The Cooney family of Cranston was Rhode Island’s first family of baseball and the first family inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. Father James Cooney was born in Cranston on July 9, 1865 and sons Henry (b. 1892), Frank (b. 1893), James E. (Jimmy Jr. – b. August 24, 1894) and John (James J. – b. March 18, 1901).
The elder Cooney played shortstop from 1890 through 1892 for the Chicago Colts (later Cubs) and Washington of the National League. His three-season major league batting average was .242. From 1892 through 1899 Cooney played for Providence, by then a minor league team, and in 1900 played in the Connecticut State League for Bristol. He died in 1903 at age 37.
Henry (Hank) played baseball for Portland, and Fitchburg/Manchester in the New England League. He also played alongside his brother Jimmy for the Worcester Busters.
Frank was a well-known amateur ballplayer and as an employee of the Tate Cranston Print Works he played for the Print Works’ nine.
James E. (Scoops) when in his teens played semi-pro baseball in the Manufacturers League and the New England League before he signed on to play professional major league baseball in both the American and National leagues. His major league debut occurred on September 22, 1917 for the Boston Red Sox. A short stop – like his father – and second baseman his career spanned seven seasons playing for six teams. After a year (1917) with the Red Sox, he played for the New York Giants (1919), the St. Louis Cardinals (1924 – 1925), Chicago Cubs (1926 – 1927), Philadelphia Phillies (1927) and the Boston Braves (1928). His greatest claim to fame came on May 30, 1927 when playing for the Chicago Cubs he became only the sixth player of the modern era to complete an unassisted triple play. As his nickname suggests, “Scoops” was known mainly for his fielding ability. His seven-year batting average was .262. Scoops lived a long life and died on August 7, 1991 just days away from his 97th birthday.
John was the most successful of the Cooney boys when it came to baseball. Before signing-on to play major league baseball, he played for the Willimantic team of the American Thread Athletic Association where on August 20, 1920 he pitched a perfect game. In the majors he played twenty seasons for the Boston Braves of the National League; his debut game occurred on April 19, 1921. In the twilight of his career he played for two seasons (1943 and 1944) for the Brooklyn Dodgers. During Johnny’s 20-year career he had a very respectable .286 lifetime batting average with a season high of .319 in 1941. Johnny died at age 85 in 1986.
Russell J. DeSimone