A few weeks ago, we asked SoDo Mojo readers to list their all-time favorite Mariners. So far, answers have ranged from the greats—Junior, the Big Unit, and Gar—to those who flew under the radar during their stay in Seattle. Today, we reflect on the memorable moments created by second baseman Joey Cora.
There are two iconic images from the Mariners’ fabled postseason run of 1995. In the first, a euphoric Ken Griffey Jr. collapses under his teammates in the final, exultant moment of Seattle’s ALDS comeback. In the second, Alex Rodriguez wraps his arm around a heartbroken Joey Cora, who buries his face in a towel as the Cleveland Indians clinch the AL pennant.
Although that piercing moment defined Cora’s career in the collective memory of the Mariner fanbase, his legacy with the team encompassed far more.
Cora arrived in Seattle in 1995, fresh from a four-year stay in Chicago’s New Comiskey Park. He joined one of the most recognizable lineups in Mariners’ history, sharing the field with Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, and Dan Wilson. In his first season, he turned 53 double plays at second base with Tino Martinez, Luis Sojo, and Mike Blowers, his most important pick a throw from Wilson that preserved a 5-5 tie in Game 5 of the ALDS.
A bright personality with a quick step and a sweet batting average, Cora settled well into his four seasons with the Mariners, never hitting below .283 and packing a cool .300/.359/.441 over 649 PA in 1997. Over two postseason performances, Joey garnered attention with a solo home run and bunt single during the deciding game of the ’95 Division Series. In the poetic, exuberant words of Seattle legend Dave Niehaus:
“Fastball, swing and a fly ball deep to right field! O’Neill going back… Goodbye, baseball! Joey Cora, Little Joey Cora with a solo home run to right field! Holy smoke, and the Mariners take a 1-0 lead! Some big pop from Little Joey Cora.”
Following his final season with the Mariners in 1998, Joey turned to the team who once made him cry. He grabbed onto the coattails of the Cleveland Indians, eking out one last playoff run for five walks and a single hit in the ’98 Division and Championship Series. This time, the Indians fell to the Yankees in four games, a bitter reminder of Seattle’s heartbreaker in 1995.
His retirement was succeeded by a string of coaching opportunities, most recently with the Miami Marlins, where he joined former Mariner Tino Martinez and was a close companion to the brash, often-quotable manager Ozzie Guillen. In October 2012, both Guillen and Cora were prematurely released by the team. However tempestuous his tenure as a bench coach and interim manager, Joey is remembered fondly by Seattle fans for his spark in the 1995 pennant race and emotional ties to a team that inspired hope in a city starved for postseason success.
Your turn, Mariner fans: What’s your fondest memory of Little Joey Cora?