Class of 1994

Jim Coates

A Major League All-Star as a rookie in 1960, Jim Coates almost had to retire from his professional career before it even started.  Shortly after joining the Major Leagues in 1956, Coates broke his pitching arm and was forced to miss two seasons.  When he returned to the pros in 1959, he came back in full force and finished his rookie year with a 6-1 win-loss record and 2.88 era.  For Coates, the road to the majors was not as straight as his fastball; however, the trip was well worth it when he reached his destination.
Coates was born in Farnham, Virginia and played baseball in high school and semi-pro ball in Lively, Virginia.  He began his baseball career as a pitcher with the Chesapeake League in the 1940’s.  From 1949 to 1950 he played in Warsaw, Virginia with ex-Major League and Professional League players.  In July 1949, Coach Billy Walker convinced him to try out at the Yankees camp in Norfolk.  He signed a contract with the New York Yankees in December 1951.  Three months later, he attended the Yankees spring training camp in Florida.  From there he was assigned to the Pony League in Olean, New York, where he played for one season before moving up to the Piedmont League in Norfolk.  In 1954, Coates moved to the Eastern League to play in Binghamton.  After a brief stint there, he returned to Norfolk.  In 1955, Coates was assigned to Birmingham, AL in the Southern League, but played part of the year in Binghamton, NY, as well.
In 1956, Coates played for the Richmond V’s of the International League and, later that year, finally made it to the majors, playing for the Yankees in the American League.  He was a vital member of their starting rotation for four seasons.  Coates compiled a record of 37-15 in four years and was a major contributor to three American League flags and two World Championships.  His second year in the pros, he had the second most wins on the Yankee pitching staff—13.  Coates’ winning percentage (.813) that year was a franchise record and was highest for the league.  His 11-5 record the following year elevated his three-year career to a remarkable 30 wins and just 9 losses.  In 1962, working almost exclusively in relief, Coates chalked up an additional 7 victories, while saving a half-dozen games.    
In 1963, Coates joined the Cincinnati Reds in the National League.  He later played in the Pacific Coast League with the San Diego Padres, Seattle Angels, and the Hawaii Islanders, where he retired from baseball in 1970.  Upon retirement, Coates returned to his home state.  As a member of the Major League Baseball Alumni Association, he devotes much of his time and energy to fundraising benefits and enjoys working with youth to help guide and develop their talents in the game of baseball.

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