Baseball in the twilight zone

The longest game in professional baseball history has a Tucumcari connection.


His name is Mark Corey.

The marathon, which began 31 years ago — on April 18, 1981 — lasted 33 innings.

It took more than eight hours and three days before the Pawtucket Red Sox beat the Rochester Red Wings, 3-2.

Corey, born in Tucumcari to a community native, was an early hero. His seventh-inning run gave Rochester a 1-0 lead.

But the Sox’ Chico Walker scored on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth and not many hitters were proud of the box score that followed.

Corey, the Wings’ starting designated hitter, had one of the better lines — one hit in five at-bats and the run scored. He jammed a hand after that fifth at-bat and was removed from the game.

“I went back to the lockerroom and came out every once in a while to see what was going on,” he remembered Tuesday in a telephone interview from his home in Evergreen, Colo.

“Everytime I looked up in the stands … there were less and less people.”

Baseball historians tell us the game began with 1,740 spectators. Just 19 remained at 4:07 a.m., after 32 innings, with the score tied 2-2.

Corey still remembers plenty of the details.

• The night was cold and players burned broken bats in barrels to keep warm.

• Since statistics from suspended games are not recorded until the game is completed, more than one player saw his batting average dip dramatically after June 23, when the suspended game was completed.

• Several players took to humming the theme song from the television show “Twilight Zone” early Sunday morning.

The 1981 season signaled the end of Corey’s professional baseball career. He spent parts of 1979, ’80 and ’81 in the Major Leagues with the Baltimore Orioles, the parent club for Rochester.

While he’s probably the most successful Tucumcari native to play in the big leagues, not many Tucumcari residents know about his success.

That’s because he didn’t stay in town long.

Emily Corey, Mark’s mother, grew up in Tucumcari but moved away after getting married.

In the fall of 1955, Mark’s father Charles was traveling a lot with his job at United Airlines. So Emily came to Tucumcari to be with her parents, Myron and Katie Mae Mundell. Mark was born in the Tucumcari hospital on Nov. 3, 1955.

Emily and Mark stayed about a month before returning to their home in Aurora, Colo., where Mark graduated high school.

Mark Corey and his parents live in Evergreen, Colo., today. Mark works in operations for U.S. Airways out of the airport in Denver.

He loves to talk about the longest game.

The hardest part was going back to the hotel about 5 o’clock that Sunday morning and trying to sleep before returning for a day game that afternoon, he said.

“We didn’t take BP (batting practice) that day,” he laughed. “I wonder why.”

Mark Corey’s Major League Baseball career statistics, all with Baltimore Orioles:

59 games over three seasons (1979-81) … 57 at-bats … 10 runs … 12 hits … 2 doubles … one home run … 3 runs batted in … 1 stolen base … .211 batting average