By Tom Knight
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Today we remember Mickey Cochrane, one of the game’s great catchers.
Gordon Stanley “Mickey” Cochrane was born in Bridgewater, Mass. on April 6, 1903. He attended Boston University and was one of the finest players ever to come out of New England. After a few years in the minors, he signed with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. He helped those great Mack teams of Foxx, Simmons, Grove, Earnshaw, etc. win world championships in 1929 and 1930 and lose to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1931. That was the year that the Cards’ Pepper Martin ran wild on the bases and became known as “The Wild Horse of the Osage.”
In addition to being a fine defensive catcher, Cochrane, who was 5’10” and 180 pounds, batted left-handed and could hit with the best of them.
In the depression year of 1934, Mack needed money and sold Cochrane to the Detroit Tigers for $100,000. The Tigers named Cochrane their playing manager and it paid off. Under his inspired leadership, the Tigers won their first pennant since 1909!
But Cochrane ran into the Cardinals again and the Tigers lost the World Series in seven games. Dizzy Dean and his brother Paul each won two games for St. Louis.
The following year, Cochrane again led the Tigers to the pennant and they beat the Chicago Cubs in seven games to become world champions in 1935.
Cochrane’s great career came to an abrupt end on May 25, 1937 at Yankee Stadium. In the original stadium, there was a dark, heavy curtain in front of the centerfield bleachers to protect the batters’ eyes from the glare of the white-shirted bleacherites. This day, because of the big crowd, the curtains were down.
Cochrane, batting at .306, had hit a home run in his previous at-bat. This time, with a runner on first, Cochrane was giving pitcher “Bump” Hadley a battle. The count was three balls and one strike. The next pitch sailed up and in tight. Cochrane apparently lost it in his line of vision. The players did not wear helmets then and the ball struck him in the temple. He went down, unconscious.
He was carried off the field. His skull was fractured in three places. He lay near death for several days. The whole country was praying for him. After 10 days, he came out of the coma, but his playing days were over.
And what a career it was. In 1,482 games, he had 1,652 hits in 5,169 at-bats, including 333 doubles, 6 triples, 119 homers and a lifetime average of .320. He had 832 RBIs, scored 1,041 runs and stole 64 bases. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1947. During World War II, U.S. Navy Commander Mickey Cochrane ran the fitness program at Great Lakes Naval Station.
Cochrane was 59 when he died on June 28, 1962 in Lake Forest, Ill.
P.S. Years later, I was talking with Joe DiMaggio about that tragic day and he was convinced that the white shirts in the bleachers were to blame. “Bump” Hadley felt terrible, of course. He was a good guy. I met him when he was finishing his career with the Giants in 1941. They are all gone now, but the memories live on.