Cochrane’s Hall of Fame plaque notes that he “compiled a notable record as a player and manager. The spark of the Athletics’ championship teams of 1929-30-31, he had an average batting mark of .346 for those three years. Led Detroit to two league championships and a World Series title in 1935.” Cochrane’s lifetime .320 average is the highest of any ML catcher.
Cochrane demonstrated his leadership and versatility in his years at Boston University, where he was not only a quarterback, punter, and running back, but also at times the trainer and coach. Cochrane’s competitive nature secured him the sobriquet “Black Mike.” “Lose a one-to-nothing game,” said teammate Doc Cramer, “and you didn’t want to get into the clubhouse with Grove and Cochrane. You’d be ducking stools and gloves and bats and whatever else would fly.” A natural leader, Mickey was also quick enough of foot to occasionally be placed in the leadoff spot, but more often he hit third in the order.
Cochrane joined the A’s in 1925 and hit .330 that year, the first of his nine .300 seasons. On May 21, 1925, the lefthanded batter hit three home runs in a single game. That season was the first of his four campaigns as fielding leader among AL catchers. During his career, Cochrane twice led in errors, but led catchers six times in putouts and twice each in double plays and assists. He caught over 100 games in all but his final two seasons. Cochrane batted a career-best .357 in 1930, and reached career highs in homers (23), RBI (112), and runs scored (118) two years later. He hit for the cycle twice in his career (on July 22, 1932, and August 2, 1933). He was named AL MVP in 1928 with Philadelphia and in 1934 with Detroit. Chosen as a player to two All-Star teams, he also managed the AL to victory in the 1935 contest.
Cochrane played in five World Series. In his first, 1929, he scored the tying run in Game Four as the A’s overcame an 8-0 Cub lead with a 10-run seventh inning. The A’s won the game en route to their first World Championship since 1913. In the 1930 WS, Cochrane hit an opening-game homer off Burleigh Grimes of the Cardinals, and a HR off Flint Rhem in Game Two. The A’s won both contests. In 1935, on what he later called his “greatest day in baseball,” Detroit’s player-manager scored the run that beat the Cubs in the sixth and final Series game. Though he played in just 315 games over four seasons with the Tigers, Cochrane was chosen by Detroit fans in 1969 as the team’s all-time catcher.
Black Mike’s playing career ended abruptly on May 25, 1937, when his skull was fractured by a pitch from Yankee Bump Hadley. Cochrane, who had been the Tiger pilot since 1934, continued as manager until August 6, 1938. His .582 winning percentage (413-297) tops all who have spent at least one full season at the Detroit helm.
After WWII erupted, Cochrane was given a Navy commission to coach the Great Lakes Naval Base baseball team. In 1944, Great Lakes won 33 in a row, and beat the Cleveland Indians 17-4, to finish 48-2. Among his Great Lakes players were Tigers Barney McCosky, Schoolboy Rowe and Virgil Trucks, as well as John Mize, Billy Herman, and Gene Woodling. Following the 1944 season, the Navy assigned Lieutenant Commander Cochrane to the Pacific and replaced him at Great Lakes with Bob Feller. Cochrane eventually served as coach and GM for the A’s, scout for the Yankees and Tigers, and VP of the Tigers. He and longtime batterymate Lefty Grove were elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947 by the BBWAA. Another Hall of Famer, Mickey Mantle, was named after Cochrane, his father’s favorite player.