Joe Cochran knows every inch of Fenway Park and all its interior confines, too. He is a ballpark legend who’s been there for the good times – three world championships since 2004 – and some of the not-so-good times.
Cochran began working for the Fenway ground crew in 1984 with legendary groundskeeper Joe Mooney. Cochran’s father had passed away in 1982 and he was looking for an opportunity in his career.
“I grew up down the Cape in Yarmouth,” said Cochran, who has lived in Chelsea with his wife, Marcy (Rosenberg), for 20 years. “My best buddy is Johnny Donovan and I came to live with the Donovans on Washington Avenue. Johnny [whose father, John Donovan, was vice president of the Red Sox] asked me if I would consider working on the ground crew. I was going to the University of Maine at the time. I started my first job. The Red Sox provided me structure at a young age and I never left.”
As a member of the ground crew, one of Cochran’s special off-field responsibilities was transporting Mrs. Jean Yawkey to and from her residence at The Ritz.
“Mrs. Yawkey was quite a lady,” said Cochran.
Cochran became the manager of the visiting team’s clubhouse for two seasons before taking the job as Red Sox equipment manager in 1992. He held that position through the 2011 season. He now works as the visiting team’s clubhouse manager.
“I traveled with the team for 20 years,” said Cochran. “I saw it all. It’s a privilege to work here. Our ownership is great. I’m very grateful.”
When he says he’s seen it all, he means it. Cochran has the dream job for anyone who loves Major League Baseball and being around the ballpark every day.
He has seen every stadium in the American League and several in the National League. He traveled with the Boston Red Sox for two decades. He had a front row seat for the Sox’s World Series title in 2004, ending a drought of 86 years. He has World Series championship rings and has known every player, coach, and official in the Sox organization.
“You’re with the players every day for eight months on the plane, on the buses, in the clubhouse,” said Cochran. “For 20 years, you’re living that lifestyle and your friends are guys like Mike Stanley, Tim Naehring, Bret Saberhagen, and Tim Wakefield. That’s the baseball life.”
Cochran is held in high regard by the ballplayers, coaches, and team officials. He is well known for his professionalism, his warmth, his wit, his personality, and his work – which has to be close to perfect every day.
“Whatever we can do, so the ballplayers don’t have to worry about anything and can do their job on the field, we’re here to just do whatever we can to make it easier for them.”
Cochran was asked which city he likes best in the American League.
“They’re all great cities. You really didn’t have a lot of time to explore the cities because you’re working. But there’s New York, Chicago – Kansas City is a great town. You become friendly with the different ground crews and clubhouse guys in each stadium.”
Cochran was asked about some of the daily interactions he might have witnessed but he wouldn’t comment on life behind the scenes.
“In any job you see things happen,” said Cochran. “There have been so many players through the years that I’ve grown to respect for their skill and talent. Baseball is not an easy game. If it were, we’d all be playing it and getting paid for it. A lot goes on to prepare for a game. It’s a long season and I didn’t have to play the games. It’s a grind.”
Cochran said he was excited to receive the World Series rings from the Red Sox.
“No. 1 it’s great to be affiliated with the Red Sox. It’s a great place to work and the organization is generous. I saw some tough years when I first started working here. We’ve been lucky here the last 10-12 years. We’ve had success. It’s not an easy thing to do to win a World Series.”
Cochran still keeps in touch with former Red Sox manager Jimy Williams. In fact, when Cochran and his wife were considering buying a home in Chelsea, they consulted Jimy Williams for advice.
Cochran has developed a love for the city in which his wife, Marcy, grew up and attended school. Her father, Eddy Rosenberg, was an owner of Murray and Eddy’s, a landmark delicatessen on Broadway for many years.
“She has been with me from the start,” said Cochran. “She’s a big part of the reason I stayed in Chelsea. We started dating and I met her friends and those people have become a big part of my life.”
Looking back at a life well spent in the Major League Baseball community, Cochran says it’s been a great ride professionally and personally.
“I’ve been blessed in life,” said Cochran. “I lost my father at a young age. I needed structure and this place provided it. They gave me an opportunity to continue working here and I’m glad I did.”