SABR

Pat Corrales

This article was written by James Lincoln Ray.

Pat Corrales spent more than 50 years in professional baseball as a player, coach, and manager. Although he will never be confused with a slugging catcher like Mike Piazza, Corrales was an excellent defensive catcher and a student of the game who parlayed his knowledge and experience into a long and successful career as a major-league coach and manager. Respected by his peers and his players, Corrales, a true baseball lifer who began his major-league career with two at-bats for the 1964 Phillies, was still gainfully employed in the big leagues in his 70s.

But baseball didn’t seem to be his destiny as a youngster. Corrales’ first love was football. As a 6-foot-tall, 184-pound pulling guard and linebacker on the Fresno High School team, Corrales was named to the All-City team, and was chosen by the Fresno Bee newspaper as the high-school lineman of the year. He was selected to play in the Shrine Game, held in Los Angeles, which pitted the best scholastic players from Northern California against the best from the Southern part of the state. But before the game took place Corrales was injured.1 Fearing that college scouts had lost interest in him as a football player, he signed a baseball contract instead with Philadelphia Phillies scout Babe Herman for a reported $40,000 bonus.

Patrick Corrales was born in Los Angeles on March 20, 1941, to David and Josefina (Rivera) Corrales, the fifth of six children. Pat’s siblings were Elizabeth, Olga, Peggy, Gabriel, and Evelyn (1943-1949). His father worked as a truck driver in Los Angeles before finding a job as a grinder in an iron foundry in Fresno, California, where the family relocated.

The catcher on the Fresno High baseball team, Corrales acquired the nickname Ike, perhaps after the comic strip character Ozark Ike, who was brawny and who, like Pat, had a plodding gait. At Fresno High he caught future major-league pitchers Jim Maloney and Dick Ellsworth. Future major leaguer Bobby Cox attended a rival high school (Selma), and though Corrales’ team routinely beat Cox’s squad, the two became colleagues, competitors, and friends.

Corrales signed with Herman and the Phillies on June 26, 1959. Fresh out of high school and barely 18 years old, he was sent to the Johnson City (Tennessee) Phillies of the Class D Appalachian League, where he hit .243 with 13 RBIs in 23 games. Late in the season he was promoted to the Bakersfield Bears of the Class C California League, where he went hitless in five at-bats.

Corrales was back in Class D for the 1960 season with the Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League, where he hit only .246 but led the team with 18 doubles. After the season, on September 24, he married Sharon Ann Grimes in Fresno. The union produced four children, Rene, twins Patricia and Michele, and Jason. Pat climbed through the minors slowly but very steadily. In 1961, he was in Class B ball and hit an impressive .309 with the Des Moines Demons. By 1964 he was the star catcher for the Arkansas Travelers of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. In the most competitive league in the minors, Corrales’ star shined brightly. In 101 games and 372 plate appearances, he hit .364 with 9 home runs and 48 RBIs. Impressed by the 23-year-old rising star, the Phillies called Corrales up in August, and he made his major-league debut on August 2 before a crowd of 18,000 at Connie Mack Stadium in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the bottom of the fifth inning, with the Phillies trailing 3-1, manager Gene Mauch sent Corrales up to hit for pitcher Ed Roebuck and he grounded out against left-handed pitcher Larry Miller. Corrales’ only other plate appearance with the Phillies that season came on August 11 against the Cubs, when he drew a base on balls from his high-school teammate Dick Ellsworth, a left-hander, and then scored on a grand slam by Johnny Callison. From then on it was watching as the Phillies, who appeared to be headed for the pennant, were undone by a stunning ten-game losing streak in September.

In 1964 Mauch platooned catchers Clay Dalrymple and Gus Triandos. In 1965 Triandos got off to a slow start and was sold to Houston in June. Corrales took his place in the platoon. He played in the most games (63) and had the most at-bats (174) in a season in his nine-year major-league career. Corrales hit .224 with two home runs and 15 RBIs. He also drew 25 walks, which helped him to a .323 on-base percentage. He was named to the Topps All-Rookie team.

Corrales was involved in a memorable collision at home plate on July 10. In the first inning of a game at Connie Mack Stadium, the San Francisco Giants’ Willie Mays slid into Corrales, who was blocking the plate, knocking Corrales out and gashing Corrales’ neck with his spikes. “Mays was the only guy I’ve ever seen who seemed to be faster sliding than running,” said Giants broadcaster Lon Simmons. “That was in Philadelphia and the fans are pretty rough there. Willie stayed down on the ground. He pretended he was hurt, too, so the fans wouldn't get on his case so bad.”2 Corrales was removed from the game, and Mays, hurt or not, did not take the field for the bottom of the inning. Corrales was back in action five days later, starting a game at Cincinnati and going 3-for-3.

After the 1965 season the Phillies traded Corrales, outfielder Alex Johnson, and pitcher Art Mahaffey to the St. Louis Cardinals for first baseman Bill White, shortstop Dick Groat, and another light-hitting catcher, Bob Uecker. Corrales played in only 28 games in 1966 as a backup to All-Star Tim McCarver and hit just .181. He spent 1967, with the Cardinals’ Triple A team at Tulsa and hit well enough (.274 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs) to draw interest from the Cincinnati Reds, who sent catcher Johnny Edwards to the Cardinals for Corrales and infielder Jimy Williams. For the next 4½ years, with the exception of a half-season at Indianapolis in 1968, Corrales was the backup to future Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench. Bench’s production, defense, and durability limited Corrales to just 134 games during his stint in the Queen City.

During the All-Star break in 1969, Sharon Corrales was delivering the couple’s fourth child, son Jason, when she developed a blood clot and died on July 22 in Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, seven hours after the child was born. Pat’s teammates and the Cincinnati fans were very helpful and sympathetic to Pat’s plight. Other major-league teams helped, too, notably the [Baltimore] Orioles’ Wives, who held a bake sale and donated the proceeds to the Sharon Corrales Scholarship Fund for Pat and Sharon’s children.

During his five years playing for the Reds (1968- June 11, 1972), Corrales hit .231 with two homers and 27 RBIs in 365 plate appearances. He had one at-bat in the 1970 World Series. It was against Mike Cuellar – a pinch-hit groundout to Baltimore third baseman Brooks Robinson that ended Game Five and clinched the World Series for the Orioles. During his time with the Reds, Corrales married Heidy Davis in 1970. They divorced in 1982.

The Reds traded Corrales to San Diego on June 11, 1972, for catcher Bob Barton. With the Padres, Corrales backed up Fred Kendall. He played with the Padres through the end of the 1973 season. Corrales spent the next year in the minor leagues with the Hawaii Islanders, and in 1975 he managed and played two games with the Alexandria Aces of the Double-A Texas League before calling it quits as a player.

Corrales became the third-base coach for the Texas Rangers in 1976 and quickly moved into a bench-coach role for manager Billy Hunter. Hunter was fired with one game left in the 1978 season and Corrales was named to replace him, becoming the first Mexican-American manager in the major leagues. (In his debut the Rangers beat the Seattle Mariners, 9-4.) Corrales continued as manager in 1979. At the halfway mark, the Rangers were 47-34 and tied for first place in the American League West with the California Angels. The second half of the season wasn’t so kind. From July 15 to August 3, the team lost ten of its 15 games. In August the Rangers won only nine of 31 games and fell to fourth place, eight games behind first-place California. Despite a strong finish (19-8) in September, the Rangers were unable to dig themselves out of the hole they had created in July and August and finished 83-79 and in third place in the AL West. In 1980 the Rangers took a step back, finishing 76-85 and in fourth place. Corrales was fired at the end of the season.

In 1982 the Phillies hired Corrales to succeed Dallas Green as manager in Philadelphia. Just two years removed from the team’s first World Series title, and coming off a playoff appearance in 1981, Corrales headed a team led by future Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, and, as most thought at the time, Pete Rose. The Phillies were in the race from after the All-Star Game until September 13, when they held a half-game lead over St. Louis. But they finished 9-10 down the stretch and the Cardinals won 13 of their last 20 to finish three games ahead of Philadelphia. The Cardinals went on to win the World Series over the Brewers in seven games.

The year 1983 was a strange season indeed for Corrales. At the All-Star break the Phillies were in first place by .001 over the Cardinals, but were just 43-42. To most everyone’s surprise, the Phillies general manager, Paul “The Pope” Owens, fired Corrales and replaced Pat with himself. Corrales became the first (and as of 2012 was still the only) manager to be sacked when his team was in first place. Owens led the Phillies to the division title and National League pennant before losing the World Series in five games to the Baltimore Orioles.

Corrales wasn’t unemployed for long. Just two weeks after he was fired, the Cleveland Indians, who had struggled to a 40-60 record, fired manager Mike Ferraro and hired Corrales. Corrales led the Indians to a respectable 30-32 record in the second half of the season, good enough for the Tribe to bring him back in 1984. The team struggled to sub-.500 records in 1984 and ’85, but in 1986, they showed promise by finishing 84-78.

On July 1, 1986, Corrales was involved in one of the more bizarre episodes in baseball history. Playing the Oakland A’s, the Indians were leading 7-0 in the seventh inning when Tony Bernazard homered to lead off the seventh inning. A’s pitcher Dave “Smoke” Stewart responded by throwing a so-called “purpose pitch” that almost hit the Indians’ Julio Franco. Corrales demanded that the umpire eject Stewart, but the umpire instead issued warnings to both dugouts. Corrales began screaming at Stewart, who challenged him to come out to the mound. Corrales did, and he launched a kick that hit Stewart but didn’t do much damage. Stewart then knocked Corrales down with a punch. A ten-minute bench-clearing brawl ensued, after which Corrales and Stewart were thrown out of the game. The two made peace after Corrales’ “karate fight” at the mound.

The 1986 Indians won 84 games in a very tough American League East division. The young team featured up-and-coming stars Joe Carter, Julio Franco, Mel Hall, and Cory Snyder. After their good finish in 1986, expectations were high for 1987. The April 6, 1987, edition of Sports Illustrated featured Snyder and Carter on its cover with the headline “Best Team in the Majors?” But the season didn’t pan out as hoped, and Corrales was fired on July 13 after leading the team to a 31-56 record, and was replaced by Doc Edwards. The team finished 61-101, the worst in the majors.

Corrales managed the Toledo Mud Hens, the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate, to a 58-84 last-place finish in 1988. He spent 1989 as a New York Yankees coach under managers Dallas Green and Bucky Dent.

In 1990 his old high-school rival Bobby Cox hired Corrales as first-base coach of the Atlanta Braves. Corrales was promoted to bench coach in 1999 and stayed with the Braves through the 2006 season, enjoying unprecedented success along the way in the form of 14 division titles, five National League pennants, and one World Series trophy. It was long rumored that Corrales would eventually replace Cox as manager, but he didn’t wait. Instead, after the 2006 season, he joined the Washington Nationals’ new manager, Manny Acta, as his bench coach.

In 2008 the Nationals finished with the worst record in baseball (59-102), and Acta fired five of his coaches, including Corrales. But Pat returned as bench coach in July 2009 after Acta was fired and replaced by Jim Riggleman. Corrales didn’t return to Washington in 2010 but was once again appointed Nationals bench coach in June 2011 by new manager Davey Johnson. Corrales replaced John McLaren, who was reassigned to scouting duty. Johnson let Corrales go at the end of 2011. “I love him to death and he did a great job,” said Johnson.

Rather than retire as 2012 came, Corrales briefly managed the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators. After the season he was hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a special assistant to general manager Ned Colletti. “We are happy to have Pat join us,” Colletti said on the day of the signing, November 12. “His vast experience, especially from his years in Atlanta and Washington, will be a great strength to our organization. … I have known Pat for a long time, and some of my early mentors, whom I respect very much, have worked side by side with him.”3

At the age of 71, Corrales became part of a historic organization whose new ownership was dedicated to winning, and which spent enough money to field a championship-caliber squad. This boded well for Corrales, who as of 2013 didn’t seem eager to retire any time soon.

Last revised: August 27, 2014


This biography is included in the book "The Year of the Blue Snow: The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies" (SABR, 2013), edited by Mel Marmer and Bill Nowlin. For more information or to purchase the book in e-book or paperback form, click here.

 

Sources

Gurnick, Ken. “Corrales Hired as GM Colletti’s Special Assistant,” MLB.com, accessed November 5, 2012.

Hafner, Dan. “Stewart Lands Punch to Manager Corrales, But Indians Knock Out A’s,” Los Angeles Times, July 2, 1986.

Jaffe, Chris. “Silver Anniversary of the Corrales-Stewart Karate Fight,” The Hardball Times, July 1, 2011.

Morrow, Jeff. “Pat Corrales, answer to a famous baseball trivia question, is temporarily managing the Harrisburg Senators,” Harrisburg Patriot News, April 29, 2012.

Reddington, Patrick. “Get to Know Your Nationals, Coaching Edition, Pat Corrales,” Federal Baseball.com, November 2, 2007, accessed November 25, 2012.

“Indians Fire Manager Corrales and Promote Edwards,” Los Angeles Times, July 17, 1987.

Also consulted were Baseball Almanac, BaseballLibrary.com, Baseball-Reference.com, Factlookup.com, fanbase.com/Pat-Corrales, Baseballthinkfactory.org, and Pennlive.com.

 

Notes

Individual Memberships start at just $45/year

Become A Member Today

When you join SABR you are making a statement of support for baseball history. You are joining a worldwide community of people who love to read about, talk about and write about baseball.