The International League was saddened to learn of the passing of former League President and IL Hall of Fame member Harold Cooper.
As a sixth grader in 1936, Columbus, OH native Harold Cooper was given an unpaid job as a clubhouse assistant with the local Minor League team, the Red Birds, partially to keep him from sneaking into the ballpark without a ticket. Harold's relationship with professional baseball and the stadium which formerly served as a home for Columbus' baseball franchise goes back even further when as a youth growing-up near what was then Red Bird Stadium he would deliver lunch to his grandfather who worked as the foreman for stadium construction. After advancing to the position of "paid" clubhouse boy, time at The Ohio State University and with the U.S. Coast Guard during WW II took him away from baseball and the ballpark. Returning to baseball in 1947, Harold worked in the Columbus based office of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (Minor League Baseball) before heading to Hutchinson, KS to run the Western Association club. After great success in Hutchinson, Harold returned to Columbus and entered private business before baseball came calling.
Following the 1954 season, the Cardinals moved their American Association affiliate from Columbus to Omaha, leaving Ohio's capital city without professional baseball. When the International League's Ottawa franchise needed a new home, Cooper was instrumental in landing a slot for Columbus in the IL in 1955. He was named the first General Manager of the new Columbus Jets, a post in which he would serve for 14 seasons. Personable, well-organized and widely respected, Cooper guided his club to a tremendous amount of success both on and off the field throughout the late 1950's and 60's. In 1965 he was honored as the International League Executive of the Year, as well as The Sporting News Triple-A Executive of the Year.
Cooper stepped down as General Manager of the Jets in 1968 and entered politics for what would turn-out to be a 17-year run as a County Commissioner. Two years later, the club was forced to drop out of the League due to soaring maintenance costs in a deteriorating ballpark. In the mid '70's County Commissioner Cooper helped spearhead the effort for Franklin County to purchase Jet Stadium and perform a multi-million dollar renovation, setting the stage for the city's return to the IL in 1977. The following winter, while still a County Commissioner, Cooper agreed to become President of the International League.
During his 13-year run as IL President Cooper earned several honors and distinctions. In 1984, Columbus' Franklin County Stadium was renamed Cooper Stadium. One year later he received the George Trautman Award (named for the former National Association and Columbus Red Birds' President who first hired Cooper in 1936) given to a National Association Executive for distinguished service to baseball. In 1988 Cooper received the Warren Giles Award in recognition of outstanding service as a League President.
Mr. Cooper was inducted into the International League Hall of Fame in August of 2007 along with longtime friend and former Clippers General Manager George Sisler, Jr.
After retiring after the 1990 season, Cooper served as a valued consultant and Vice-President of the International League. Mr. Cooper was 87 years old.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.