The Coopers have since grown to love Milwaukee. They live year-round in suburban Mequon in a three-bedroom Cape Cod-style house. They're planning to build another house nearby. "Milwaukee is a town, not a city." Cooper says with affection. "If I were in a city, I'd be out of here like a shot at the end of the season, heading back to Texas. But we like it here."
Cooper has become one of the most beloved players on a team of love objects. When Cooper so much as adjusts his socks on the diamond, he sets up choruses of "Coooop...Coooop" from the fans. Driving through town in his beige Mercedes with its personalized COOOOP license plate, he's cheered by other motorists. He is one of the guiding forces of Athletes for Youth, an organization that provides recreation and counseling for local youngsters. "I always believe that if you play in a place, you're taking something from the community that you should give back," says Cooper. "Besides, I like working with kids."
When the Red Sox were last in town, Cooper held a session behind the Brewers' dugout with about a dozen members of Athletes for Youth. He introduced them to visitors Rice and Boggs and to his own teammate, Don Sutton, each of whom spoke for a few minutes. Then Cooper summed up. "You're living in a golden age right now," he told the youngsters. "You can be anything you want to be. You don't have to be a sports star. There are other things in life. The main thing is education."
Cooper's $1 million-per-sea-son contract has another five years to run. When it expires, he says. "I'm through. That will be 16 years in the majors and that's enough. I'm taking a job counseling now so I'll be prepared when the time comes. I don't want to be one of those people who miss playing so much they can't stand it. I know I won't miss it."
He's standing in his living room, gazing out at a backyard that recedes into a kind of suburban wilderness. The sight of all that empty space warms him. This may not be real country, but it's close. He's asked if he will ever regret not being as famous as he should be. He looks surprised. "I don't need all that attention," he says slowly. "All this is temporary, anyway. What's permanent is being what you want to be. What matters is spiritual well-being. All I've ever wanted is a nice simple life. My teammates and the people I work for appreciate me. Milwaukee appreciates me." He shrugs as if to say, "Who can ask for anything more?"