By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
His nickname was the Leamington Workhorse.
And that’s exactly what Bob Hooper was for the hapless Philadelphia A’s in 1950. In 45 games – including 20 starts and 25 relief appearances – that season, he managed to register 15 of the club’s 52 wins.
Born in Leamington, Ont., in 1922, the Canuck right-hander would pitch parts of six major league seasons from 1950 to 1955, finishing with a 40-41 record and a 4.80 ERA in 194 contests. He also toed the rubber for the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds.
After hanging up his playing spikes, he managed in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization from 1957 to 1960 and served as a scout for the New York Mets in 1963. He also became a high school gym teacher in New Brunswick, N.J.
But despite his impressive professional baseball career, Hooper is rarely talked about in Canadian baseball history circles (I’m as guilty as anyone). So on the 41st anniversary of his death (at the age of 56 in Brunswick, N..J.), it seems like a good time to shine the spotlight on him.
Here are five things you should know about Bob Hooper:
-Hooper was born in Leamington, Ont., but, according to his SABR bio, he moved to South Orange, N.J. to live with his aunt and uncle when he was young. He attended elementary school and high school in New Jersey.
-On April 19, 1950, he became just the second Canadian to earn a save in their major league debut when he tossed three scoreless innings in relief of starter Hank Wyse to help the A’s to a 6-1 win over the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium. Hooper allowed two hits and struck out two. For the record, the first Canadian to earn a save in their MLB debut (hat tip to Scott Crawford at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for this information) was Ed Pinnance (Walpole Island, Ont.), who coincidentally also notched a save with the A’s against the Senators in Washington almost 47 years earlier, on September 14, 1903.
-When Hooper collected 15 wins for the A’s in 1950, he became the third Canadian pitcher to register 15 or more wins for the A’s in four seasons. Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Phil Marchildon (Penetanguishene, Ont.) won 19 for the club in 1947, while fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dick Fowler (Toronto, Ont.) secured 15 wins for the A’s in back-to-back seasons in 1948 and 1949. There has never been another time when three different Canadian pitchers have won 15 or more games for the same major league club in a four-season span.
-Hooper tossed an 11-inning complete game for the A’s on June 15, 1951 to record the win in a 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Shibe Park. Hooper scattered six hits and struck out three. This was the most innings he ever hurled in a major league game.
-Hooper’s best all-around big league performance came a month later, on July 15, 1951 against the White Sox at Comiskey Park. In that contest, he not only tossed a complete game, permitting just one run on 10 hits in nine innings, but he also clubbed a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning off White Sox right-hander Randy Gumpert to account for all three of the A’s runs in their 3-1 victory.
-Hooper was the first from Leamington, Ont., to play in the big leagues. On July 4, 1998, Danny Klassen became the second when he started at second base for the Arizona Diamondbacks in their 4-3 win over the Houston Astros at the Astrodome.