Cecil Cooper 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 13, 2017


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I will say it.

Cecil Cooper should have been a beloved Red Sox player. Think of the era where he emerged from the Boston farm system.

It should have been home grown Cooper at first, Burleson at short, Rice and Lynn and Evans in the outfield and Fisk behind the plate and Yaz at DH.

Eventually homegrown Butch Hobson and native New Englander Jerry Remy plucked from the Angels filling out that lineup.

Instead he is one of the most loved Brewers of all time, one even mentioned in the movie Mr. 3000.

One of 13 children being raised in Texas, he came from a baseball family. His dad played in the Negro Leagues and his brothers were semi pro players. A star high school player, Cooper was drafted by the Red Sox in the 1968 draft. The Cardinals picked him in the 1971 Rule 5 Draft but returned him.

Between 1971 and 1973, be bounced between the Red Sox and the minors. In 1973, he played on the Pawtucket squad with Jim Rice, Rick Burleson and Juan Beniquez. By 1974, Cooper was an every day player in Boston.

From time to time, Cooper showed brilliance with the bat. In a 14-6 trashing of the Yankees on May 21, he reached base 6 times, drove in 3 and scored a pair.

Then in 1975, Cooper had to fight for at bats, but by May was in the lineup for good. He fit in with the team that came within a run of winning it all. Fred Lynn and Jim Roce each could have won the MVP that year. Evans and Fisk were superstars. Lee and Tiant were aces. Wise was solid. The bullpen was deep.

And Cooper was a steady first baseman with power and gave the lineup depth with Beniquez and Bernie Carbo off the bench.

In June, he hit .366 and posted an OPS of .894. In July, he homered 6 times and had a 1.077 OPS. Cooper kept the bats going with a .337 average and .975 OPS.

But in September he was hit in the face with a fastball and later went into a slump. Jim Rice later broke his wrist. Had the Sox had Rice and Cooper in full strength, maybe they score 2 more runs in Game 7 of the World Series.

After a good but not spectacular 1976 season, Cooper was traded in an ill advised deal. Bernie Carbo, who found himself on the Brewers in 1976 was traded back to the Sox along with fan favorite George Scott.

At first it looked like a decent deal for the Red Sox as Scott made the 1977 All Star Team. But by 1978, “Boomer”‘s bat was fading and after 1979, he was out of baseball.

The Red Sox began a revolving door of first basemen between 1978 and 1987.

Scott started in 1978. Bob Watson did the honors in 1979. Tony Perez took over for 1980 and 1981. Wade Boggs played first in 1982. Dave Stapleton did in 1984. Bill Buckner did the honors in 1984, 1985 and 1986.

Between 1977 and 1986, one man held the first base spot in Milwaukee. Cecil Cooper was a rock for the Brewers as the names kept changing in Boston.

In 1979, as Scott was dumped by the Red Sox, Cooper led the league with 44 doubles, batted .308, smacked 24 homers and drove in 106, making the All Star Team.

He was an All Star again in 1980 with his 122 RBI and 335 total bases leading te AL. His OPS was .926 and the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger finished 5th in the MVP vote.

Cooper led the league in doubles in the strike shortened 1981 season. Then came 1982.

Along side future Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor (and Don Sutton too for good measure) , Cooper was overshadowed by his teammates. But he remained a power at the plate.

He made the All Star team again, smacking 205 hits, 32 homers, 121 RBI and finished with a .313 average.

Down the stretch as the Brewers fought Baltimore for the AL East crown, he batted .318 in August and .306 in September. He went 3 for 4 in a key 14-0 blowout over the Yankees that helped the Brewers approach the division title.

On the final day of the season, the Orioles and Brewers were tied and the winner would win the East.

In the 6th, with the Brewers clinging to a 3-1 lead, Cooper homered off of Jim Palmer to extend the lead to 4-1. Then in the 9th, with the Orioles pulling out all the stops, Cooper got an RBI double off of Mike Flanagan and scored on Ted Simmons’ homer that capped the 10-2 blow out.

In the ALCS, he clocked the go ahead opposite field single that put the Brewers up for good in the Game 5 clincher. He later homered in Game 3 of the World Series against St. Louis and drove in a run in Game 7 of the World Series.

The Brewers lost the World Series, but Cooper kept his All Star ways going. He led the league with 126 RBI in 1983 and finished 5th in the MVP vote.

Cooper made one more All Star Game in 1985 before wrapping his career up after the 1987 season.

After his playing career ended, he worked as a coach and a minor league manager before getting a shot to manage the Houston Astros in 2007. They had a winning season under his watch in 2008 but he was fired after a disappointing 2009.

Cooper is beloved in Wisconsin where he is in the Brewers walk of fame.

That’s all great.

He should have been a beloved Red Sox star.

 

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