I get this a lot.
"What's your favorite team?"
"Oh, you're from Wisconsin?"
"Uhhhh well, your family must be from Wisconsin."
"No. Oregon originally. They moved to Alaska in 1952."
"Well then, how exactly did that happen?"
"Two Words: Cecil Cooper."
And that's it. Cecil Cooper with an assist to Vin Scully.
I became a baseball fan for life with the 1979 World Series. For some reason, watching Willie Stargell launch moon shots into the night against the heavily favored, clean cut white-boy goodness of the marketing department's dream team, Jim Palmer and the Baltimore Orioles, appealed to a 9 year old kid sitting too close to the TV for his own good in Anchorage. Therefore it could be perfectly reasonable to assume I would become a Pirates fan. Didn't happen.
No, the "We are Family" Buccos was just a taste, though I would love Pops Stargell 'till the day he died. It wasn't until the next summer when sitting alone in the basement, pretending to be cleaning, and again far too close to the Radiation King , I would hear the words that would change my life coming through the speaker.
"They're not booing they're chanting Coop!" Vin Scully don't lie. And there on the screen was my first geek love. The living approximation of everything every Mussolini like Little League coach had told me not to do. Cecil Cooper. Bent over, bat waggling back and forth, front foot a tappin'. He then proceeded to launch one into the right field stands at County against the Yankees. (which was why the Crew was on the NBC Game of the Week anyway)
So there it began. I scoured the morning papers for the Brewers box score for more info on Coop's magical season. I began to branch out of Coop's stats. "Ogilvy had another good game too.", "Why is Molitor always hurt?", "Why can't Moose Haas pitch every day?", "Why does Sal Bando play so freakin' much?" Being as I as the only Sports Fan in my family, the dog would usually tilt his head a bit and stare back at me without any decent answers and wondering when we were going to go outside and ride down to the creek to play with a stick.
The Brewers were on three more times on the Game of the Week playing Baltimore, New York and the hated Kansas City Royals. For as much as Coop was having a great season, all anybody could talk about was stupid George Brett. Do everything by the book George Brett. Boring as Wonder Bread George Brett. MVP lock George Brett. At least Vin Scully was with me every time Coop came up. "Cooper is one of the most feared hitters in the league, and one of the most underappreciated." I was appreciating plenty Vin. Even if it was by tape delay.
Still to this day, I think Coop was robbed in the MVP vote. I know the numbers. Brett hit .390 with only 1 fewer HR and 4 fewer RBI in 46 fewer games and 173 fewer AB. And the Royals went to the Playoffs. But explain that to a 10 year old in love. It was a conspiracy. Probably propagated by those white bread folks I was hearing so much about on The Jeffersons.
I not only took my Coop love to heart, but to the plate also. In Little League my swing went through a drastic change. "Stop moving your bat so much! Stand up!" Stalin would scream at me at the top of his lungs from the third base coaching box. No way. That was the way Brett hit. I was a Cooper guy. I walked a lot that year. Slapped a lot of singles and doubles the other way.
The year wound down and the Playoffs were filled with Yankees, Royals, Phillies and Astros. To show you how boring that was to me, I actually had to just look up that the Phillies beat the Royals in the World Series that year in six games. Yawn. Brett vs. Schmidt. Wonder Bread vs. Whole Wheat.
The next season finally rolled around and the Seahawks going 4-12 did nothing to staunch my burgeoning Cooper love. Nor did the strike. It just gave me more free time to be a kid. The dog was plenty happy. Coop still put up great numbers and the Brewers actually made the post-season only to lose the "Qualifying" series to the stupid Yankees, whom I didn't understand at the time, didn't even deserve to be there. Don't get my friend, a steadfast Reds supporter, started about the 1981 Cincinnati squad, who's record was 4 games better than any other NL team and didn't make the playoffs, unless you have an hour or so to kill.
My love now fully ensconced, the team's season was snuffed out by the hated Yankees and motor-mouthed Reggie Jackson. "Wait 'till next year" I shook my fist at the screen, finally giving in to my two sisters' ceaseless demands that the TV be switched to Little House on the Prairie. Nellie Olsen reminded me of Steve Garvey of the eventual champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Boooorrrriiiinnngg.
Then in any Brewer fan's heart, Next Year finally arrived.
The Seahawks had gone 6-10 and shown actual signs of being a football team so my off season hadn't been so terrible. The Brewers opened up lackadaisically with a 22-24 record the first two months. What? Could it be? Could Next Year suck? The Brewers had never regressed since I had gave them my undying attention. Then came Harvey. And the wins. 20-7 in June. I scoured the TV guide for Brewer sightings on Saturdays. And there they came. Coop was in the middle of one of the greatest offenses this side of the '27 Yankees and von Rundstedt marching into Belgium and France. Four players with 100 RBI led by Cooper's 121, Simmons finished with 97, 3 rib eyes short of the record of five players over 100. Go ahead, let Yount steal the MVP this time, at least he was a Brewer, I knew at the heart of it was Cecil Cooper big wagglin' bat.
All that stood in the way was Reggie Jackson's California Angels. He talked enough to be French.
Tommy John kept the Brewers bats quiet in the first game. Worrisome, but being down was more like home anyway. Game 2, another loss. Now announcers were saying it was over that it couldn't be done, just because few teams had. I was unmoved. Cooper had yet to be heard from. Game 3, Brewers win! Molitor homers and the Crew holds the lead. I told you. Still no Cooper sightings though. Hmmm