The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Ralph Coleman, Jr. Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

July 8, 2014


Ralph Orval Coleman was born in 1895 in Canby, Oregon. In 1914 Coleman graduated from Canby High School and enrolled at Oregon Agricultural College, where he majored in agriculture and excelled as an athlete. Though he had no prior experience competing in track and field, he lettered in all of his four years at OAC and, as a distance runner, ran times that would have been competitive at the Olympic level, had the 1918 games not been cancelled due to the outbreak of war. Coleman was also invited to join the OAC baseball team and lettered his Junior and Senior years, competing mostly as a pitcher.

As a student, Coleman was involved in ROTC and when he graduated in 1918 with a degree in Dairy Husbandry, he was drafted into the Army. He completed basic training at Fort Lewis, attended Officers Candidate School and was commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the Infantry. While he was stationed in Europe before the war ended, he never saw combat.

Following his discharge from the military, Coleman returned to Corvallis and, in 1919, was put in charge of the college's intramural sports program and also coached the Freshman track squad. Coleman coached track for four years before beginning a thirty-five year long tenure as the school's baseball coach. During his first four years on staff, Coleman also played professional baseball during the summer, pitching in the Pacific Coast League for three seasons with the Portland Beavers and with Oakland for a fourth. Coleman likewise served as an instructor in the PE Department, a position that he held until his retirement in 1966.

In 1921, Coleman married Elinor Flynn, who had also attended OAC. From 1924 to 1928 he coached baseball before leaving Corvallis briefly to obtain his master's degree in Physical Education at New York University. He resumed coaching in 1929, but stopped again in 1931 to focus on his academic and administrative duties. Coleman returned to the dugout later that decade and remained in charge of Beaver baseball until his retirement from OSU. During his years as manager, Oregon State baseball compiled an overall record of 561-316-1 and won its division ten times. In 1952 Coleman also coached the Beavers to their first appearance in the College World Series.

In 1966 Coleman retired and moved with his wife to Woodburn, where he became the head golf professional at the Woodburn Senior Estates. In 1981, OSU named its baseball field after Coleman, and today Coleman Field at Goss Stadium holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously used baseball facility in the United States.

Coleman's last job in baseball was with the Portland Mavericks independent professional team, for which he served as third base coach for a few seasons in the 1980s. He died in 1990 at the age of 94.

Ralph Coleman's son, Ralph Orval Coleman Jr., was born in Corvallis in 1931. He spent his childhood on the family's two-acre farm with his sister, parents, and maternal grandparents.

Coleman Jr. attended Corvallis High School, where he was president of his senior class and played baseball, golf, and basketball. He graduated in 1949 and enrolled at Oregon State College where he majored in Business Administration and played for his dad on the OSC baseball team.

Coleman Jr. completed his undergraduate studies in 1954 and was commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the Air Force. He spent the next two years in Tokyo, Japan as a Base Contracting Officer. Once discharged from the military, he entered graduate school at the University of Oregon where he earned his masters degree in Communicative Development and Child Psychology. In 1960 he entered a doctoral program in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northwestern University and completed his Ph.D. in 1963. Soon after, he began a lengthy career at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon, working as an Associate Professor of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology in the OHSU School of Medicine.