An Ode to Corky Miller: The Hacksaw Jim Duggan of Big Leaguers

Corky

I just got the alert on my phone, Ryan Hanigan is returning to the Cincinnati Reds lineup tonight. And so likely ends one of the more bizarre careers in big league history. Maybe.

And some people probably wonder who Hacksaw Jim Duggan is – even though they shouldn’t. I have always been a closeted wrestling fan. Corky Miller is definitely the closest thing that baseball has to Hacksaw and here’s why.

Hacksaw was a lovable figure. He is still a lovable figure in some small and tucked away places in this world. Like Hacksaw, Corky Miller is a grizzled and well-liked individual but he’s only known in a few circles. Only the most die-hard of baseball fans are going to know who the guy is. Only a person who has followed WWE and formerly the WWF since the 1980′s would know who Hacksaw Jim Duggan is.

Like Hacksaw, Corky Miller has never won the title belt, so to speak. He’s never even had a title shot (though Duggan was once crowned ‘King’ of the WWF, like that matters in any walk of life). He’s blended in amongst the Ultimate Warriors and the Hulk Hogans of the baseball world within this generation.

And most of all – when you’re sure that Hacksaw Jim Duggan or Corky Miller are gone and out of your life forever – you turn on late night television and you’re flipping through the channels with all the lights turned off. You flip through the public access station and you continue flipping and then you realize when you’re three or four channels up you need to flip back. The reason you need to flip back is because you saw a flash of something you recognized – but why is it on public access local television?

As you flip back to channel 24 on your cable set, in between C-Span and a few other channels that don’t matter to anyone with a semblance of normalcy to them, you realize that Hacksaw Jim Duggan is not in fact dead. He is not in fact taking up another line of work. He has not reinvented himself as a person or his appearance. He’s learned no new tricks to further himself in life. He has a goatee that has taken a different form over the years but it’s not that different from the first time you saw it so many moons ago. He’s wrestling in a high school gymnasium against some guy dressed in a scorpion suit wearing a mask. Everything is done a little bit sloppy. The body slams are dog shit. Guys are missing moves and spots slightly. The crowd doesn’t really pop, it just kind of exists and goes through the motions as the match heads towards it’s dramatic ending. Hacksaw gets down in a four-point stance and charges, launching himself at the man who likely spends his days answering phones from his office cubicle. Hacksaw falls on him for the 1-2-3 pin, and grabs his trusty 2×4. He whacks the telemarketer who is moonlighting as a ‘pro wrestler’ across the back just like the old days. The crowd doesn’t really cheer. It’s more of a snicker born out of nostalgia.

The act somehow still entertains, but for all the wrong reasons. You even feel a little weird watching it. Ah Hell, you’re all alone so what does it matter? It’s late at night and there’s nothing else on. Besides, you thought Hacksaw Jim Duggan was dead! You actually had not thought about him at all in quite some time but he was definitely out of sight and not a wrestler anymore. Not only is he not dead, but he is still gracing our television sets and welcoming himself into our lives. He’s wearing those same blue wrestling trunk you remember, but they have somehow transformed into long, baggy athletic shorts that he probably bought at Kohls. It’s not a speedo anymore. The blue speedo was for Hacksaw in his prime. The baggy shorts represent an older, wiser Hacksaw.

And with that I would like you to direct yourself over to Corky Miller’s Baseball Reference page. He’s just like Hacksaw. The fact that he’s still in baseball is a modern miracle really. You see that he has been in baseball since 2001, but has collected just over one full season’s worth of at-bats (520). He has not yet collected his 100th Major League hit (stuck on 97). That was probably the most astonishing thing for me. What this works out to is a career .187 hitter. You read about them and you hear about them from time to time but it’s rare that you can say a .187 played parts of ten years in your town. They’re more myth from your father’s days than anything else.

Corky Miller has hit 11 big league home runs. I don’t know if it’s amazing because it’s so bad or if it’s amazing because he’s overachieved. I cannot decide. But I know what is most amazing about the whole thing is I was at the park on that April 27th, 2002 day when Corky Miller homered off Ryan Jensen of the Giants. I remember the home run well. Corky Miller had four RBI that day. It’s likely that I saw his greatest day as a baseball player. The likelihood of all this happening is probably about as rare as being in the audience when the WWF crowned Hacksaw Jim Duggan the ‘King’ of the WWF. It is probably more rare than winning the lottery. I won a Corky Miller lottery. I won a bizarro, improbable, awful baseball lottery.

You mean Corky Miller is still playing? He seemed like he was gone for an entire era. I had no idea he was still playing. That was my initial rhetoric when I heard he was being called up to fill-in for the injured Hanigan. The thing is, Miller was gone. He hadn’t played since 2010. And now somehow he’s back, wrestling on public access television, wrestling in front of a crowd of 62 people. The people all got in free. They’re there because Hacksaw, I mean Corky is signing afterwards. The autograph line will be thin. Maybe a baker’s dozen.

I mean the whole thing is a miracle. Corky. Hacksaw. The fact that the Reds in all this time have decided to even invest the 400 or so at-bats and change into Miller because he’s a great person. Or because the pitchers really love throwing to him. Look, I’m entertained by his division three swing as much as the next guy. But you’re telling me in all these years there isn’t a kid in AA that deserves a look over Corky Miller? What the Hell is going on?

I’m sure when we think he’s long gone again, he’ll rear his head like an old ham sandwich that gets lost in the fridge like a carton of baking soda that needs replaced. I mean he’s probably finished as a big leaguer, and it’s been fun. But how many times have we said that?

Corky Miller and Hacksaw Jim Duggan will still be carrying their 2×4 for as long as there is a world. When we’re 80, they’ll still be doing their thing and defying all odds and logic and nature.

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