Mariners #TBT: Joey Cora to be Honored on Opening Day

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It was announced on Wednesday afternoon that Seattle Mariners’ legend Joey Cora will be on hand April 6 to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day against the Los Angeles Angels. It will be the first time “Little Joey” has been honored in Seattle since he hung up his cleats following the 1998 season.

Cora spent parts of 4 seasons in a Mariners’ uniform, and he remains one of the most beloved players in franchise history. The speedy second baseman was an important player during the 1995 and 1997 Mariners’ playoff runs. Cora hit .293 with 26 home runs, 164 RBI’s, and 42 stolen bases across 544 career games with the M’s. Cora’s best season came in 1997 when he was named an All Star after hitting .300 with 11 home runs, 54 RBI’s, and 6 stolen bases.

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Joey Cora served as bench coach with flamboyant skipper Ozzie Guillen during his stints managing the Chicago White Sox and Miami Marlins. Cora was suggested as a potential managerial candidate for the Mariners multiple times over the past decade, most recently in 2013 prior to the club hiring Lloyd McClendon.

I have many fond memories of the Mariners’ leadoff man, but three moments are especially clear. The first comes in game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series against the New York Yankees. With the M’s trailing by 1 run in the bottom of the 11th inning, Joey laid down a perfect bunt and contorted his body to avoid Don Mattingly’s tag. This bunt single sparked the M’s legendary rally to beat the Yanks.

The second memory comes after the Cleveland Indians bounced the Mariners from the playoffs in the 1995 American League Championship Series. Little Joey was so upset about the season being over he sat at the end of the Mariners’ dugout crying. The famous picture of 19-year-old Alex Rodriguez (he was a different person back then!) with his arm around Cora is a classic Mariners’ moment. Joey’s emotions summed up how every Mariners fan felt that night. It was not that they had lost; it was that the magical run was over.

My final memory of Joey Cora came during the 1997 All Star game in Cleveland. You could tell Cora never imagined he would get the chance to play in an All Star game because he was so genuinely happy to be there. The image of Joey with the pins on his hat and a smile tattooed on his face is seared into my brain. I cannot recall a player being so happy to represent the M’s at the mid summer classic.

It is the 20th anniversary of the ‘refuse to lose’ 1995 season, and you can bet that having Joey Cora throw the first pitch is just the first of many tributes. Some people on social media have voiced their outrage over such attention being paid to the ’95 Mariners. I can understand the idea of not wanting to be disrespectful to the current crop of Mariners, but it would be criminal if the M’s did not acknowledge the team that saved baseball in the Pacific Northwest. The ’95 Mariners are the reason I love baseball. I was just 4 years old, but watching them play is still the most fun I have ever had in sports. I hope to see a full-blown reunion of the 95’ squad at some point during the 2015 campaign.

Joey Cora is one of the players I grew up loving, and it will be great to see him don the Mariners’ colors on opening day. He is an under appreciated player in my opinion, and it warms my heart to see him get the recognition he so rightly deserves.

Next: Seattle Mariners #TBT: Favorite M's Commercials

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