(Born August 25, 1937) -- Ask any baseball fan who around for the first year of the New York Mets, and he or she certainly will remember Clarence “Choo Choo” Coleman. His baseball career even had a good-sized stop at the train station in Buffalo, so to speak.
The catcher signed as a free agent with the Washington Senators in 1955. He was born in Orlando and spent parts of the 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1959 seasons there. Coleman eventually landed in the Phillies’ system and made his major league debut for them in 1961.
Coleman landed on the Mets for 1962 through the expansion draft, and hit. 250 in 55 games. Broadcaster Ralph Kiner loved to tell the story about how he asked Coleman on a postgame show about how he got his nickname. Expecting a long answer, he received instead an “I don’t know, Ralph.”
Coleman came to Buffalo in 1964. He hit .285 here in 73 games, as he split the catching duties with Norm Sherry. He stayed to hit .247 in 54 games the next season.
Choo Choo played a couple of more years in the minors before retiring at the end of the decade. He reportedly owned a Chinese restaurant in Florida.
-- Budd Bailey