The smooth-fielding first baseman was one of the most consistent hitters of the late 1970s and early 1980s, always among the top batting and fielding leaders. But because he played at the same time as Rod Carew and George Brett, he never won a batting title.
Cooper was haunted by Carl Yastrzemski. As a young player in Boston, Cooper was forced to DH, and played first base only on the odd occasions when Yaz played the outfield or was rested. At the end of the 1976 season, the Red Sox realized they’d be better off with a power hitter than with Cooper, perceived as a singles hitter, so they swapped the lefty Cooper to get the powerful George Scott back from the Brewers. Cooper flourished, batting over .300 his first seven years in Milwaukee. He finished second to Rod Carew in the All-Star balloting for first base in 1978, but when Carew got hurt, instead of Cooper taking his place, Yaz was brought in from the outfield to play first base.
Cooper had his best year in 1980. He led the league in RBI with 122 and hit a career-high .352, with 25 HR. But George Brett had his flirtation with .400 that year, finishing at .390 and spoiling Cooper’s best shot at a batting title. Two years later, Cooper hit a career-high 32 HR and led Milwaukee to its comeback in the 1982 ALCS against the Angels. Down two games to none, the Brewers won three straight games at home, with Cooper singling in the tying and winning runs in the seventh inning of the final game. In 1983, he had his best power year, hitting .307, his last .300 season, with 30 HR and a league-leading and career-high 126 RBI.