A one-of-a-kind San Diego sports day — two huge victories and death of a baseball icon

Posted: 01/05/2014 in baseball, college basketball, football
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s a pretty safe bet that Jan. 5, 2014 will be remembered forever when it comes to San Diego sports history.

Since San Diego sports teams usually fall short when milestone victories stare them in the eyes, the double-double of the Chargers winning a playoff game and San Diego State’s college basketball team upsetting Kansas qualifies as one memorable day.

And something that also dwarfs both accomplishments occurred – longtime Padres announcer and San Diego icon Jerry Coleman died at the age of 89.

Makes you wonder what the sports Gods in heaven had in mind to have all three things occur on the same day.

It wasn’t all that long ago when the Chargers appeared destined to be watching the playoffs on television. Four straight victories to end the regular season got them into the postseason and now the team has posted a sharp 27-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals to reach the divisional round against the Denver Broncos next Sunday.

The first playoff victory in five years pretty much wipes off any remaining Norvocaine from the underachieving Norv Turner era. The Bengals were 8-0 at home this season before San Diego went in and took advantage of overmatched Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton.

The Chargers and Broncos split two meetings this season with San Diego winning in Denver. And since Peyton Manning is 0-2 against the Chargers in the playoffs – and all the pressure is on his team, not San Diego – perhaps a really stunning upset is still a possibility.

Funny how efficient Philip Rivers somehow is without Turner fouling things up, huh?

As for San Diego State, winning in Kansas’ famed arena is no small feat. The Jayhawks had won 68 consecutive home nonconference games before being outplayed by the Aztecs and losing 61-57.

Seems like ages ago now when barely 2,000 fans would show up to watch San Diego State games as they wobbled to 20-loss seasons. I used to cover that program when it was a complete joke so things like winning at Kansas still confuse the frontal cortex for a few seconds.

The Aztecs are 12-1 with their lone loss occurring against top-ranked Arizona. There is a good enough supporting cast in guard Xavier Thames and frontcourt players Josh Davis, JJ O’Brien and Winston Shepard for San Diego State to perhaps make a Sweet 16 run this March. Even more of a chance if emerging sophomore big man Skylar Spencer has more outings like his line against Kansas – 13 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots.

Not long before the Aztecs finished off their victory – one worthy of Coleman’s famous “Oh Doctor” – word began circulating that Coleman had passed away.

The former War hero and New York Yankees second baseman became a baseball icon in San Diego. Even his disastrous one-season stint as a manager – remember how Rollie Fingers would rip him to shreds in the media? – didn’t dent his popularity.

The baseball fans in San Diego all grew up with Coleman on the airwaves – reciting his call of the game-ending forceout against the Chicago Cubs in 1984 as the Padres won their first-ever pennant, or laughing about his on-air foul-ups that became known as “Colemanisms.”

Here are several of his more-popular doozies …

“Rich Folkers is throwing up in the bullpen.”

“McCovey swings and misses and its fouled back.”

“There’s a deep fly ball to right field. Winfield goes back, back, his head hits the wall and it’s rolling toward second base.”

“Jesus Alou is in the on-deck circus.”

“They’ve taken the foot off Johnny Grubb. Uh, they’ve taken the shoe off Johnny Grubb.”

“Ozzie Smith just made another play that I’ve never seen anyone else make before, and I’ve seen him make it more often than anyone else ever has.”

“The first pitch to Tucker Ashford is grounded into left field. No, wait a minute. It’s ball one. Low and outside.”

“Hector Torres, how can you communicate with Enzo Hernandez when he speaks Spanish and you speak Mexican?”

“Reggie Smith of the Dodgers and Gary Matthews of the homers hit Braves in that game.”

“Kansas City is at Chicago tonight, or is it Chicago at Kansas City? Well, no matter as Kansas City leads in the eighth 4 to 4.”

“On the mound is Randy Jones, the left-hander with the Karl Marx hairdo.”

“Hats off to drug abusers everywhere.”

“Whenever you get an inflamed tendon, you’ve got a problem. OK, here’s the next pitch to Gene Tendon.”

And of course this hard-to-beat visual might have been the best one ever:

“There’s a hard shot to LeMaster and he throws Madlock into the dugout.”

There are hundreds more as any Padres fan knows and the misspeaks became part of the Coleman legend. I remember writing a story on him he was approaching his 70th birthday and he had no issues at all with “Colemanisms” being part of his lore.

In fact, I also remember that the interview may have never ended if I didn’t need it to. In a sports world where too many people have inflated egos, there were no issues like that when it came to Coleman, one of the most popular people in San Diego sports history.

Hmmm, maybe there was a valid reason why Coleman died on the same day as epic Chargers and Aztecs victories.

It just makes it easier to remember on which day a great man left the earth.

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