Saturday, November 21, 2009
#68) CHOO CHOO COLEMAN
Clarence "Choo Choo" Coleman joined the New York Mets when he was drafted from the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1962 expansion draft. The original Met would not make his Shea Stadium debut until April 16, 1966. Coleman would only appear in six games that year before he ended his major league career on April 23rd.
"When I was 8 or 9, I ran around a lot," Coleman offers in response to the origin of his nickname. "My friends called me Choo Choo because I was fast."
He was a fan favorite throughout his career who started playing professional baseball in the farm systems of the Washington Senators and Los Angeles Dodgers. Then moved to the touring Indianapolis Clowns club before returning to the majors with the Phillies. "We weren't in the Negro Leagues. We played all over." Choo Choo said of the Clowns in an 2012 interview with Nick Diunte. "I played two years. We played almost every day. We went everywhere; it was a lot of fun."
Coleman was endeared to the Mets faithful through famous anecdotes. Charlie Neal, who roomed with Choo Choo was teasing him during spring training in 1963. "I bet you don't know my name." Neal sarcastically offered. To which Coleman replied, "You No. 4."
Ralph Kiner interviewed Coleman during a postgame show and asked, "What's you wife's name, and what's she like?" A bothered Choo Choo quipped, "Mrs. Coleman, and she likes me."
After finishing up his baseball career in Mexico City and the minor-leagues he returned home to Orlando, Florida. Following the death of his first wife, Odessa the former catcher married his second wife, Lucille. They had a daughter who later married into a Chinese family living in Newport News, Virginia. The Colemans moved there and helped run a Chinese restaurant. Choo Choo often served as one of the cooks until later retiring to Bamberg, South Carolina where he remains a Mets fan. "You play for a team, you always root for them." Coleman said.
Choo Choo Coleman signed his card in the set for my friend Lou Cafiero during the JP Sports Promotions show in White Plains, New York on January 21, 2012.