Mickey Cochrane

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Gordon Stanley Cochrane
(Black Mike)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1947

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Biographical Information[edit]

"Cochrane's arrival in Detroit coincided roughly with the revival of the automobile industry and the first signs of revived prosperity. His determined jolly face soon came to represent the picture of what a dynamic Detroiter ought to look like." - Time Magazine, October 7, 1935

"Lose a one to nothing game and you didn't want to be in the clubhouse with Grove and Cochrane. You'd be ducking stools and gloves and bats and whatever else could fly." - Doc Cramer

Cochrane on the cover of Time in 1935

Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane chose baseball glory over basketball and football, becoming one of the all-time greats in history in the process. A two-time Most Valuable Player and three-time World Series champion, Cochrane was nicknamed "Black Mike" for his famous competitiveness and temper. His career ended abruptly due to a beaning sustained in 1937.

A Boston University star, Mickey played quarterback, punter and running back for the Terriers football team. He could just have easily gone on to gridiron glory, but with the NFL in its infancy and baseball leagues far more established, it was baseball he entered. Mickey joined the Dover Senators of the Eastern Shore League in 1923, hitting .322 with 5 home runs in 65 games. He spent the next season in the Pacific Coast League with the Portland Beavers, batting .333 with 7 homers and 56 RBI in 99 games. When he came up from the minors to the Philadelphia Athletics at the start of the 1925 season, he was a poor defensive catcher with a robust bat. He learned at the knee of Cy Perkins, the incumbent on the scene. One day, early in the season, when Cochrane rapped a pinch hit to win the game, Perkins was heard to remark, "There goes Cy Perkins's job."

Mickey was a rarity for a catcher, allowed by Connie Mack to bat leadoff with his hitting acumen and his ability to run far better than the average catcher. Cochrane was tasked with getting on base so fellow future Hall of Fame boppers Jimmie Foxx and Al Simmons could drive him in. Cochrane's bat had plenty of pop as well: just one month into his career, he belted three home runs in a 20-4 steamrolling of the St. Louis Browns. He finished his rookie season with a .331/.397/.448 line in 134 games. At the dawn of his sophomore season, there was already talk he was the best catcher in all of baseball. He tapered off somewhat in 1926 (.273/.369/.408), then re-arrived in 1927 with a .338/.409/.495 line, belting 12 home runs and scoring 80 runs. In 1928, he won his first American League Most Valuable Player Award, hitting .293/.395/.464 with 12 triples, 10 home runs and 92 runs scored, leading the AL in putouts. It was a reward not just for his exemplary play, but his leadership, routinely handling a strong pitching staff that included ace Lefty Grove.

The A's reached the World Series in each of the next three seasons and Mickey's bat was a key cog in the machine. He batted .331/.412/.475 in 135 games in 1929, smacking 37 doubles and scoring 113 times. In the World Series, he walked seven times against the Chicago Cubs while batting .400/.591/.467 for his first ring. He stepped up his game in the Year of the Hitter with a .357/.424/.526 line, 42 doubles and 110 runs scored in 1930, slugging .611 with two home runs as the A's stomped the St. Louis Cardinals title hopes dead. In 1931, he maintained at .349/.423/.553, hitting 17 home runs and driving in 89 runs while a non-factor as the A's fell to St. Louis in the 1931 World Series. Criticism was lobbed in his direction for allowing Pepper Martin of the Cardinals to run wild, criticism that just as easily could have been pointed at the pitching staff for failing to hold baserunners tight. Mickey played two more strong seasons as a Mack man, establishing career bests in runs scored (118), home runs (23) and RBI (112) in 1932 en route to a .293/.412/.510 batting line, then led the league in on base percentage by batting .322/.459/.515 with a career best 106 walks in 1933. But Mack was about to once again dismantle a dynasty, and Cochrane was a prime trading chip.

In December 1933, Cochrane was traded to the Detroit Tigers. Upon his arrival, he was installed as the club's player-manager for 1934. In his first year, he led the team to the AL pennant, while also batting .320/.428/.412 in 129 games, and won the AL MVP for the second time. In 1935, his final 100-plus games season (.319/.452/.450 in 115 games), the Tigers won the World Series, defeating the Chicago Cubs. In 1936, he was having a typically fine season (.270/.465/.381) when he suffered a nervous breakdown in June. He returned to the lineup in August, but played just 5 more games that year. The Tigers no doubt missed Cochrane in the batting order (his backups hit terribly), but perhaps more so behind the plate, as the staff ERA rose to 5.00 from 3.82 and the team finished a distant second. On May 25, 1937, his playing career came to an abrupt end when his skull was fractured by a pitch thrown by Bump Hadley of the New York Yankees. Cochrane had been hitting well as usual at the time of the injury, hitting .306/.452/.490 with 27 runs scored in 27 games, having gone 10-for-17 in his last 4 contests. After being unconscious for ten days, he recovered enough to return as manager later in the season, but had to take another break. He was the Tigers' manager at the start of the 1938 season, but never played again.

Bill James ranks Cochrane as the 4th best catcher of all-time and the 72nd best player in the second edition of the Bill James Historical Abstract. He is also highlighted in Heroes Behind the Mask as one of the top catchers of all-time. He batted .320/.419/.478 in 1,482 games, surpassed in batting average only by Joe Mauer, catching-wise. Additionally, he batted for the cycle twice, doing so on July 22, 1932 against the Washington Senators and August 2, 1933 against the New York Yankees. In 1947, he became only the third catcher to join the Hall of Fame, later being honored among the Detroit Tigers retired numbers and the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame.

Later in life, Cochrane spent time as General Manager of the Athletics, a scout for the Yankees and Tigers, and a coach for the Athletics in 1950. His brother, Archie Cochrane, was a minor league player and owner. Away from the diamond, Cochrane was a lieutenant in World War II; he entered military service in 1942 with the US Navy and managed the Service All-Stars at Cleveland on July 7, 1942. He managed the Great Lakes team from 1942 to 1944, then went to Gab Gab Beach, Guam to head the fleet recreational center. He later owned an automobile business, passing away at 59 from lymphatic cancer in 1962.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time AL All-Star (1934 & 1935)
  • 2-time AL MVP (1928 & 1934)
  • AL On-Base Percentage Leader (1933)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1932)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1932)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 4 (1929, 1930, 1932 & 1933)
  • Won three World Series with the Philadelphia Athletics (1929 & 1930) and the Detroit Tigers (1935)
  • AL Pennants: 2 (1934 & 1935)
  • Managed one World Series Champion with the Detroit Tigers in 1935
  • 100 Wins Seasons as Manager: 1 (1934)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1947

1927 1928 1929
Lou Gehrig Mickey Cochrane No Award
1933 1934 1935
Jimmie Foxx Mickey Cochrane Hank Greenberg

Preceded by
Bucky Harris
Detroit Tigers Manager
Succeeded by
Del Baker
Preceded by
Del Baker
Detroit Tigers Manager
Succeeded by
Del Baker
Preceded by
Cy Perkins
Detroit Tigers Manager
Succeeded by
Del Baker

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1934 Detroit Tigers American League 101-53 1st Detroit Tigers Lost World Series
1935 Detroit Tigers American League 93-58 1st Detroit Tigers World Series Champs
1936 Detroit Tigers American League 65-55 2nd Detroit Tigers replaced by Del Baker (29-24) from June 10 to July 20
1937 Detroit Tigers American League 42-33 -- Detroit Tigers replaced by Del Baker (34-20) from May 26 to July 27
replaced by Del Baker on September 10
1938 Detroit Tigers American League 47-51 -- Detroit Tigers replaced by Del Baker on August 7

Further Reading[edit]

  • Charles Bevis: Mickey Cochrane: The Life of a Baseball Hall of Fame Catcher, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 1998.
  • Charles Bevis: "Mickey Cochrane", in Scott Ferkovich, ed.: Detroit the Unconquerable: the 1935 World Champion Tigers, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2014, pp. 38-41. ISBN 978-1-933599-78-6
  • Mickey Cochrane: Baseball: The Fan's Game, SABR, Cleveland, OH, 1993. (originally published in 1939) ISBN 978-0910137478
  • Scott Ferkovich: Motor City Champs: Mickey Cochrane and the 1934–1935 Detroit Tigers, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2018. ISBN 978-1-4766-6659-4
  • John Milner: "The Babe's Loss Was Detroit's Gain: The Cochrane Trade", in Scott Ferkovich, ed.: Detroit the Unconquerable: the 1935 World Champion Tigers, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2014, pp. 8-11. ISBN 978-1-933599-78-6

Related Sites[edit]