Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane played with the Athletics from 1925 to 1933.
Awards: Baseball Hall of Fame
Gordon Stanley Cochrane was born on April 6, 1903, in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Early success in sports led Cochrane to Boston University, where he played basketball, boxing, track, football, and baseball. He began to play baseball professionally in 1925 with the Philadelphia Athletics. Cochrane immediately found success as a catcher, and in 1928 he was named the American League's MVP. After a career of achievement, three World Series titles and two league MVPs, Cochrane's playing career ended in 1937 when he was hit by a pitch. He later returned to baseball as a manager, but died at age 59 due to a respiratory ailment on June 28, 1962, in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Gordon Stanley Cochrane was born on April 6, 1903, in an eastern Massachusetts town called Bridgewater. He was the fifth of seven children to John and Sarah Cochrane. Cochrane's nickname "Mickey" came from the derogatory term "Mick," applied to Irish Roman Catholics. At age five, Cochrane's father bought a 16 acre farm and became a full time farmer. Little Mickey never showed an interest in farming and would always wander off to get involved in sports of some kind. As a child, he played ball, ran races against friends, and went hunting and fishing with the neighborhood children.
Along with loving these activities at such a young age, Cochrane had an unusual aspiration from the age of ten. He wanted to be a major league baseball manager. Cochrane said, "A lot of kids want to be big-league players, but I don't know of another who looked beyond that to the manager's job." Young Mickey's dream was eventually accomplished, but he got to that step after years of dedication to baseball.
Cochrane attended Bridgewater High School in fall 1916. Growing up, football and basketball were Cochrane's strongest sports but when he got to high school, there was no football team , so baseball became his focus. As a freshman, Cochrane proved his varsity level ability on the school's baseball team. Unfortunately, the Bridgewater High baseball team was not very successful, but good colleges such as Lehigh and Dartmouth still wanted him to play on their teams. Seventeen-year-old Cochrane chose a lesser known school, Boston University, because he could play five different sports there. Cochrane played basketball, boxing, track, football, and baseball. On the school football team, he served as the captain of the 1923 team. Cochrane was a quarterback, running back, and punter; for more than 60 years he held the school record for a 53-yard field goal he punted in 1921. In college and throughout his whole life, Cochrane had success in all sports, but baseball was always considered his weakest sport. Nonetheless, Cochrane still excelled in baseball; he played the outfield in college, but he began catching when he started playing for a Class-D league in Delaware to help pay his college tuition. This team needed a catcher, and although he did not like the position, Cochrane filled the empty spot for the team. Eventually, he became content with the role when he started to excel at it.
After college, Cochrane started playing baseball full time. In 1924, he signed with a minor league team in Portland, Oregon. Because of standout performances, Major League Owner Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics added Cochrane to the Athletics' roster a year later. While in Philadelphia, Athletics' catcher Ralph "Cy" Perkins acted as his mentor and taught him about the position, leading to Cochrane's take over of Perkins' job as the regular catcher for the A's. During one game in particular, Mack told Cochrane to pinch hit for Perkins. After a base hit, Perkins stated, "There goes my job." Perkins was right. Cochrane's ability as a catcher improved dramatically, and many regarded him as one of the better catchers in the league. In his rookie season, he caught more than 100 games; that number was consistent for his next ten seasons as well. During 1928, Cochrane was named the American League's MVP, and the Athletics were runners up for the American League pennant. With Cochrane on the team, the A's were American League champions in 1929, 1930, and 1931, winning the World Series consecutively in 1929 and 1930. Connie Mack said, "Mickey was the most important reason for [our] success...Mickey had a way of encouraging his teammates and of soothing temperamental stars." Cochrane's talent in both batting and catching, along with displaying team leadership, helped the Athletics succeed.
Although a great player and motivator, Cochrane had a terrible temper that manifested itself throughout his years in baseball. Because of his dark moods and extreme anger, Cochrane acquired the nickname, "Black Mike." This name was accurate in a game when the Athletics were playing the New York Yankees. The Athletics were losing by a large deficit, and the players had noticeably given up. "Black Mike" did not stand for this and snapped at his teammates in the dugout. Players recall Cochrane yelling obscenities; his harsh words ignited a comeback. He had a base hit followed by three more consecutive from other Athletics players. Another Athletics' victory was due to Cochrane's help on and off the field.
In 1934, Cochrane accomplished his childhood goal of becoming a manager. He became a player-manager for the Detroit Tigers; however, at this time he was still considered the best catcher in the league. His first year at Detroit, Cochrane led the Tigers to the American League championship. Tragically, Cochrane's playing career ended on May 25, 1937, after being hit by a pitch hurled by Yankees' pitcher Irving Hadley. After being carried off the field, Cochrane remained unconscious for ten days and never played professional baseball again. He suffered a fractured skull that almost cost him his life. Following his recovery, the Tigers released Cochrane the next season. Even with his head injury, Cochrane served in the navy for the United States during World War II. In 1944, after World War II started, Cochrane was given a navy commission to coach the baseball team at the Great Lakes Naval Base.
Along with being one of the best catchers of his time, Cochrane had an impressive lifetime batting average of .320 and played in five World Series championships. In 1947, he was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame. Later, in 1950, he returned to baseball as a manager of his former team, the Athletics. Baseball was always a part of Cochrane's life; he also worked as a scout for the Yankees and Tigers. Cochrane started his last job in 1960, and he was a vice president for the Tigers organization until his death on June 28, 1962. Cochrane suffered from a respiratory ailment and died in Lake Forest, Illinois, at the age of 59. In 1999, The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players ranked him as number 65 and nominated him for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
Bevis, Charlie, and Sara C. Bollman. Mickey Cochrane: The Life of a Baseball Hall of Fame Catcher. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Incorporated, 1998.
Daley, Arthur. "Exit for Black Mike." New York Times 5 July 1962: 43.