#CardCorner: 1981 Topps Cecil Cooper
Yet it was their unassuming first baseman – Cecil Cooper – who hit out of the prestigious No. 3 hole, powering the Harvey’s Wallbangers team that came within one win of a World Series title.
Sponsor a Page
Online Collection Page Sponsorship
For only $5 a year, you can have your name displayed on an artifact page within our online collection. You can even add a message – a note about the item, a favorite baseball memory or a tribute to a family member or friend.
The youngest of 13 children, Cooper was born Dec. 20, 1949, in Brenham, Texas. Several of his family members played in the Negro Leagues, and Cooper established himself as a pro prospect in high school. The Red Sox took Cooper in the sixth round of the 1968 MLB Draft and sent him to Jamestown of the New York-Penn League, where he hit .452 in 26 games.
Cooper moved through the Class A ranks in 1969 and 1970, then hit a combined .354 with High A Winston-Salem and Double-A Pawtucket in 1971, earning a late-season call-up to Boston.
The Red Sox kept Cooper in Triple-A for most of the 1972 and ’73 seasons before he earned the Opening Day job at first base in 1974. But Cooper played mostly in a platoon role for the next two seasons, helping Boston with the AL pennant in 1975 while hitting .311 in 106 games.
The left-handed Cooper posted a fine .288 batting average against lefties – just 10 points lower than his career average – throughout his career. But with young outfielders Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans emerging – and Carl Yastrzemski still a force at the plate – the Red Sox did not commit to Cooper on an everyday basis.
Following the 1976 season – when Cooper hit .282 with 15 homers and 78 RBI in 123 games – Boston traded Cooper to the Brewers in exchange for veterans George Scott and Bernie Carbo. It marked the start of Cooper’s ascent to becoming one of the best players in baseball.
Playing 160 games in 1977 for Milwaukee, Cooper hit .300 with 20 homers, 78 RBI and 86 runs scored. He then missed nearly two months of action in 1978 after suffering a broken right leg against the Blue Jays on June 9 when he collided with Toronto’s Bob Bailor on a play at first base in the top of the 10th inning. But before leaving the game, Cooper singled to lead off the bottom of the 10th – leaving the game in favor of pinch-runner Jim Gantner, who eventually scored the winning run on a Ben Oglivie single.
In 107 games in 1978, Cooper hit .312 with 13 homers and 54 RBI. Then in 1979, Cooper was named to his first All-Star Game en route to a .308 batting average, 24 home runs, 106 RBI, an AL-best 44 doubles and his first Gold Glove Award.
He was even better in 1980, hitting .352 with 25 home runs, 219 hits, an AL-leading 335 total bases and a big league best 122 RBI. He finished fifth in the AL Most Valuable Player voting in a year when MVP George Brett hit .390.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum