One On One: A Legend’s Last Stand

It just doesn’t seem possible.

To imagine a collegiate baseball season – or any baseball season on Cape Cod – without hearing his voice from the dugout or seeing him swing a fungo, well, it’s tantamount to picturing Carl Yastrzemski in street clothes or Larry Bird in a 76ers tank top. It doesn’t calculate. It doesn’t correspond. It does not jibe.

Bob Corradi Massachusetts Maritime Academy Sean Walsh/ Sports Photos

Bob Corradi
Massachusetts Maritime Academy
Sean Walsh/ Sports Photos

As George Herman Ruth was the international face of the New York Yankees, Massachusetts Maritime Academy head baseball coach and athletic director Bob Corradi is the icon best associated with Cape Cod’s most beloved game.

He first put Buccaneers’ athletics on the map 43 seasons ago and it has been a long, blessed career. He is an emotional, passionate man, but that is by no means a criticism: it takes passion to succeed in anything in life. It takes drive. It takes fire. And not for one second has that flame flickered in Coach C’s incredible, charmed life. In him, the candle has burned as strongly this week as it ever has because, as Hall of Famer Bob Feller once said, baseball has that ineffable quality of renewal unlike any other sport.

Feller said that “Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.”

Coach Corradi has lived and breathed that philosophy with every fiber of his being.

There is always another at-bat. There is always another pitch. There is always another inning. It is a game of perpetual failure and at the same time of perpetual hope and the ones who can grasp that and leave the failures of yesterday behind and strive toward tomorrow will always stand out as champions.

They might as well carve that on a statue at the front gates of Academy Drive.

Coach Corradi won his 575th game this week in storybook fashion: a walk-off, three-run home run by one of his newest acolytes. The home run punctuated back-to-back last-inning thrillers – both victories – and I’m not so sure I’ve ever seen such boyish elation emitted from the man. To see “Coach C” cheer and jump on the home plate pigpile in celebration, side by side with his baseball soldiers as well as his proud grandsons, well, you simply cannot envision him being anywhere else or, for that matter, as anyone else.

Massachusetts Maritime Academy head baseball coach Bob Corradi celebrates with his grandson Sean after his Buccaneers won their second straight in dramatic walk-off fashion. Sean Walsh/ Sports Photos

Massachusetts Maritime Academy head baseball coach Bob Corradi celebrates with his grandson Sean after his Buccaneers won their second straight in dramatic walk-off fashion. It was Corradi’s 575th career victory.
Sean Walsh/ Sports Photos

But he has felt the bitter pang of baseball heartbreak so many, many times at the ice and wind tunnel that is Commodore Hendy Field on Buzzards Bay. Perhaps, too many times to keep on going, but I’d be remiss if I thought for one second that this so-called “retirement” will situate itself very well in his bones.

“I’m not so sure how he will handle it,” said his grown daughter, Allison Corradi Wallace, who stood peering over the chain-link fence snapping pictures during her father’s 575th victory.

I could only nod in agreement. I didn’t want to imagine him anywhere else.

Coach Corradi put Sandwich Post 188 American Legion baseball on the map, winning three Legion State Championships. Only a handful of Legion teams since 1926 in this state have won more than one. The oldest youth sports program on Cape Cod, American Legion baseball went through a long, sleepy lull in these parts before Coach C re-injected it with his passion, devotion and fire. Every Legion player on Cape Cod should genuflect in the man’s presence.

But he would hate that. Coach C’s respect for the game was bred on the tiny Sagamore sidestreets of his parents’ neighborhood by Keith Field and the Marconi Club. His love and passion for competition was honed when he averaged 25 points per game playing basketball for the Bourne High Canalmen and it was sharpened on the gridiron when he was unceremoniously shifted from running back to quarterback mid-season in high school. It was a passion refined playing baseball for the Minutemen at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and borne, still, from the lifelong quest to instill in his Buccaneer nine that same relentless inability to quit that has become the man’s trademark.

That’s really what Coach Corradi’s five or six “retirement” announcements boil down to, because none of them have ever seemed like they were going to actually come to fruition until now: an inherent, ingrained, absolute refusal to give up, quit or otherwise concede to any opponent or any person standing in the way of possible victory.

Bob Corradi gives home plate umpire Peter Marciano the Buccaneers' lineup. Sean Walsh/ Sports Photos

Bob Corradi gives home plate umpire Peter Marciano the Buccaneers’ lineup.
Sean Walsh/ Sports Photos

Most memories of baseball games, for me, over the years, seem to meld into one. As time goes on, year after year, pieces of the days when I played ball fragment and fall away. But I remember the first time I met Coach Corradi on a baseball diamond – against him – as if it were yesterday. His presence had that sort of a stamp on me, it influenced me, it taught me things and it reawakened in me an absolute inability to give into the idea of “failure.”

Coach Corradi knows all too well that baseball is precisely that. It is a game of failure but one needs only succeed three times out of 10 to be deemed worthy. For the countless lives he has influenced, changed, molded, mentored and aided, his batting average far exceeds .300.

A character? People who do not understand what it truly means to compete might say so, standing in the shadows, feeling an insipid need to comment on someone whose life has stamped itself upon these shores with an indelible, iconic mark like few others have.

Those types of people matter little in the vast design that has been this exemplary man’s life, as their shadows drift into the Buzzards Bay wind like so many encrusted, barren leaves, forgotten.

Coach Corradi has but a handful of games left before the sun sets on a career that truthfully, to many, should not end. News of his retirement just seems so mired in uncertainty.

But what is certain is that long after Coach C’s impassioned voice no longer reverberates from the dugout, long after the indubitable Buccaneer spirit departs this physiological plane, what will last forever are the spirits of young men enriched by his passion to succeed and his inability to give in until the final out. His life gave those countless young athletes a reason to fight, and in this existence nothing could be more important.

— Sean Walsh is the Sports Editor for His column, One on One, appears here weekly. He may be reached via email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @coachwalshccbm

About NewsCenter

The award-winning NewsCenter provides the Cape Cod community with a constant, credible source for local news. We are on the job seven days a week.
737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Contact Us | Advertise Terms of Use 
Employment and EEO | Privacy