April 24, 1898|
|Died: June 3, 1941
|Negro leagues: 1920, Detroit Stars|
|Last professional appearance|
|1939, Kansas City Monarchs|
|Earned run average||3.24|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Election Method||Committee on African-American Baseball|
Andrew Lewis Cooper (April 24, 1898 – June 3, 1941), nicknamed "Lefty", was an American left-handed pitcher in baseball's Negro Leagues. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. An alumnus of Paul Quinn College in Waco, Cooper played nine seasons for the Detroit Stars and ten seasons for the Kansas City Monarchs. The Texan was 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) tall and weighed 220 lbs.
In defiance of a threatened five-year Negro league ban for contract jumping, Cooper joined a 1927 barnstorming team that toured Hawaii and Japan. He spent most of his later career with the Monarchs. Cooper is the Negro league record holder for career saves. In a 1937 playoff game, he pitched 17 innings. Cooper served as manager or player-manager for the Monarchs from 1937 to 1940, leading the team to the pennant three times during those four seasons.
Cooper pitched for the Detroit Stars from 1920 to 1927. The Stars played in Mack Park, which was noted for its short fences. Despite the hitter-friendly dimensions of the park, Cooper excelled as a pitcher in Detroit. The short fences often allowed Detroit's powerful hitters to provide good run support for Cooper. In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James characterized Cooper as the best Negro league pitcher of 1923.
Cooper was traded to the Kansas City Monarchs for five players in 1928. He became known for his durability as a pitcher. To open the 1928 season, the left-hander pitched a two-hit shutout against the Cleveland Tigers, which he followed with a 4-3 win over the Tigers the next day.
Cooper returned to the Stars for another season in 1930. In nine years with the Stars, he earned a 92-47 record. He rejoined the Monarchs in 1931. One of his best years was 1936, when he went 27–8 against all levels of competition. He made his only All-Star appearance that season, as Negro league All-Star games had not been played until three years earlier.
Cooper became player-manager of the Monarchs in 1937. The Monarchs joined the newly formed Negro American League (NAL) that year. Nearing the end of his career, Cooper pitched 17 innings in a playoff game that year versus the Chicago American Giants. Cooper gave up two runs in the first inning of the game, but he pitched 16 subsequent scoreless innings. In Black Baseball in Kansas City, Cooper was described as having "more junk than Fred Sanford", but he walked only one batter. The game was declared a tie after the 17th inning, but the Monarchs won the playoff series four games to one with the one tie.
Cooper became known for his ability to alter the speed of his pitches. He threw a fastball, a curveball and a screwball. He also had a well-known pickoff move. He posted a 116–57 career record and went 72–30 over a six-year span. He often pitched three games in a five-game series, starting two and relieving another. He holds the Negro league career record for saves (29). Negro league historian Dick Clark called Cooper the greatest pitcher to play for Detroit, either for the Stars or the Tigers. By 1940, Cooper had managed the team to three pennants.
Negro league star Buck O'Neil said that Cooper and Kansas City owner J. L. Wilkinson were responsible for O'Neil joining the NAL and ultimately becoming a member of the Monarchs. In 1937, Cooper and Wilkinson were impressed by O'Neil but the team had a first baseman who was returning from an injury. They encouraged O'Neil to sign with the Memphis Red Sox. The Monarchs traded their first baseman the next year and purchased O'Neil's contract from Memphis.
Winter leagues and barnstorming teams
Cooper also played several seasons of winter baseball. He played in Cuba during the winters of 1923-24, 1924–25 and 1928–29; he compiled a 15-17 record there.
By 1927, player pay had been cut and morale was low in the NNL and the Eastern Colored League (ECL). To limit the options of the players, the leagues announced a five-year ban on any contract-jumping players. Cooper and three other Negro league players - Biz Mackey, Rap Dixon and Frank Duncan - decided to test the ban. They joined a traveling all-star team, the Philadelphia Royal Giants, in a four-month barnstorming tour of Japan. The team traveled by ocean liner and it took 20 days to arrive in Japan. On their return, they played some games in Honolulu. The team won all 23 games they played on the tour. Upon his return, Cooper received a 30-day suspension and a $200 fine.
Cooper went barnstorming in the Pacific with the Royal Giants in 1932-33. The team earned a 47-2-1 record as they visited the Philippines, China, Korea and Japan. Cooper recorded a .342 batting average on the trip. The next year, he accompanied the Royal Giants to Japan, China, the Philippines and Hawaii for a four-month, 35-game trip.
Cooper had one son, Andy Cooper Jr.
Illness and death
According to reports in the Chicago Defender, Cooper reportedly suffered a stroke early in the 1941 pre-season. He left for his home in Waco to rest and recover, leaving Newt Allen as interim manager, but suffered a fatal heart attack on June 3, having never returned to the Monarchs. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Waco.
Cooper was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. His Hall of Fame class included 17 black players and executives from the Negro league or pre-Negro league eras. A special committee had been formed that year to select the group, and it narrowed down a pool of 39 candidates to arrive at the final selections.
The 109th United States Congress issued a resolution that year honoring the 2006 Negro league and pre-Negro league inductees. As of 2014, Cooper is one of eleven inductees whose plaques do not depict them wearing a cap with a team logo.
- Cherry, Brice (July 14, 2013). "All-Time Super Centex Baseball Team a look back at area’s hardball history". Waco Tribune-Herald. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Windsor, Shawn (July 23, 2006). "The long journey to the Hall of Fame for Lefty Cooper began with newspaper box scores and a man from Ypsilanti". The Detroit Free Press.
- Falkoff, Robert (February 21, 2006). "Southpaw piled up the victories". MLB.com. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- James, Bill (2010). The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Simon and Schuster. p. 176. ISBN 1439106932.
- Heaphy, Leslie, ed. (2007). Satchel Paige and Company: Essays on the Kansas City Monarchs, Their Greatest Star and the Negro Leagues. McFarland. p. 236. ISBN 0786430753.
- Bak, Richard (1991). Cobb Would Have Caught it: The Golden Age of Baseball in Detroit. Wayne State University Press. p. 96. ISBN 0814323561. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Lester, Larry (2001). Black Baseball's National Showcase: The East-West All-Star Game, 1933-1953. University of Nebraska Press. p. 96. ISBN 0803280009.
- "Cooper, Andy". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Lester, Larry; Miller, Sammy (2000). Black Baseball in Kansas City. Arcadia Publishing. p. 42. ISBN 073850842X.
- The Hall: A Celebration of Baseball's Greats in Stories and Images, the Complete Roster of Inductees. Little, Brown and Company. 2014. p. 292. ISBN 0316213039. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Goldstein, Richard (July 27, 2006). "Belated Recognition: The 17 Inductees". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Vincent, Fay (2007). The Only Game in Town: Baseball Stars of the 1930s and 1940s Talk About the Game They Loved. Simon and Schuster. p. 87. ISBN 0743273184. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- McNeil, William (2002). The California Winter League: America's First Integrated Professional Baseball League. McFarland. p. 266. ISBN 0786413018. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Lanctot, Neil (1994). Fair Dealing and Clean Playing: The Hilldale Club and the Development of Black Professional Baseball, 1910-1932. Syracuse University Press. p. 155. ISBN 0815608659.
- Guthrie-Shimizu, Sayuri (2012). Transpacific Field of Dreams: How Baseball Linked the United States and Japan in Peace and War. University of North Carolina Press. p. 166. ISBN 0807882666. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- McNeil, William (2007). Black Baseball Out of Season: Pay for Play Outside of the Negro Leagues. McFarland. p. 108. ISBN 0786429011. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Brown, Tim (February 28, 2006). "Another barrier broken: Woman to go into Hall". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- "S. Res. 386 Agreed to Senate (ATS)". United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Mitchell, Houston (January 24, 2014). "Greg Maddux, Tony La Russa will have no logo on Hall of Fame plaque". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Cherry, Brice. "Olympic champion Wariner heads Texas Sports Hall of Fame ballot". Waco Tribune-Herald. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Andy Cooper at the Baseball Hall of Fame
- Negro league baseball statistics and player information from Seamheads.com, or Baseball-Reference (Negro leagues)