Inductee — Robert Hunter Coleman

Coleman2_4Robert Hunter Coleman

Class of 1980

Birthplace: Huntingburg, IN




COLEMAN, Robert Hunter (“Marse Bob,” “Uncle Bob,” “Old Carpet Slippers”)  born Sept. 26, 1890, Huntingburg; died July 16, 1959, Boston, Mass. Pittsburgh (NL) 1913-1914, Cleveland (AL) 1916. C. 116g, 228ab, 1hr, .241. MGR, Boston (NL) 1943-1945, 128-165. Debuted June 13, 1913. 6-2, 190, BR, TR.

Brief stints as a major league catcher and manager only scratch the surface of Bob Colemans half-century in professional baseball. Known in Evansville as “Mr. Baseball,” the long-jowled Coleman helped develop future Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg and Warren Spahn while managing in the minor leagues.

In 1910 Coleman joined Springfield (Three-I) as a husky, 19-year-old catcher. He joined Pittsburgh in 1913 and spent another year with the Pirates before returning to the minors. He resurfaced in 1916 with the Cleveland Indians. Colemans managerial career began in 1919. He would manage at either the minor or major league level every season through 1957  except for 1926, 1932 and 1943, when he coached for big league teams.

For 24 of those 35 campaigns, Coleman managed in the Three-I League. He spent 20 seasons with Evansville teams, managing future big league stars like Greenberg, Tommy Bridges, Pete Fox, Whit Wyatt and Birdie Tebbetts when the Detroit Tigers owned the franchise. Spahn, Dick Donovan, Del Crandall, Johnny Logan, Wes Covington and Felix Mantilla played for Coleman when Evansville was a Braves farm club. Coleman also managed at Mobile (Southern Association), Terre Haute (Three-I), San Antonio (Texas), Knoxville (Sally), Decatur (Three-I), Beaumont (Texas), St. Paul (American Association), Springfield (Three-I), Scranton (New York-Penn) and Milwaukee (American Association). From 1957 through 1986 his 2,496 career wins were the most by any minor league manager.

Coleman coached for the Boston Red Sox in 1926 and for Detroit in 1932. He joined the coaching staff of the Boston Braves in 1943 after the Three-I League suspended operations due to World War Two. The following year he replaced Casey Stengel as manager and guided Boston to a sixth-place finish. Del Bissonette replaced him in 1945 with the team in seventh place with a 42-51 record. When the Three-I League resumed operations in 1946, Coleman returned to Evansville.

When the Evansville franchise disbanded after the 1957 season, Coleman became a scout for the Braves, who by then were in Milwaukee. In the summer of 1959 Coleman was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and Braves owner Lou Perini flew him from Evansville to Boston for treatment. Coleman died there at age 68. A member of the Evansville Sports Hall of Fame, he was a member of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fames Class of 1980.

From The Encyclopedia of Indiana-Born Major League Baseball Players, copyright © 2007 by Pete Cava. Reproduced with the authors permission.