1952 Topps: The Best Catcher of the 1940s Makes His Appearance

When Topps included Walker Cooper in its 1952 edition of baseball cards there was no question about who should be included in parts of the checklist. Most of the 4x champion (soon to be 5x) Yankees were there. Postseason clutch hitters Dick Sisler and Bobby Thomson were locks for inclusion. Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella were making names for themselves as new blood behind the plate. The old guard wasn’t without representation, either. Braves backstop Walker Cooper had made a name for himself as the best catcher of the 1940s and was coming off another impressive 1951 campaign. He appeared in 8 consecutive All-Star Games from 1942-1950 (no game played in 1945 due to WW2).

Cooper used his large size to physically overpower the competition. Well over 200 lbs. in most seasons, he was among the tallest players of his era and known for hitting the ball hard. One of his trademark hits was a broken bat homerun, a rarity managed only a few times in MLB games. He has a 10-RBI game under his belt and from time to time would try to turn triples into inside the park homeruns. He threw out 45% of baserunners attempting to steal.

Cooper would get nearly 15% of the BBWAA votes for the Hall of Fame in the mid-1970s.

Fun Story: In his later professional years Cooper moved into part time playing roles behind the plate. He was still catching at age 42 when his daughter became engaged to fellow St. Louis Cardinals player Don Blasingame. Cooper often told this story accompanied by the remark that it was time to quit “when you’ve got a daughter old enough to marry a teammate.”

Above: Cooper’s son-in-law.