St. Louis Cardinals History: Mort Cooper Goes AWOL


With World War Two continuing, several teams froze player salaries to cut costs. That did not sit well with Mort Cooper, who went AWOL from the St. Louis Cardinals on this day in 1945 due to his salary dispute.

Under normal circumstances, Mort Cooper would have earned a fairly large pay raise. He has three consecutive 20 win seasons, was a two time All Star, and won the 1942 MVP ward. The top pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Cooper helped lead the team to three consecutive World Series appearances, winning two championships.

However, this did not occur during normal circumstances. World War Two had erupted, leaving teams to cut costs wherever possible. The St. Louis Cardinals instituted a salary freeze, leaving Walker at the same level he was at before becoming a star. This led to quite the feud between he and Sam Breadon, the Cardinals owner.

Both sides refused to give in, leading to a great deal of acrimony. Those tensions reached a boiling point on this day in 1945, when Cooper left the Cardinals before a doubleheader against the Braves, returning to St. Louis.

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That would be his final action with the Cardinals. he remained in St. Louis, refusing to play for the team unless he was given more money or sent elsewhere. Cooper finally got his wish just over a week later, when he was traded to the Braves for pitcher Red Barrett and $60,000, five times Cooper’s salary that season.

While Barrett would go on to thrive in St. Louis, leading the National League in victories, Cooper did not have the same level of success. He won just seven games, with 78 innings pitched over his 20 games. Cooper did rebound to become an All Star for the final time in the following season, but only pitched 19 more games in the Majors after 1946.

After an impressive three year run, Mort Cooper wanted to get paid. When the St. Louis Cardinals refused to increase his salary, Cooper went AWOL on this day in 1945.

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