|Johnny Hopp, Hastings
Class of 1934. There's always be a contention that the 1934 high school graduate's all-around sports career in high school at Hastings put this Nebraska native on the road to a long, successful career in major league baseball. Lifetime batting average of .296 in 14 major league seasons. Five World Series appearances with the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees. Top batting year was .339 for Pittsburgh Pirates in 1950.
John (Cotney) Hopp was a vibrant player with an enthusiasm for the game that when combined with his talent propelled him into the graces of major league coaches. Born and raised in Hastings, Nebraska, Johnny was the leader of many sandlot baseball games as a kid. At age 19, he was signed by a Yankee farm team in Norfolk, NE John tells the story of his debut in which his excitement and awe of his new adventure caught him off gaurd. Having struck out three times his first game, his farther in a visit with the manager said, "well I guess we'll have to take the kid home." The manager put his mind at ease telling him, "John has a good swing and good speed," and assured Mr. Hopp that with a little batting practice Johnny would be okay and that he was!
Although the Norfolk team didn't win the league, Johnny's performance was good enough to give him a chance at AAA ball the next year. The jump from the Nebraska State League to AAA was the biggest challenge according to Johnny in a February 2000 interview.
In 1939 Hopp was picked up by the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1941 he was voted the Most Popular Player in the League.
In 1942 he won his first World Series, defeating the Yankees for the title. 1943 saw the Cards and the Yankees meeting again, but this time the Yanks won by the same margin the were defeated by the year before, 4 games to 1. In 1944 two St. Louis teams met in the series and again Johnny picked up another ring defeating the Browns 4 games to 2.
Near the end of the 1950 season Hopp was traded to the Yankees and his first at bat, Hopp ripped a 3 run homer. Upon reaching the dugout, Jolt'n Joe DiMaggio turned to him and said, "nice start kid."
That year with the Yankees Hopp won his third World Series ring and his fourth the following year.
His career ended abruptly when he blew a hamstring while playing for the Detroit Tigers, an injury he would not recover from.
John finished his career coaching before returning to work in Hastings. John was an avid hunter and recalled many a pheasant hunting trip into the hills of Cotesfield, north of St. Paul, NE