Brothers in Baseball: USM’s Berry recalls his friend and mentor, Corky Palmer
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ On Aug. 10, former Southern Miss baseball player and coach, Carlton “Corky” Palmer, passed away.
On that day, Southern Miss baseball coach Scott Berry not only lost his longtime mentor, but his brother in baseball.
“God puts people in our place, in our lives, for a reason and certainly, I think that Corky Palmer was put in my life for a reason,” Berry said Sunday morning. “It was to help me grow from a 28-year-old to where I am today and a lot of things that I do, both on and off the field, are a direct result his teaching, his mentoring, and, really patterning his way of doing things.
“You know, he was about doing things the right way. He was much more than the wins and losses that people evaluate you on. He was a maker of men.”
One of them was a young man from Missouri, who Palmer had met in 1990 over a four-day stretch at a coaches’ convention.
What happened next changed Berry’s life, both on and off the diamond.
“That was the first time we met,” Berry said. “Little did I know that six months later, that I would get a call that there was an opening for an assistant coach’s job at Meridian Community College where Corky was the head coach.
“I was hired. He gave a young, 28-year-old from Missouri who he had just briefly met for four days, six months earlier, an opportunity to come south.”
It was the beginning of a relationship that stretched over the next four decades, with Berry standing beside Palmer or following in his footsteps.
“My initial impression was this could be one of the funniest people that I’ve ever known,” Berry said. “But there was also a serious side to him as well, and that was the competitive side, where he wanted to win.
“But you know, I think what he saw in me was a lot of himself. a young man that was willing to cut his teeth and make adjustments in the profession and do what it takes to stay with it and I know that’s what he did.”
Palmer was one-of-a-kind. Old-school, determined, tough, traits partially developed from years of donning the tools of ignorance as the man behind the plate during his playing days at Hattiesburg High School and Southern Miss.
He also was capable of reducing friends to tears of laughter with tales and observations delivered in a voice that invoked memories of Mayberry to those of a certain age, mingled with the salt of hundreds of locker rooms and bus rides and dugouts.
Palmer wore many hats during his life, including matchmaker.
“He introduced me to my wife,” Berry said. “Little would people think that he’s a matchmaker, but he did that at Meridian. He was in our wedding. You know he was there when both of my children were born And he helped raise my children. He was like family.
But Palmer’s most public role, and the one he just seemed born to fill, was coaching baseball.
“If there was anyone destined to be a baseball coach, it was Corky,” Berry said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
After building Meridian into a national power, Palmer returned home, spending a year on Hill Denson’s staff at Southern Miss before taking the reins of the program the following season.
“This this was his dream job,” Berry said. “He called me and wanted me to join him here at Southern Miss and to be reunited with a relationship not only as co-workers, but as really good friends and brothers in life.”
Berry eventually followed, leaving his own stamp at Meridian before joining Palmer’s staff.
During Palmer’s 12 years at the helm, Southern Miss made eight trips to the NCAA postseason, including hosting an NCAA Regional for the first time in Hattiesburg.
And at the end, Palmer’s dream job ended in a dream come true.
In 2009, Southern Miss won its first regional and then swept though a Super Regional to earn the program’s first trip to the College World Series.
Palmer had announced his retirement earlier that season.
“The cards lined up that year for him in his final year to give a good send-off and a well deserved send-off,” Berry said. “You know, I think the exposure to the national media, not only for Southern Miss baseball and really putting us on the map across the country, also showed people the kind of person that Corky was, you know what the South was about and what Southern Miss was about.”
Berry said that Palmer’s legacy not only will be found in the number of wins he amassed in a lifetime, but in the impact he had on lives during his time.
“I think the things that he brought to Southern Miss, the tradition that he built here, we feed off that now in our own program and recruiting,” Berry said. “You know, the lives that he touched, the impact that he had on his players not only here but at all levels, whether it was the high school level or the junior college level. that legacy lives forever.”
Berry followed in his mentor’s shoes again, taking over as head coach of the Southern Miss baseball program
“I talk a lot about, you know, with our own players, that stats and records will will fade with time and people will forget those. But the person that you are, people never forget that and the impact that you have on those lives will live forever.
“And that’s what we have with him.”
Palmer will be laid to rest Monday following a 1 p.m. service at Providence Baptist Church.
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