Cecil Cooper

From BR Bullpen


Cecil Celester Cooper

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]


Cecil Cooper was a star for 17 seasons in the big leagues who came back in 2005 as a coach and became a manager in 2007.

Cooper was born in Texas and drafted in the 6th round of the 1968 amateur draft at the age of 18 by the Boston Red Sox. He spent his entire minor league career in the Red Sox organization, as well as his first six major league seasons.

He gave them a hint in the first year that he was going to become a star. With the Jamestown Falcons of the New York-Penn League in 1968, he hit .452 in only 84 AB. The next year, with the Greenville Red Sox in the Western Carolinas League, he hit .297/~.320/.387. In 1970, with the Danville Warriors, a co-op team in the Midwest League, he hit .336/~.418/.433 and made the All-Star team. He led the MWL in batting average that year. Up to this point, he had not shown much power, but he was young. In 1971, at the age of 21, he split his time between A, AA, and the majors. At Winston-Salem, he hit .379/~.457/.575 slugging percentage as he started to hit the long ball (6 HR in 153 AB). At Pawtucket in the Eastern League, he hit .343/~.388/.493 slugging percentage as he hit 10 home runs in 367 AB. Coming up to the majors for his first time, he kept his string of .300 performances in 1971 intact, as he hit .310 for the Red Sox in 14 games. He hit 4 doubles and a triple.

The problem was that George Scott owned first base for the Red Sox, having been the regular there since 1966. Luckily for Cooper, the Red Sox traded Scott after the 1971 season, but chose to put Danny Cater at first base the following season, when he hit .237. The Red Sox, although not a division-leading team in 1971 and 1972, were still full of strong performers, such as Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith, Luis Aparicio, a young Ben Oglivie, a young Carlton Fisk, a young Dwight Evans, Rico Petrocelli, and Tommy Harper. The pitching staff included Luis Tiant and Bill Lee.

Cecil was back in the minors in 1972, this time in Triple A in Louisville, where he hit .315/~.372/.468 with 31 doubles, 9 triples and 10 homers, and making another All-Star team. He lost the International League batting title to Al Bumbry but led the league in doubles and hits (162). He came up to the parent club for 12 games, hitting .235/~.316/.294. In 1973, back in Triple A at Pawtucket, he hit .293/~.364/.458 with 15 home runs and made his third minor league All-Star team. He was second in the IL again in average, trailing Juan Beniquez by five points and even stole 11 bases in 12 tries. He finally came up for good with the Red Sox. The designated hitter position had been created, and Orlando Cepeda was being used there, while Carl Yastrzemski played first base more than anyone else. Cooper was up for 30 games with the Red Sox, hitting .238/.284/.347 with 3 home runs. Despite that modest performance, the next year he was on the team, playing 121 games at the age of 24. He and Yastrzemski split the first base duties, and Cooper played some DH along with Tommy Harper. Cooper hit .275/.327/.396 with 8 home runs, still an uninspiring performance in a hitter's park.

In 1975, Cooper surged forward. He posted averages of .311/.355/.544, used at DH more than at first base. In the 1975 World Series, he went 1 for 19 facing the Cincinnati Reds. He was mostly the lead-off hitter in the Red Sox lineup. The next year, 1976, his last with the Red Sox, he slipped a bit to .282/.304/.457. While Cooper had shown a lot of talent, he hadn't truly broken through. He was to do that with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he spent the rest of his major league career. Oddly enough, he was traded to Milwaukee for . . .George Scott, who had blocked his path to the Red Sox years earlier.

Cooper joined a Milwaukee team in 1977 that was not very good, but improved greatly while he was there. Robin Yount was 21 years old, already a veteran with several seasons under his belt, when Cooper arrived. Paul Molitor joined the team as a rookie in 1978. Gorman Thomas had been with the team since 1973, but had not yet established himself as a regular. Ben Oglivie, a former teammate of Cooper, came over in 1978 from the Detroit Tigers.

Cooper hit over .300 in his first seven years with the Brewers, always slugging between .463 and .539. He was not great at drawing walks, but his power improved, as he hit 30+ homers twice in that period, and also drove in 100+ runs four times. He began to be one of the league leaders, finishing in the top ten in the MVP voting four times. He was second in the league in batting in 1980 with a .352 average (the year George Brett hit .390), and he was in the top five the next two years as well. He led the league in doubles twice, RBI twice, and total bases once.

In the 1982 World Series, against the St. Louis Cardinals, he typically batted third for "Harvey's Wallbangers". Paul Molitor led off, Robin Yount was second, Cooper was third, Ted Simmons the catcher was cleanup, followed by Ben Oglivie and Gorman Thomas. He went 8 for 28 (.286) with a double and a homer as the Brewers lost in seven games.

He received the Roberto Clemente Award in 1983. He started to decline in 1984, hitting under .300 with less power. 1985 was a bit of a resurgence, as he hit .293 with 39 doubles, but then in 1986, at age 36, he slipped further, and in 1987 he appeared in only 63 games, hitting .248/.293/.372.

Overall, Cecil was a five-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger and two-time Gold Glove winner. In 2002, he was an inductee of the Miller Park/Milwaukee Brewer Walk of Fame. The most similar player, according to the similarity scores method, was the high-profile New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly who became a star just when Cecil began his decline.

In 1989, Cooper played for the Winter Haven Super Sox of the Senior Professional Baseball Association. He hit .407 with 3 homers and 15 RBI in 16 games before retiring from the circuit less than a month into the season.

During most of 1988-1996, Cooper worked as an agent for players. In 1997-2001, he worked in various capacities in the Brewers organization, including Farm Director from 1997 to 1999. He later was a Milwaukee Brewers coach in 2002 and managed the Triple A Indianapolis Indians in 2003 and 2004. In 2005, he became a Houston Astros coach under Phil Garner, whom he knew from Garner's days as the Brewers' manager. He became interim manager of the Astros on August 28, 2007 when Garner was fired. Cooper later was given the manager's job on a full-time basis. The Astros did surprisingly well in 2008, finishing 9 games above .500, and started off 2009 on the same note. With the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers all hovering around .500, the Astros were suddenly in the middle of the division race in early August, but the thrill ended as quickly as it had begun: the Cardinals got hot, Houston cooled down and by mid-September, the dream was over. With Houston in a seven-game losing streak, Cooper was fired on September 21st and replaced by third base coach Dave Clark.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 5-time AL All-Star (1979, 1980, 1982, 1983 & 1985)
  • 2-time AL Gold Glove Winner (1980 & 1981)
  • 3-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1980-1982)
  • AL Total Bases Leader (1980)
  • 2-time AL Doubles Leader (1979 & 1981)
  • 2-time AL RBI Leader (1980 & 1983)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 5 (1977, 1979, 1980, 1982 & 1983)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1982 & 1983)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 4 (1979, 1980, 1982 & 1983)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1982 & 1983)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 3 (1980, 1982 & 1983)

Preceded by
Phil Garner
Houston Astros Manager
Succeeded by
Dave Clark

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
2003 Indianapolis Indians International League 64-78 4th Milwaukee Brewers
2004 Indianapolis Indians International League 66-78 3rd Milwaukee Brewers
2007 Houston Astros National League 15-16 4th Houston Astros replaced Phil Garner (58-73) on August 28
2008 Houston Astros National League 86-75 3rd Houston Astros
2009 Houston Astros National League 70-79 -- Houston Astros replaced by Dave Clark on September 21

Records Held[edit]

  • Most at bats, extra inning game, 11, 5/8-5/9/84 (tied)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Eric Aron: "Cecil Cooper", in Bill Nowlin and Cecilia Tan, ed.: '75:The Red Sox Team that Saved Baseball, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2015, pp. 11-14. ISBN 978-1-933599-97-7
  • Cecil Cooper (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, July 1985, pp. 83-85. [1]
  • Cecil Cooper (as told to John McMurray): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, March-April 2008, pp. 70-72. [2]

Related Sites[edit]