When Connie Mack brought him in to catch in 1925, he took over for a very good catcher in Cy Perkins (Cochrane would succeed Perkins as Detroit Tigers manager for the 1938 season). Some still blame Cochrane's inability to throw out base stealers as the reason the Athletics lost the 1931 World Series to the St Louis Cardinals, but the fact remains Cochrane's game calling ability was an asset to the pitching staff of the Athletics. Mack's unwillingness to overspend for even his own top players led to the trade of Cochrane to the Detroit Tigers, where he immediately took over as team's manager. This is where Cochrane's impact on a pitching staff could be felt the most, as the Tigers pitching staff improved dramatically within his first season with the team. Cochrane's strategy also paid off as he used a couple platoons, mostly in the outfield, to get the most out of all the players. Cochrane hit .320, 2, 76 in 1934, but his impact on his team and the American League was felt enough that he was selected Most Valuable Player, ahead of the great Lou Gehrig, who won the Triple Crown that season for the Yankees. The Tigers would make it to the World Series for the 1st time since 1909. Though they lost to the Cardinals in 1934, Cochrane led them to the World Series Championship a year later as they beat the Chicago Cubs in the fall classic.
It was after the World Series Championship where things started to go downhill for Cochrane. He suffered a nervous breakdown during the 1936 season, missing 42 games behind the bench and only playing 44 games on the field. Del Baker would be the interim manager for the Tigers, whose pitching staff suffered mightily without Cochrane's assistance.
Mickey seemed to be ok during the 1937 season, as he was hitting .307 with the Tigers sitting in 2nd place when one pitch nearly ended his life. It was thrown by Yankees RHP Bump Hadley and the pitch fractured Cochrane's skull. Mickey was unconscious for 10 days and would never play again. 17 years earlier, Cleveland Indians SS Ray Chapman was fatally struck by a fastball thrown by Yankees RHP Carl Mays. The fact that a thrown baseball nearly killed a baseball great led MLB to attempt to have batters wear helmets. In spite of the sense it made, players were still very reluctant to use the helmets. Teams such as the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cleveland Indians started using helmets by 1941 and other teams started to follow suit. However, it wasn't until 1953 where MLB mandated that all batters wear helmets.
It is amazing to think what Mickey Cochrane could have accomplished had he not been struck by that pitch. Cochrane himself became an advocate for hitters to wear such gear and there was no question the injury took away from the burning fire and passion that Mickey was known for. He was known early on as "Black Mike," a symbol of his competitive fire. He returned to manage the Tigers in 1938 and was let go after 98 games, replaced once again by Baker. New York Yankees icon Mickey Mantle was named after Cochrane, who was without a doubt one of the best to play during his time.