He battled injuries throughout his career which included stops in Toronto, Cleveland and Baltimore before his retirement after the 2003 season.
After his baseball career was over, Cordova returned to his hometown of Las Vegas. In 2009, he along with two other Las Vegas residents formed Bent Pixels, a multi-platform solution for online video businesses.
In this edition of Card Back Q&A, Cordova discusses his his time as a parking valet at a casino in Las Vegas, his crazy rookie season run of five straight games with a home run and Kirby Puckett’s very heavy Louis Vuitton bag.
Tony Reid-Your 1996 Topps Finest card mentioned that less than a year after parking cars in Las Vegas casino to earn extra money you were named A.L. Rookie of the Year. What was that time like in your life?
Marty Cordova– It’s funny because they made a big deal about that on Sports Center. I’m like, do these people even know how little money you make and how broke you are in the minors? My rookie year I made $800 a month and we only play ball for five months of the year. To play pro ball, I made $4,000 a year. That was for your apartment, for your food, for everything. If you didn’t have a job and save money…there is no way you can live that way.
We had four guys in one place. We had a car with no front windshield and we had to wear sunglasses when we drove in it. We ate Top Ramen. You are taking top athletes and giving them so little resources, it’s like getting a Ferrari and putting diesel in it. I never understood how they expected guys to perform. Things have changed but you just don’t do that kind of thing. I guess it’s their way of weeding out the strong and the weak, the guys that are going to be mentally tough and get through it.
I’m from Las Vegas. Lorenzo Fertitta is a good friend of mine. I’ve known him since we played Pop Warner football when we were ten. His family owns Station Casinos and Palace Station. I would get up in the morning and work out for two hours. I would go park cars from 9:00AM to 5:00PM and go right back home and work out for two more hours. Then I would get ready for bed and get ready to repeat the process. It was amazing. I would make $100 in tips. Back then that was a crazy amount. I was able to save ten or fifteen thousand dollars in the off season. Lorenzo was nice enough to let me valet park. It is a job that somebody almost has to die to get it. Everything was seniority, so he was able to let me work.
I became good friends with all the guys. They knew I was playing Minor League Baseball and trying to get to the major leagues. They were very cool and nice to me. I was valet parking just in order to make money. Even my Triple A year I made $5,000 a month. So that goes so quickly. I had to work. I had to save money. Also, you are running for eight hours parking cars. It was a great workout, too. Every player that ever played in the major leagues before they made money they had to have a job. I was just fortunate to have a very good job that was hard to get that made nice money in tips.
TR- Many of your early cards made mention of your crazy rookie record of the streak of five straight games with a home run, tying Hall of Famer and Twins icon Harmon Killebrew’s team record. What was May 16th through the 20th in 1995 like that year for you?
MC– It was amazing. There are certain things where you stay in the zone but during that streak I saw the ball really well. I wasn’t trying to pull the ball. Tom Kelly was a big proponent of the fact that you can hit home runs to right field, too. You stay on the ball and drive the ball to right center or center field then you aren’t pulling off sliders outside and striking out as much. That was his philosophy, which is completely different than today. Today it’s elevate and launch, even if you have two strikes just swing as hard as you can. I wish that was the case back when I played. When I played if you hit under .270 you were probably looking for a job. If you struck out a lot you were definitely looking for a new job.
Back to your point, yeah I was locked in. I was hitting the ball to the opposite field. We were playing the Angels and then the Mariners. I will never forget the sixth game. Randy Johnson was starting. I hit Randy Johnson really well throughout my career. At this point I didn’t really know him. This was the first or second time I ever faced him. A reporter said to him that this kid over here with the Twins had five home runs in five games. He told the reporter ‘He isn’t hitting the sixth home run today. I promise you that.’ I heard that afterwards.
The first at bat, he hit me. He hit me with a slider. I ended up being 0-2. Then (Bobby) Ayala was pitching. He was their closer back in the day. We were losing but he needed to get work in. He was pretty nasty. I will never forget. I got 2-0 and he threw me a fastball down the middle. It might have been one of the hardest balls I ever hit in my career. It was a line drive to the shortstop. It was so close. I’m talking millimeters. If I hit just a little lower it might have been a 600 foot home run. It was a perfect swing but it was just a hard line out.
It was an amazing streak. I will never forget Tom Kelly. He was hard on me but he meant the best. It was early in 1995. Reporters were asking him about me. He said ‘Hold on. Let’s not put this kid in the Hall of Fame yet. He just had five good games. Let’s relax.’ For me, too. It was about not getting a big head. Baseball isn’t this easy. You just had a good streak. It’s going to get much tougher than that.
TR– On your 1996 Topps Profiles by Kirby Puckett he had a long quote about you on the back talking about you eating right, hitting the weight and how you turned your life around. He said you played hurt. You listened. He said you are going to be a super player. What are your thoughts on Kirby and that quote?
MC– I never heard that quote. I didn’t know he was quoted on any of my cards. Kirby was like family to me. He was such a great guy. He took me under his wing. I’m coming up. Shane Mack had just left so there was an opening in left field. I played every at bat and every game in spring training that year. Tom Kelly said I had to earn the position even though nobody was there. I was the candidate that was supposed to come in there.
Kirby and I bonded very well. He was the number three hitter and I came in and was the number four hitter. His quote always to me was ‘Marty, rookies are to be seen and not heard. Respect the game. I don’t even want to hear you talk. I don’t want to hear any bragging. You are going to work hard.’ He called me Rock. That was the nickname he gave me.
He was such a great mentor. I followed him around like a little puppy. Everything I could learn from him, I did. Not only baseball but how to be a good person. He was such an energetic personality. One thing he did to me all the time was he kept this huge Louis Vuitton bag everywhere. This thing was big. He was like ‘Listen, when we go on the road, I don’t want to ask you, I want this bag on your shoulder and carrying it everywhere I go. I want it on the bus. I want you to drop it off at my room. If I turn around I better see you with this bag.’ I was like ‘no problem, sir.’ I swear to God, he put rolls of quarters in this bag. This bag weighed like 150 pounds. I’m like what in the hell? He was purposely loading it up knowing he had me to carry it everywhere for him. It was a bonding thing. It was nothing more than a way for us to bond. It’s a little different that it is today.