Born in Leavenworth, Kansas, which is best known for its military cage for crooks, Duff Cooley was a member of one of baseball’s all-time great outfields. With the Phillies in the late 1890s, Cooley teamed with Hall of Famers Ed Delahanty and Elmer Flick to give Philadelphia an extraordinary pasture. But Duff is best known today was the fellow whose job Ty Cobb took when he came up in 1905.
Cooley made his debut with the old St. Louis Browns, back when they participated in the National League, in 1893. Used sparingly as a freshman, Duff nevertheless led the Browns with a .346 batting average. After that solid rookie showing, Cooley’s playing time steadily increased in an era of few Major League teams. Throughout most of the 1890s, the National League was the only Major League in operation.
Duff enjoyed his breakout year in 1895 when he hit .342 as an everyday player. His 20 triples were good for forth in the league and he paced his Browns teammates in runs scored, hits and total bases. The Browns finished in 11th place (out of 12 teams) in ’95 due in large part to an atrocious pitching staff. The Browns traded Duff to the Phillies in 1896 but didn’t get the needed pitchers in return, instead they got hot hitter Tuck Turner whose career wasn’t as substantial as Cooley’s.
Cooley had some of his best years in Philadelphia, patrolling the pasture with Delahanty and Flick. And Duff could really cover some ground. With the Phillies in 1897, he finished third in outfield putouts and then topped the loop with 352 putouts in 1898. During those seasons, Duff’s bat was just as sharp. He hit .329 in 1897 with a nifty .386 on-base percentage and hit .312 in 1898 as the only non-Hall of Fame Philly to hit .300: Delahanty, Flick and Nap Lajoie all topped the .300 plateau.
Cooley’s numbers began to tail off in 1899 as his batting average fell to .277 in ’99 and then to an all-time low of .201 in 1900 with the Pirates. After his dismal year with the Bucs, Duff’s contract was sold to the Beaneaters of Boston. Able to turn things around in Beantown, Cooley led NL left fielders in RBI during the 1902 season. He was able to work his batting average back up to where it belonged.
The Beaneaters finished in sixth place in 1903 under skipper Al Buckenberger. Cooley was clearly the man who made the offense go. He paced the club in hits, doubles, triples and RBI. Cooley tallied 70 RBI for a losing outfit in 1903 and did the same in 1904 with an identical 70 RBI. He paced National League left fielders in homeruns in what amounted to his last good season. The Tigers selected him off waivers in 1905 and he played one final season with Detroit.
G 1,317/R 849/H 1, 579/2B 180/3B 102/HR 26/RBI 557/SB 224/BA .294/SA .380/OBP .342