Back in the early 1980s chants
of "Cooooop" poured out of the bleachers and grandstands of Milwaukee County Stadium whenever Cecil Cooper stepped up to the
plate. Although those glory days have disappeared along with the stadium, Cooper
remains a popular figure among Brewer fans.
As a member of the Brewers'
1982 American League Championship team, Cooper looks back with fondness. "(I
remember) what kind of team we had, the type of guys we had the togetherness," he said.
"We played as a team, had fun as a team there was great camaraderie. People
genuinely liked each other, to me thats what it's all about."
Even though the Brew Crew fell
to St. Louis in a seven game World Series, fans in Milwaukee don't let that fact tarnish their memories of that special club. "It had been since 1957 (that a World Series had been in Milwaukee). They hadnt had a winner here in a long time - we got in (the postseason) it was slipping away," Cooper
explained. "We ended up winning that last game in Baltimore (to clinch the AL
East). We played the Angels and went down 2-0 - I think everyone felt we
were done and then we came back and got to the World Series and actually led late in (the 7th game). I think the fans were just excited about the year and appreciative of the fact we were there."
It was Cooper's base hit late
in Game 5 of the ALCS that capped the Brewers stunning comeback over California and propelled them into the World Series,
"I got the game winning hit and was very fortunate to get the opportunity to get that hit.
I failed in a couple of opportunities before that in that game and I got another chance - that's what you ask
for," the two time Gold Glove winner said. "That's probably the one, single moment
(that stands out in my career)."
Cooper retired following the
1987 season, but never strayed from the game, "When I retired in 1987, I became involved in a sports agency (CSMG International)
and did that for about nine years," the five time All Star explained. "Then I
came back here (Milwaukee) as a farm director and did that for about three (years).
For two years I did a little scouting."
Cooper began the 2002
season as Special Assistant to the GM, but was named bench coach when manager Davey Lopes was fired on April 30. Following the season he was named manager of the team's AAA affiliate in Indianapolis.
At the time of our interview,
however, Cooper was noncommittal about taking the reigns of a club, "We'll see what happens, I won't necessarily say that
I do or don't (want to manage). (It depends) on what the organization plans to
do," he said.
One of the few bright spots
for the Milwaukee franchise over the past decade was the opening of Miller Park in 2001.
Cooper loves the teams' new digs, but still has a soft spot for the old County Stadium, "it's sad to see something
like that happen, but it's a new era, new players, new team everythings new. You
cant generate revenue in an old place like that," he commented.
Despite an impressive big league
resume that includes 241 home runs and a career .466 slugging percentage, Cooper remains realistic about his Hall of Fame
chances. "It's not something that even enters my mind. There is a certain standard - you have to amass some big, big numbers, he explained. I only got about 2,200 hits or so, my lifetime average was .298. theres certain standard. I am not concerned about that."
Although Cooper was back in
a Milwaukee uniform last season, he just didnt look quite right. Since pitcher
Ben Sheets had already taken his number 15, Cooper settled for number 14. "That's
not something I have control over, if its not a retired number you can't do anything about it," he said. "(Sheets) asked if he could wear it, and I don't have a problem with it.
If it was retired it would be a different story, but I don't think there's any plans for that."
Though he doesn't say it, one
gets the feeling Cooper is bothered that his #15 isn't retired. Milwaukee management's
track record over the past decade leaves something to be desired, and retiring Cooper's number would be a step in the right
direction. Just ask the fans, they'll agree.
-David Zingler, April 2003