Arley Wilbur Cooper was born February 24, 1892 in Bearsville (Tyler County), West Virginia to Jesse and Maggie (Lough) Cooper. Bearsville is a tiny hamlet in the southern part of Tyler County, and the Cooper and Grim families had lived there for quite some time.
Jesse Cooper had been a teacher in his younger years, but became a farmer. Sometime after 1895, he moved the family north to Washington County, Ohio, where the family was in 1900, and eventually settling by 1910 near McConnelsville in Morgan County, Ohio.
Wilbur grew up helping out on the farm, but in 1911 when he was nineteen years old he got the opportunity to play professional baseball for a minor league team in Marion, Ohio. That team, the Marion Diggers, played in the Ohio State League, and was partly owned by Warren G. Harding. Harding, of course, went on to be President of the United States, but at that time he was owner of the local newspaper, the Marion Daily Star. He knew a good player when he saw Cooper, who went 17-11 that year.
The following year, 1912, Cooper was pitching for the Columbus Senators in the American Association. He again had a banner year, going 16-9 for the season. The Pittsburgh Pirates heard about him, supposedly from Harding, and bought him from the Senators on August 25, 1912 for the paltry sum of $3000 and two players to be named. They put him to work quickly. His first game in the majors was August 29, 1912 when he was just twenty years old. He played in six games for the Pirates that year, starting four and going 3-0 with an ERA of 1.66. Wilbur had found his baseball home.
Wilbur played for the Pirates through the 1924 season. On October 27, 1924, in a very unpopular trade with fans, Cooper was traded to the Chicago Cubs, along with first baseman Charlie Grimm and shortstop Rabbit Maranville in exchange for right-handed pitcher Vic Aldridge and two first basemen, George Grantham and Al Niehaus. That meant that Cooper would miss the 1925 season with the Pirates when they won the NL pennant.
Cooper played for the Cubs for 1925 and the first few months of 1926. He was released on waivers and the Detroit Tigers picked him up on June 7, 1926. Those last two years were not good ones for him; he was 0-4 during his stint with the Tigers, and a combined 14-19 for his last two years. His last game in the majors was July 21, 1926, just six weeks after being picked up by the Tigers.
Meanwhile, sometime around 1916 Wilbur married Edith Warden. They had a daughter in the early 1920s. With a family to support, Cooper kept playing baseball in the minor leagues. He bounced around, playing with four minor league teams (Toledo Mud Hens, Oakland Oaks, Shreveport Sports and San Antonio Indians) between 1926 and the end of the 1930 season. In the mid-1930s he managed for three years in the minor league Pennsylvania State Association. One of those teams was the Jeannette Little Pirates, who won their league championship under Wilbur Cooper. A player on that team, Al(fred) DeRenne, would go on to marry Wilbur's daughter.
After baseball, Cooper sold real estate in the Pittsburgh area before moving to California in 1947. According to an online biography by David Cicotello, he is one of only two pitchers with more than 3000 innings pitched and an ERA of less than 3.00 to not be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He died August 7, 1973 of a heart attack in Encino, California, leaving three daughters and three grandchildren.
Wilbur Cooper's baseball legacy has carried on for three more generations. His son-in-law, Al DeRenne played minor league ball for a few years until an injury in WWII cut short his career. Grandson Coop DeRenne played for the Montreal Expos organization in the early 1970s until his career was also ended by an injury. Great-grandson Keoni DeRenne has been playing professional baseball since since 2000, mostly in the minor leagues. In 2006 Keoni played for affiliates of the Boston Red Sox, and signed with the Cleveland Indians organization in January 2007.