Mark Corey

August 27, 2008
I Walk the (Mendoza) Line
continued from Tom Paciorek

Chapter Three
Things started moving too fast for me in 1981, the same year I loosened my grip on the Cardboard Gods. I was 13. I bought a few packs of cards that year, no more, so I didn’t get the 1981 Orioles Future Stars card featuring Mike Boddicker, Floyd Rayford, and Mark Corey. It was the third year in a row in which Mark Corey appeared for Topps in a group portrait with other hopefuls. Had I seen the 1981 version of the card I might have wondered if Mark Corey had somehow found a way to make time stand still, to remain forever in a hypothetical world, the future always far off and golden. But even perpetual Future Star Mark Corey couldn’t find the stop button on this ride. We all are carried forward. In September of 1981 Corey got the last of his three brief tastes of the major leagues, going 0 for 8 and bringing his career batting average down to .211, perilously close to the Mendoza Line. Me, I entered ninth grade.

One of my classes was biology, which included a mix of ninth and tenth graders. The ninth graders were supposed to be the smart kids, the ones able to skip the earth science class the rest of the ninth graders were taking and go straight to the hard stuff. But though I liked the teacher, a gentle bearded former hippie named Mr. Brukhardt, I found the work both uninteresting and baffling and started falling farther and farther behind. I sat in front of two Bubble Yum-popping tenth grade girls who said I looked funny because my feet were too big. The class, in my memory, is a blur of incomprehensible concepts and the guts of upturned pickled frogs. In the end I passed the class, but with the worst mark I’d yet received, that most leaden of grades, a D.  

My mother suggested I take it again. By then it had been decided that I’d go away to boarding school in 11th grade, where things were sure to start moving even faster. My mom reasoned that I would do well to build a strong foundation in science knowledge before I had to face the major league fastball of a science class in boarding school. It sounded OK to me. I was intuitively attracted to anything that resembled the stopping of time. I regretted the decision on the first day, when Mr. Brukhardt started taking role. My name was near the end of the alphabet. By then my stomach had started to hurt.

“Josh?” Mr. Brukhardt said, looking up, surprised. “What are you doing here?”

Throughout elementary school, I had been a promising student, a kid with potential. A Prospect. Maybe even a Future Star. But as Mr. Brukhardt looked up at me, baffled, I felt the last of that promise crumble. I felt big and clumsy, a dunderhead.

Halfway through the semester I was reminded again of my status as a repeater when we started a class-wide investigation of a hypothetical problem involving a pond where all the fish were dying. We’d done the investigation the year before. It was one of the few things I’d enjoyed about the class. A mystery! Mr. Brukhardt had the presence of mind to pause in his introduction of the project. He looked at me. I sat in the back with a couple of my academically mediocre 10th-grade buddies. At the end of the year I’d get drunk for the first time with them, guzzling rum and coke in the little league dugouts.

“Now Josh,” Mr. Brukhardt said, “don’t give the answer away.”

It’s not a good feeling, knowing the answer. You’d think it might be but it isn’t.

(to be continued)


  1. 1.  Wow, that hits home! The future certainly ain’t what it used to be.


  2. 2.  Mark Corey started a tradition of a guy named Mark Corey quietly entering and exiting the majors every 20 years or so:


    Keep your eyes open for the next Mark Corey to come along around 2025.

    Also, FYI: See new comments on older posts for tragic wood chipper victim Bucky Dent (Chicago White Sox) and for a teammate of Mark Corey the Elder, Mike Cuellar (Orioles). Plus some conversation about batting stances continued in comments to the recent Bill Plummer (Reds) post.

  3. 3.  I haven’t known the answer in a good long time. I would think knowing the answer would be great!

  4. 4.  The perpetual future star, bound to be great but never being able to climb that last rung on the ladder.
    It’s possible he may have avoided this fate, but then again I just don’t know…


  5. 5.  3 : Well, in that case, and since it’s you, spudrph, I’ll pass it along: eutrophication. The answer is eutrophication.

    4 : And I curse the life I’m living. And I curse my poverty.

    FYI: See new comments for old post on Al Bumbry (Orioles) for a nice story from Kooperman. Also, a recent comment on the Tom Paciorek (Mariners) post has me hoping we might be on the verge in that post of a discussion about lesser-known brothers of better-known big leaguers.

  6. 6.  The future star card is often a curse for the young player. Very few on those go on to be serviceable, let alone, phenomenal. The only ones coming to mind for me are 1978 Molitor, and 1982’s Ripken. Jim Gantner popped up with 3 others on his 1977 version, but on his picture he looks more like a rare tropical bird than he does a second baseman.

  7. 7.  hey josh — once again, i see a tie to music and baseball. however, i believe true future stars in baseball, barring injury, get a MUCH better shot at succeeding than musicians…

    if you’re a hot shot talent in baseball, you are almost assured of a professional position. then, if one major league team doesn’t want you, another will. if one has no use for you, and you’re good, many of the 29 others will offer you a job. and pay you well.

    in music, talent doesn’t matter the slightest bit. you can be the greatest no-name on the planet and you’re not assured of paying your electric bill.

    from 79-82, that was probably the case for mark corey, but nowadays, high school kids with talent are complaining about $6 million deals. meanwhile, there are monstrous musicians all over every small town in this country that deserve to be heard, yet are living hand to mouth trying to make a living at the craft they’ve sacrificed everything to hone.

    there’s no shame in a second time ’round the ride. if you learned or cemented ONE aspect of that science class as a 10th grader, you were better off than all the 9th & 10th grade first-timers in there. your memory and writing proves that!

  8. 8.  7 : Interesting point about how so many really talented musicians don’t get a shot at the major leagues.

    It’s a tough road for either passion, I’d say, judging from how few baseball players actually make it to the Show.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: