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USM community comes to the aid of former coach Corky Palmer

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 12:36 AM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Scott Berry’s weekly visits with Corky Palmer aren’t the same as they used to be.

Palmer suffered a stroke following neck surgery in August 2020 and has been battling back ever since.

Berry sat down with Palmer last week at Landmark Nursing Home, just before Southern Miss baseball’s trip to the Conference USA tournament. And while the visits are different, the questions remain the same.

Palmer wants to know all about the Golden Eagles.

“We talked about all the old teams that we’ve had,” Berry said. “We even talked about umpires. He gave me my first real job when I moved here from Missouri in 1990. We’ve remained really, really close friends since that. That relationship built really, really quick.”

A relationship that turned into a lot of wins for Southern Miss, including a trip to the 2009 College World Series.

It’s strange to think what USM baseball could’ve looked like if Hill Denson had not hired the former Golden Eagle catcher Palmer in 1985 – which nearly happened.

“[Denson] told me he wanted me to think about leaving the high school, coming out to Southern as his assistant,” said former Hattiesburg High baseball coach Jimmy Pierce. “I didn’t come and Corky was the next choice. So, I tell him he was second pick.”

It turned out pretty good for ole Corky and company.

Palmer led the Eagles to 458 wins and eight NCAA tournament appearances in 12 seasons.

Of course, beyond all the success on the field is how many lives he changed.

“I don’t think I’m standing here today without him,” said Jones College baseball coach Chris Kirtland, a former player of Palmer’s. “Not sure what I’m doing. I might not be around if it’s not for him.”

“Not only to the players and the people that have been a part of this program internally, but I think it’s the impact that he’s had in our community and our fanbase,” Berry said.

“I see what kind of leader of young men that he is,” said Rick Maddox, father of former USM infielder Marc Maddox. “What he’s done with ‘em off the field, we could never thank him enough.”

But they can certainly try.

The Golden Eagle faithful have joined forces to raise money for Palmer to go toward medical expenses.

Maddox, Pierce, Tyler Conn, Ted Palmer and Luke Johnson started a GoFundMe page – an online fundraising platform. There is also an account set up at BancorpSouth Bank in Hattiesburg where folks can donate to the “Corky Palmer Fund.”

In just a few short weeks, the Black & Gold crew has raised nearly $60,000.

“It hurts me to see where his life is right now and I pray each day that his life gets back to somewhat of normal,” Berry said.

“We’re all thinking about him and praying for him a lot,” said West Jones head coach Trey Sutton, another one of Palmer’s protégé's who has entered the world of coaching. “I know everybody out at ‘The Pete’ wishes he was out there.”

“Jimmy and I believe there’s going to be an opportunity when Corky will be back at Pete Taylor Park,” Maddox said. “And we’ll have 10,000 people come to that game and he’ll throw out the first pitch and waddle down to first base.”

If you’d like to donate to the “Corky Palmer Fundraiser,” please visit https://gofund.me/49a9c9ef.

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