“Greatest catcher of them all, (Mickey) Cochrane was,” said Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Grove of his longtime Philadelphia Athletics batterymate.
Gordon “Mickey” Cochrane was a fiery catcher, nicknamed “Black Mike” for his fierce competitive spirit, who helped lead his teams to five pennants and three World Series crowns during his 13 big league seasons. He spent his first nine years with the Connie Mack’s A’s, capturing American League flags from 1929 to 1931, with Fall Classic titles coming in 1929 and ’30.
Sold for $100,000 to the Detroit Tigers after the 1933 campaign to become player-manager, he promptly lead his new team to the top of the Junior Circuit his first two seasons and a World Championship in 1935.
“He showed us how to get a man on first, move him over to third and then get him in. We needed somebody to take charge and show us how to win and that’s what Mickey did,” said Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg. “He was an inspirational leader. He’d been on three pennant winners and winning was a way of life with him, a winning spirit that was really infectious. He was the greatest fighting spirit on the ball field. He’d go through a brick wall to catch a ball.”
“Cochrane was a great inspirational leader,” said Tigers Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer. “Boy, he was a hard loser, the hardest loser I think I ever saw. He wouldn’t stand for any tomfoolery. He wanted everybody to put out as hard as they could and he set the example himself. Always hustling, always battling. Cochrane was in charge out there.”
Winner of the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1928 and 1934, Cochrane finished with a .320 career batting average, a career-best .357 coming in 1930. But it was his handling of pitchers which impressed those around him.
“Hardly ever shook him off,” Grove said. “If Mickey was living today, he’d tell you I only shook him off about five or six times all the years he caught me. Funny, before I’d even look at him, I had in my mind what I was going to pitch and I’d look up and there’d by Mickey’s signal, just what I was thinking. Like he was reading my mind. That’s the kind of catcher he was.”
Cochrane’s playing career came to an abrupt halt at the age of 34 when he was hit in the head by fastball from Yankees’ pitcher Bump Hadley on May 25, 1937. Cochrane survived the fracture skull, which one doctor reported, “The X-rays looked like a road map,” but never played another big league game.
Cochrane was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947. He passed away on June 28, 1962.