recond, “You can’t make egg salad out of horse feathers, as they say.”

Dave Winfield was suffering a reoccurring knee injury, to which Jerry noted, “I don’t know how it happended, but it must have been that his bat flew around and kicked him.”

No matter if it was a Padres pitcher or that of the opponent, Jerry would point out a good throw, “Boy, that pitch came right down the horn!”

Ozzie Smith always dazzled the crowd with his acrobatic-style of play, which certainly caused Jerry to let his radio listeners know. “Ozzie Smith just made another play that I’ve never seen anyone else make before … and, I’ve seen him make it more than anyone else ever has.”

Occasionally, Jerry would caution his listeners, “you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the face.”

Here are some classics without comment:

“He has yet to be wet behind the ears.” “If he can catch it, he can reach it.” “You said it right on the head, Dave (Campbell).” “The dice is cast on this one, David.” “And, here comes Dravecky to turn the tide.”

And this classic exchange:

Ted Leitner: “Did you get up early this morning?”

Jerry: “It was me and 12 waitresses.”

Leitner: “Uhh…I assume you mean in the restaurant?”

More “Colemanisms”at a later date.

shadow_of_the_fox02My latest novel, “In The Shadow of The Fox” and all my other books are available in both print and e-book formats at Amazon.com.