There has rarely been a seven-year stretch in Brewers’ history that can rival Cecil Cooper’s from 1977-1983. In his 11 seasons as a Brewer, Coop was a fan favorite and ranks highly in several offensive categories in team history. In this edition of Brewers Past and Present, we spotlight the career of arguably the best first baseman in team history.
Early Years in Boston
Cecil Cooper was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1968. He did well in the minor leagues, but first base was a sort of log jam for the Red Sox at the time. Carl Yastrzemski, Tommy Harper, Danny Cater, and Bernie Carbo all were competing, along with Cooper, for playing time at first. None of them, though, were very good defensively. Despite Red Sox manager Don Zimmer wanting to make Cooper the team’s starting first baseman in 1977, Boston traded Cooper to Milwaukee for defensive wizard George Scott. The Brewers, at the time, were criticized for the move. However, Scott did not achieve the same success he had had with the Brewers in his second stint with Boston, and Cooper became one of the most popular Brewers of all time.
Success in Milwaukee
1977, Cecil’s first year in Milwaukee, was the first of seven straight seasons that Cooper would hit .300 or better. As a Brewer, Cooper made five All-Star teams, won two Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, and finished in the top 10 of MVP voting four times.
A versatile hitter, Cooper could hit for power, but was also able to slap singles to the opposite field. He quietly forged a reputation as a gap-hitter. This is evidenced by the fact that Cooper hit over 35 doubles five times, leading the league in that category twice. His best season is arguably his 1980 campaign. During that season, Cooper hit .352/387/.539 with 219 hits, 25 home runs, and a league leading 122 RBI. Amazingly, he did not win the batting title that year. Kansas City’s George Brett chased .400 that year, but ended up hitting .390.
In his 11-years in Milwaukee, Cooper hit .302/.339/.470 with 201 home runs and 944 RBI. He also notched 1,815 hits, 345 of which were doubles. Cooper’s .302 average is the third highest in team history, behind Jeff Cirillo and Paul Molitor. His 201 home runs are sixth, and his 944 RBI are third. In addition, his 1,815 hits and 821 runs scored are both fourth in the history of the franchise. Cooper retired as a player after the 1987 season.
A Brief Coaching Career
After retiring as a player, Cecil Cooper worked as a player agent for over a decade. He was then lured back to Milwaukee and worked for the organization in several roles. Notably, Cooper was the Brewers’ bench coach in 2002 and managed AAA Indianapolis from 2003-2004. In 2005, he joined Phil Garner’s coaching staff in Houson as the Astros’ bench coach. When Garner was fired, Cooper became interim manager in 2007. He guided the Astros to a winning record in 2008, but was fired when the team fell out of contention in 2009. He still resides in Texas with his wife.
More Brewers Past and Present
- Paul Molitor
- Justin Smoak
- Ben Sheets
- Bob Uecker
- Keston Hiura
- Josh Hader
- Ted Simmons
- Gorman Thomas
- Pete Vuckovich
- Rollie Fingers
Follow me on Twitter at @MrAdams88 and follow us @OTHWisconsin for more great content. Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion.To read more of our articles and keep up to date on the latest in Wisconsin sports, click here!