Frank Colman

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Frank Colman
Outfielder
Born: (1918-03-02)March 2, 1918
London, Ontario
Died: February 19, 1983(1983-02-19) (aged 64)
London, Ontario
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
September 12, 1942 for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Last MLB appearance
August 3, 1947 for the New York Yankees
Career statistics
Batting average .228
Home runs 15
Runs batted in 106
Teams

Frank Lloyd Colman (March 2, 1918 – February 19, 1983), was a Canadian Major League Baseball player who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees.

The son of Frederick and Harriet Colman who operated a shoe store on Hamilton Road in London, Ontario, Colman joined the London Majors of the senior Intercounty Baseball League in the mid-1930s (winning the batting title as a pitcher, Most Valuable Player award and a championship in 1936), the Pittsburgh Pirates as a first-baseman-outfielder from 1942 to 1946 and the New York Yankees as an outfielder in 1946 and 1947, where he roomed with the young Yankee catcher Yogi Berra.

Colman batted and threw left, was six-feet tall and weighed 188 pounds. His debut in Major League Baseball was on September 12, 1942, and his final game in the big leagues was on August 3, 1947.

With the 1947 Yankees[edit]

In addition to Berra, Colman's teammates on the legendary 1947 Yankees included Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Allie Reynolds, Johnny Lindell, Charlie Keller, Tommy Henrich, Ralph Houk and Joe Page.

Colman and Yogi Berra were teammates with the minor-league Newark, New York, Bears in 1946 and both were called up to the Yankees.

In 1947, Colman opened the season as the starting right fielder with the Yankees but suffered a leg injury and underwent season-ending surgery. That would be his last season in the big leagues, although Colman did play two more seasons in 1949 and 1950 in the Pacific Coast League with Seattle where he batted .319 with 18 HRs and 98 RBIs in 1949 and batted .310 in 1950.

What had to be disappointing for Colman was being a non-roster player for the Yankees when they defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers in seven games for the 1947 World Series championship.

Nevertheless, Colman was part of the World Series scene. The only other Londoner to experience the World Series was the outstanding Iron Man catcher George Gibson in 1909 when Gibson's Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Detroit Tigers starring Ty Cobb in the best-of-nine final series, five games to two.

Nineteen-forty-seven was a benchmark for Major League Baseball if there ever was one. Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher was suspended for the year even before the season opened for "conduct detrimental to baseball". The doors were finally opened to the black athlete as an infielder by the name of Jackie Robinson was plucked from the Montreal Royals to lead the Brooklyn Dodgers into one of the most memorable World Series of all time.

Colman finished his six-year major league career with 571 at-bats, 15 home runs and 106 RBIs in 271 games for a career average of .228.

Colman returns to his hometown[edit]

Colman returned to his hometown of London in 1954 after serving as a player-coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the AAA International League from 1951 through 1953, a team owned by Canadian sporting legend Jack Kent Cooke.

Colman signed on as playing manager for London Majors' owner and general manager Clare Van Horne in 1954. (Years later, Van Horne would subsequently leave London facing a paternity suit, move to California and be convicted of murdering his girlfriend with a hammer).

That same year, Alex Park of Alex Park Sporting Goods Ltd. at 300 Dundas Street, hired Colman as an in-store salesman. The sporting goods store was the meeting place for a number of Londoners interested in forming a baseball league for youths.

Purchases the London Majors[edit]

The following year in 1955, Frank Colman took over the Intercounty League's London Majors at Labatt Park, where it all began for Colman 20 years earlier. Colman's brother Jack (who died in 1962), helped coach the 1955 London Majors.

"The sale of the Majors baseball club to Colman is one of the best things to happen to baseball in many years," wrote London Free Press sports editor Jack Park in his "Sport Sparks" column at the time.

As player-owner Colman's London Majors won the Intercounty title in 1956. The team also won the Great Lakes championship in 1957. Colman returned the Majors to the Intercounty loop in 1958, organizing an exhibition ballgame in June 1958 in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus and the Mocha Temple Shrine in aid of the Shrine Hospitals for Crippled Children. The ballgame between the Toronto Maple Leafs of the AAA International League and an all-star team put together by Colman attracted 5,000 fans to Labatt Park. In 1959, Colman sold the London Majors.

Colman, co-founder of the Eager Beaver Baseball Association[edit]

In 1955, Colman co-founded the Eager Beaver Baseball Association (EBBA) with sportsman Gordon Berryhill and that organization renamed its all-star day -- "Frank Colman Day" -- in 1984. The EBBA is still going strong 51 years later, having mentored thousands of young ballplayers.

Before Frank Colman died of cancer in 1983 at the age of 65, he had been working at the University of Western Ontario in the maintenance department.

Sixteen years later in 1999, Frank Colman was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. In a letter to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999, Yogi Berra wrote that he visited Colman at his home in Canada on several occasions.

"I've made a lot of friends in baseball through the years, but I'll always remember Frank as one of the most decent and genuine people that I ever met," Berra wrote. "I was proud that he was my friend."

His son, Frank Colman Jr., accepted the Hall of Fame plaque at the ceremony in St. Marys, Ontario with a large contingent of Colmans on hand.

"If he were here, I think he would say his greatest accomplishment has been his contribution to the community through the work with the Eager Beaver Baseball Association," his son said. "That was his real pride and joy. He really loved that kind of work."

In 2005, Colman was also inducted into the London Sports Hall of Fame at the John Labatt Centre.

References[edit]

  • The Northern Game: Baseball the Canadian Way by Bob Elliott (Sport Classic, 2005).
  • Heritage Baseball: City of London's souvenir program from July 23, 2005, celebrating the history of Labatt Park and London, Ontario's 150th anniversary as an incorporated city.
  • The magic continues at London's Field of Dreams by Barry Wells (SCENE magazine, London, Ontario, June 15, 2000).
  • Who's Who in Canadian Sport by Bob Ferguson (Sporting Facts Publications, Ottawa, 3rd edition, 1999), ISBN 1-894282-00-0.
  • Diamonds of the North: A Concise History of Baseball in Canada by William Humber (Oxford University Press, 1995), ISBN 0-19-541039-4.
  • EBBA: 40 Years of Baseball by Jeffrey Reed (Eager Beaver Baseball Association, Inc., London, Ontario, 1994, ISBN 0-9698289-0-X).
  • Diamond Rituals: Baseball in Canadian Culture by Robert K. Barney (Meckler Books, 1989).
  • Sport Sparks by Jack Park, The London Free Press, June 12, 1968.

External links[edit]