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Saturday, January 1, 2022

Don Cooper made his pitchers feel comfortable over three decades as White Sox coach, two decades in bigs

As the White Sox drove to their 2005 title, The Chicago Tribune featured pitching coach Don Cooper, calling his approach precise and positive.

One of the keys to that 2005 club, Jose Contreras called his pitching coach an "incredible person."

"He's not only a great pitching coach but he's a great human being, a great friend," Contreras told The Tribune. "And he's a very funny guy. From the first time I met Cooper I felt really comfortable with him. I felt like it wasn't my job, it was more like a friendship."

Cooper built that kind reputation over more than 15 years with the organization, four in Chicago as the White Sox pitching coach. He went on to see another 15 seasons, all spent as the club's top pitching coach, through the 2020 season, when he was finally let go.

Cooper's long career in the game began as a player in 1978, taken by the Yankees in the 17th round of the draft out of the New York Institute of Technology.

Cooper started with the Yankees at single-A Fort Lauderdale and short-season Oneonta. He made AA West Haven and AAA Columbus in 1979 and saw both levels again in 1980.

He moved to the Twins in the Rule 5 draft for 1981 and made the majors. He saw 27 outings, two starts,  with a 4.30 ERA.

Cooper saw another six outings for the Twins in 1982, four with the Blue Jays in 1983 and seven with the Yankees in 1985 to round out his major league playing career.

He continued in the minors for two more seasons, then started his coaching career in 1988, with the White Sox at single-A South Bend.

He arrived at single-A Sarasota in 1989, then AA Birmingham in 1992 and AAA Nashville in 1995. He got his first look at major league coaching mid-1995, with the White Sox.

"This isn't pressure, this is fun," Cooper told The South Bend Tribune after the move. "I'm grateful, thankful, lucky, appreciative, all of those things. This is something I'm looking forward to."

Cooper returned to Nashville for 1996, then spent five seasons as a coordinator. In 2002, he returned to Chicago as pitching coach and stayed there through 2020. Along the way, he helped the club take the 2005 title.

Though Cooper later described the "hurt" the firing caused after so long, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn indicated at the time he wanted to take a moment to appreciate Cooper's contributions over three decades.

"The memories we have," Hahn told reporters, according to The Chicago Tribune, "not only from ’05 but in terms of the development of some of these pitchers throughout the recent history of this organization, from Mark Buehrle to Jon Garland and Chris Sale, some of the big names that thrilled us over the years in part thanks to Don’s efforts"

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,816
Made the Majors:1,286-33.7%-X
Never Made Majors:2,530-66.3%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:526
10+ Seasons in the Minors:321

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