Gordon Stanley "Mickey" Cochrane (April 6, 1903 – June 28, 1962) was a professional baseball player and manager. He played inMajor League Baseball as a catcher for the Philadelphia Athletics and Detroit Tigers. Cochrane was considered one of the best catchers in baseball history and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.Philadelphia Athletics Mickey Cochrane (right), with Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig
Cochrane was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts to Northern Irish immigrant John Cochrane, whose father had immigrated to Ulster from Scotland and Scottish immigrant Sadie Campbell. He was also known as "Black Mike" because of his fiery, competitive nature. Cochrane was educated at Boston University, where he played five sports, excelling at football and basketball.Although he considered himself a better football player than a baseball player, professional football wasn't as established as major league baseball at the time, so he signed with the Portland Beaversof the Pacific Coast League in 1924.
After just one season in the minor leagues, Cochrane was promoted to the major leagues, making his debut with the Philadelphia Athletics on April 14, 1925 at the age of 22. He made an immediate impact by becoming Connie Mack's starting catcher in place of Cy Perkins, who was considered one of the best catchers in the major leagues at the time. A left-handed batter, he ran well enough that manager Mack would occasionally have him bat leadoff. He hit third more often, but whatever his place in the order his primary role was to get on base so that hard-hitting Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx could drive him in. In May, he tied a twentieth-century major league record by hitting three home runs in a game. He ended his rookie season with a .331 batting average and a .397 on base percentage, helping the Athletics to a second place finish.
By the start of the 1926 season, Cochrane was already considered the best catcher in the major leagues. He won the 1928 American League Most Valuable Player Award, mostly for his leadership and defensive skills, when he led the American League in putouts and hit .293 along with 10 home runs and 58 runs batted in. He was a catalyst in the Athletics' pennant-winning years of 1929, 1930 and 1931when he hit .331, .357 and .349 respectively. He played in those three World Series, winning the first two, but was sometimes blamed for the loss of the 1931 World Series, when the St. Louis Cardinals, led by Pepper Martin, stole eight bases and the Series, although, in his book, The Life of a Baseball Hall of Fame Catcher, author Charlie Bevis cites the Philadelphia pitching staff's carelessness in holding runners as a contributing factor. But notwithstanding this, the blame for the 1931 World Series loss would dog Cochrane for the rest of his life.
In 1934, Connie Mack started to disassemble his dynasty for financial reasons and sold Cochrane to the Detroit Tigers, who made him player-manager. It was as a Tiger that he cemented his reputation as a team leader. His competitive nature drove the Tigers, who had been picked to finish in fourth or fifth place, to the 1934 American League championship, their first pennant in 25 years. His leadership skills won him the 1934 Most Valuable Player Award, remarkable considering that Lou Gehrig had won the Triple Crown and finished with a much higher W.A.R. (10.7 versus 4.3). He followed this by leading the Tigers to another American League pennant in 1935 and a victory over the Chicago Cubs in the 1935 World Series. Due in part to his high-strung nature, however, he suffered a nervous breakdown during the 1936 season.
Cochrane's playing career came to a sudden end on May 25, 1937 when he was hit in the head by a pitch by Yankees pitcher Bump Hadley. Hospitalized for seven days, the injury nearly killed him. His accident generated a call for protective helmets for batters, but tradition won out at that time. Ordered by doctors not to play baseball again (he was just 34 years old), he returned to the dugout to continue managing the Tigers but had lost his competitive fire.He managed for the remainder of the 1937 season, but was replaced midway through the 1938 season. His all-time managerial record was 348-250, for a .582 winning percentage.
Despite his head injury, Cochrane served in the United States Navy during World War II as did Bill Dickey of the Yankees, giving the Navy the two greatest catchers baseball had yet seen; with Yogi Berra also serving but not yet having reached the major leagues, there were actually three possible "greatest catchers ever" in the WWII-era Navy. A heavy smoker, Cochrane was only 59 when he died in 1962 in Lake Forest, Illinois of lymphatic cancer.