Pat Corrales has lived a great baseball life that has stretched a long time.
He signed with the Phillies out of Fresno California in 1959. That gets us the 1950’s. He played in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He became MLB’s first ever manager of Mexican descent in the 1980’s. And in the 1990’s, 2000’s and 2010’s served as a coach for several different organizations.
I think it is safe to say that Pat Corrales has forgotten more baseball than most of us will ever know.
In 1983, he could have had his crowning baseball achievement. Instead he got the rug pulled from under him.
Corrales was a catcher for the Phillies and the Cardinals before landing with the Cincinnati Reds in 1968. He was on the major league roster but so was Johnny Bench.
Bench’s name in the starting lineup meant the bench was where Corrales spent most of the games.He played for the 1970 NL Champions. He had one at bat in the post season. He grounded out to Brooks Robinson for the final out of the World Series. In 1972, he was dealt to the Padres but by the end of the 1973 season, his big league playing days were over.
Eventually he made it back to the majors, being a pioneer Mexican American when he was named manager for the Texas Rangers for the final game of the 1978 season.
In 1979, the Rangers had a winning season and finished in third place in the AL West with an 83-79 record. But after a disappointing 1980 campaign, he was let go.
In 1982, he took over for Dallas Green in Philadelphia. The team had won the World Series just two years before and remained a star studded club with Steve Carlton, Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt all still producing.
The Phillies got off to a dreadful, going 6-13 in April and were 7 games out by May 1. But then they won 13 of 14 games and got back into contention. By August 4, the Phillies were back in first place and looked primed for another October run. But they finished the season 28-30 and the Cardinals won the Division and the World Series.
Expectations were sky high for 1983. This time the Phillies got off to a fast start but waded through a sluggish May and June.
On July 17, the Phillies lost a 5-2 game to the Reds. The bad news was the loss brought them to just one game over .500. The good news was the NL East was not competitive. The Phillies, despite the 43-42 record, were tied for first place with the Cardinals. The Pirates were 1/2 a game behind the the Expos were just a game back.
The Phillies might not have looked like world beaters, but Corrales had them tied for first place in mid July and primed for a run.
Then he became a pioneer in a much different way that being the first of his ancestry managing in the show. He became the first manager fired with his team in first place.
Expectations were higher than being in first place by default. General Manager Paul Owens took over the team. They went 47-30 the rest of the way and went to the World Series. That could have been Corrales’ pennant. Instead it was Owens.
That same year he was hired to manage the Cleveland Indians. His first 2 1/2 years in Cleveland did not yield much winning. They went 60-102 in 1985. But in 1986, a super talented lineup slugged the Indians to an 84-78 record.
Sports Illustrated famously predicted the Indians to win the AL pennant in 1987. But the team’s pitching was non existent and Corrales was fired after the team got off to a 31-56 start.
He coached for many organizations and got a World Series ring as a member of the 1995 Braves’ coaching staff when they beat the Indians team that DID win the AL Pennant.
Corrales moved to Washington and later the Dodgers and continued being a respected baseball figure. But that 1983 season will always loom as a what if for his career. What if he managed them to the end. Was their a pennant for him as a manager or not?
I guess we will never know.