For many years the New York Yankees, a baseball team that has won more World Series than any other, have been known as the Bronx Bombers. The name derives from the location of Yankee Stadium and the team’s thunderous power-hitting over the years. Although he was a relatively light hitter in baseball uniforms, infielder Jerry Coleman truly was a bomber in what he considered the most important facet of his life.
The only major leaguer who was in combat service in both World War II and the Korean War, Coleman, who died on 5 January at the age of 89, has drawn much more attention through his passing than have many of his baseball contemporaries. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941 he was 17 years old and in high school. Although he had intended to go to college on an athletic scholarship, as he explained in a December 2009 Proceedings article, naval aviators got to him first. Their visit to his school persuaded him to join their ranks, but he was too young. In the meantime, he played baseball in the Yankees’ minor league system. On his 18th birthday, in September 1942, he enlisted in the Navy’s V-5 training program.