Marty Cordova was a multi sport star at high school powerhouse Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas. Although initially drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 8th round in 1987, Cordova decided to play college baseball and pursue a career in sports medicine, attending UNLV for a short time then transferring to Orange Coast Community College.
After his baseball career was over, Cordova returned to his hometown. In 2009, he along with two other Las Vegas residents, formed Bent Pixels, a multi-platform solution for online video businesses. With offices in multiple cities, the company works with major brands such as Disney, Mattel and countless YouTube creators including Kevin Hart and Joe Rogan. Cordova serves as Chief Operating Officer.
We caught up to him to chat about the unfortunate error on his very first card, his true rookie card, special gifts from Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and missing personalized autographed bats.
Tony Reid-When was the first time you saw yourself on a trading card?
Marty Cordova– It’s a dream of any kid to get a baseball card. It’s so cool. Back when I was a kid baseball cards were a thing. I thought if I ever did that one day it would be the best thing ever. Forget making the major leagues, just getting a baseball card would be cool. I started out as a shortstop in college and then I was transferred to third base and I had the Steve Sax syndrome then they moved me to the outfield.
When I was in Elizabethton I was playing third base. I could always hit really well. I was just a terrible thrower. I could field the ball but I just threw the ball all over the place. So, I am playing third base and I get my very first baseball card (via Star Company) and they misspelled my name. It says ‘Marty Cordoua’ instead of Cordova they put ‘Cordoua’.
I was like ‘Oh, my God!’ It’s funny in a sense but my friends were like ‘Really? They can’t even spell your name right?’ I guess not.
TR–You appeared on a number of minor league cards, most of which spelled your name right, but your actual Rookie Card appeared in the 1993 Bowman product. Do you remember the first time you saw your true rookie card?
MC– When I got to the major leagues, baseball cards were exploding a bit. You used to have Topps, Fleer and Donruss but then there just started to be numerous cards. It was confusing because they all said rookie card on them. The question was what is your true rookie card? Then I did find out through collectors that the 1993 Bowman with the rainbow foil around it with the basic forward picture in a Twins jersey, that was the actual rookie card. You really don’t know. They all say ‘rookie’ on it. They all say different things on the card to make it look like your rookie card.
I remember getting all of those cards. When you get to Spring Training and people think you have a chance to make the team, that’s when they really want to get your autograph. You are a rookie and your cards isn’t really worth anything then. They are hoping that there will be some value or they just want to say they had your signature before you made it to the major leagues. I remember people saying that Bowman card was my true Rookie Card.
TR-Did you collect cards as a kid?
MC-Actually I didn’t. I am from Las Vegas. I was born here. I still live here. We didn’t have any professional sports team to be loyal to. You just followed whoever your favorite players were. I really looked up to my older brother who is seven years older than me. He was a huge Big Red Machine fan. I was a short stop so I loved Davey Concepcion. I had a glove with his signature. I thought he was the best until I played with Omar Vizquel and then realized that maybe Davey wasn’t the slickest fielding shortstop ever.
TR-Did you manage to hold on to the cards produced of yourself over the years?
MC-I did a bit. There was a gentleman who was a really big collector. We latched on to each other very early as I was coming up through the minor leagues. He would ask me to sign cards in exchange for cards. Back then they had like 1/1 or 1/3 cards that were very rare. If I signed those he would give me other cards in return. I had thousands of my own card.
When you go to Spring Training the card companies would put packages of a hundred of each card in your locker. I had thousands and thousands of cards. This gentleman knew how close I was to Kirby Puckett and Paul Molitor. He would give me their rookie cards in exchange for my autograph. I’m not even sure where they are right now but I had a ton of really cool rookie cards.
TR-You have a bunch of your cards around somewhere. Did you manage to hold on to your memorabilia over the course of your career?
MC-I’m not really one of those people that tried to collect things. I was a passive collector. I would get things occasionally from people. My favorite memorabilia of all time was when I was playing for the Cleveland Indians in 2001 and Muhammad Ali came into the locker room. The clubhouse guy and I were really good friends. I told him Muhammad Ali was my idol. I just had a great admiration for him. This clubhouse guy told me he had a glove in the back and asked if I wanted him to get it for me. Please! Ali signed it ‘To Marty’ he signed it and he dated it.
It was one of the last times he was out before Parkinson’s took hold. I cherish that autograph.
Then Paul Molitor and Kirby Puckett are my two other cherished items. When Molly was close to getting 3,000 hits, he was my teammate and we were really tight. His 2,991st hit (came) off Wade with the Royals, his wife and his people put together these little trophy cases that held the ball with a little plaque that said the date, the pitcher and the hit number. On the ball itself he wrote 2,991st hit and signed it. He gave it to me.
That was so nice of him to give me something like that that is so valuable. I saw him a few weeks ago and thanked him again for just being a great mentor and friend. He gave me his 586th double ball. He signed it ‘To Marty, here is something to shoot for in your career. All the best, Paul Molitor’.
I’m not a huge collector. It’s all about what is important to me. I don’t just collect to collect things that don’t have a meaning to me. Something that means something to me is everything.
TR–What else do you have in your memorabilia collection that is special to you?
MC-My rookie year I had a nice year. My second year, I was thinking at the time there were so many great players that I’m playing against right now. I know I can’t ask everybody on each team but if I could ask two or three players on each team as I travel for the 1996 season. I know the clubhouse guys very well. I was single. I was the first one there and the last one to leave. I became really good friends with the clubhouse guys. When we played the Orioles, for example, I asked the clubbies if I could get Cal Ripken, Jr., Harold Baines and Eddie Murray, I asked if I could get a bat from each guy. We always had a ton of bats. Some are for games. Some you don’t love the wood, so you don’t use it. I asked these great players to write ‘To Marty,’ and then anything they like. So I went around the league and got Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Derek Jeter, Will Clark and all of these great players. They wrote stuff like ‘Have a great career.’ Or “Great to know you.’ It was so cool. I had about seven dozen bats, Rookie of the Year bats and all kinds of stuff.
I don’t want to say his name or anything but the guy that was helping me out, he and his father were let go for similar reasons. I gave them the bats to ship home to me along with other personal items. He ended up keeping 50% of them and never sent them. There were stores in Minneapolis that called and said stuff was showing up that was being sold by somebody. I can never go back and ask these guys for autographs again. It was devastating. Why would somebody I was so good to do this to me? I don’t want to get all negative but I am missing a few of these great bats that I collected that year. The positive part is that I still have quite a few of these autographs. I can go back in my little office and I can look at them. It was just these unbelievable players like Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, and others. It wasn’t just players I admired, they were guys I played with.
Tony will have a Card Back Q&A session with Marty Cordova later this month.