clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Prince Week: A Guest Appearance From Jon Loomer of

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part five in a week-long series looking at Prince Fielder's tenure as a Brewer from every possible angle. Today's guest poster is friend of the site Jon Loomer of the PastKast network, creator of, and the @Tweetsfrom1982 and @Tweetsfrom1987 Twitter feeds. - KL

Comparing the careers of Prince Fielder and Cecil Cooper

The day was October 10, 1982. I was a seven-year-old kid, just beginning to learn a love for baseball and the Milwaukee Brewers. This baseball thing was exciting, and my team was incredible. They overcame every obstacle put in their way. The under achieving Crew was a game under .500 when Harvey Kuenn took over on June 2. And even though Harvey's Wallbangers would be born, they nearly gave the division away before stealing it back on the final day of the season from the Baltimore Orioles.

And on this fateful day at County Stadium in 1982, they came back from the dead again. After falling down 2-0 in California, the Brewers won the next two games. They then fell behind 3-1 in the decisive Game 5 before pulling to within one and bringing together a rally in the seventh.

Cecil Cooper -- my man -- came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, the Brewers trailing 3-2. Angels manager Gene Mauch passed on the lefty-lefty matchup, preferring to let Luis Sanchez face Cooper.

You know what happened next. If you weren't around then, you've seen the images. And to be honest, I don't know how much I actually remember. I just know that it's been replayed continuously since then. I have it on DVD, and I watch it with my sons as an annual ritual on the anniversary of the game.

Cooper laced a line drive to left. He watched as Brian Downing charged, the ball hanging in the air. It was his Carlton Fisk moment, but instead of willing the ball fair, he was willing it down. The ball fell, Charlie Moore and Jim Gantner both scored, embracing behind home plate. And the Brewers would move on to the World Series.

Cecil Cooper held a special place in my heart, as I'm sure he did for many Brewers fans who grew up with the team in the '80s. I was too young to realize how surly he was, and instead focused on his cool batting stance and untouchable statistics. Many years later, I wondered if the team would ever have a first baseman that was his equal.

And then came Prince Fielder.

If there's a player to whom Prince Fielder is compared, it's often Cooper. They don't have particularly similar styles, by any means. Cooper hit for average with decent power while Fielder possesses historic power and can hit for a decent average.

But they were both first basemen, hit left handed and... well, they both finished their Brewers careers with beards.

Okay, maybe Fielder isn't done with the Brewers. But he probably is. And it's time to decide whether Fielder was able to finally surpass Cooper as the team's all-time first baseman.

Now, the playing field isn't particularly level. Cooper played for 11 years with the Brewers while Fielder played six-plus. Even so, Fielder managed to hit more home runs (230 to 201). Fielder also had a much higher OBP (.390 to .339) and OPS (.929 to .809), though Cooper had a higher batting average (.302 to .282) and better cumulative stats other than homers due to the extra time.

But the thing is... Cooper's days as a star were over after 1983. His true impact came in his first seven years with the team, which gives us a tidy comparison point.

Cooper was sick during those seven seasons. The good sick, the way the kids use it (is sick still good?). He never hit below .300 from 1977 through 1983, peaking at .352 in 1980. He wasn't a home run hitter by today's standards, but hit hit 20 or more five times, socking 32 in 1982 and 30 in 1983. He drove in 120 runs or more three times, setting the Brewers record with 126 in 1983. He'd hold that record until Fielder shattered it in 2009.

You know what? I'll stop babbling. Let's just compare the stats for those seven seasons.

Cooper 1977-83 991 4324 605 1262 156 667 252 447 .316 .354 .504 .858 2013
Fielder 2005-11 998 4210 571 996 230 656 566 779 .282 .390 .540 .929 1904

Wow. I actually expected this to fall heavily in Fielder's favor. But while Prince is king in the power numbers, Cooper takes runs, hits (by a lot), RBI, batting average and even total bases. 

I guess it's just a reminder of how great Cooper was during those days. We're talking now about how the Brewers won't be able to afford Fielder because he's such an immense talent. Well, Cooper was much the same, he was just doing it at a later stage in his career.

As far as recognition goes, Cooper was a five-time All-Star (all with the Brewers) and won three consecutive Silver Sluggers from 1980 through 1982. He was the best hitter at his position during that era. Fielder won a Silver Slugger, hit 50 homers in a season, made three All-Star Games, won one Home Run Derby and one All-Star Game MVP.

As far as postseason performances go, neither player was a dynamo. After a brutal NLDS in 2008, Fielder had a passable 2011, but he's still hitting .192 lifetime with four homers and a .817 OPS. Though Cooper had that glorious hit in the 1982 ALCS, he was otherwise a postseason flop, hitting .227 with one homer and a .558 OPS.

So does Prince Fielder finally take the prize as the franchise's signature first baseman? I think so. The passage of time often drugs the brains of the old-timers, and we tend to glorify the past more than we should. But at the same time, Prince Fielder was bigger than life, his impact is fresh on our minds, and many fans never saw Cooper play.

I don't know if my 10 year-old, seven-year-old or three-year-old sons have a signature Prince Fielder memory like the Cecil Cooper one that I hold. But even so, there are so many good Fielder memories. So many home runs. I don't know that the one moment is necessary.

In the end, they were both great players, and we were lucky to have both Coop and Prince don blue and yellow. They may have had differing styles and differing demeanors, but they both had beards. And dammit... they were awesome.

Thanks again to Jon for taking the time. In addition to all the links above, you can follow Jon at @BrewCrewLive for his thoughts on the current team.