Tuesday, July 5, 2011
The 10 Best Catchers in Major League Baseball History
10 Best Catchers in Major League Baseball History
While big time home run kings and pitchers with blinding speed often get the glory, the men behind the plate often go unnoticed.
With perhaps the toughest job on the diamond, requiring durability, a solid arm, the mind to call a game and, of course, the ability to hit, catchers are a unique and rare breed.
So, in honor of the men behind the masks, we put together a list of the 10 that did it the best.
Eight of them are in the Hall of Fame because of it, with the two others almost certainly making their way to Cooperstown someday.
So, read on and help us celebrate the 10 best catchers in Major League Baseball history.
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10. Gabby Hartnett-Chicago Cubs (1922-40), New York Giants (1941)
Probably one of the best defensive catchers in the game’s history, Hartnett could hit the ball pretty well too, batting .297 lifetime with 297 homers, including one of the most famous walk-off home runs in baseball folklore --the "Homer in the Gloamin." A famous blast in 1938 that helped lead the Cubs to the pennant. A six-time All-Star, Hartnett was the league’s MVP in 1935, after hitting .344 with 13 homers and 91 RBIs.
9. Gary Carter-Montreal Expos (1974-1984, 1992), New York Mets (1985-1989), San Francisco Giants (1990), Los Angeles Dodgers (1991)
The "Kid" was one of the best all-around catchers of the 1980s, winning three Gold Glove awards and five Silver Slugger awards while surpassing 100 RBIs in a single season four times. Carter finished his career with 324 homers in 19 seasons, and was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 2003. The squeaky-clean clutch hitter was an 11-time All-Star who played a key role on the 1986 New York Mets championship team, batting .276 with nine RBIs as the Mets won in seven games over the Boston Red Sox.
8. Bill Dickey-New York Yankees (1928-43, 1946)
Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1954 after a 19-year baseball career with the New York Yankees, Dickey posted some of the best offensive performances by a catcher hitting over 20 home runs with 100 RBIs in four consecutive seasons. The ragin’ Cajun known for his hot temper, batted 313 in his career, better than .300 in 10 of his first 11 seasons, and hit .362 in 1936, the highest average for a catcher until Joe Mauer hit .365 in 2009. With a strong arm and durability, he was also legendary defensively. He made 11 All-Star teams and his Yankees went to the World Series nine times, winning eight championships.
7. Carlton Fisk-Boston Red Sox (1969, 1971-80), Chicago White Sox (1981-93)
"Pudge" as he was know by his teammates, was considered to be the best American League catcher of the 80s, and probably would have been for the entire league had it not have been for NL catcher Johnny Bench. The 10-time AL All-Star caught 2,226 games in 24 seasons, and he hit 376 homers with a .269 average, second all-time among catchers, and first at the time of his retirement. However, Fisk will be most remembered for hitting a walk-off homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, giving the Red Sox a 7–6 win and forcing a seventh and deciding game of the fall classic.
6. Ivan Rodriguez-Texas Rangers (1991-2002, 2009), Florida Marlins (2003), Detroit Tigers (2004-2008), New York Yankees (2008), Houston Astros (2009), Washington Nationals (2010- )
The only active player on our list, Rodriguez holds the record from most games caught by a catcher, passing Carlton Fisk on June 17, 2009, after catching his 2,227th game. With a laser arm and great game calling skills, the native Puerto Rican had tallied more than 300 career home runs and a career batting average of .298 entering 2011. But his best season was in 1999. That year “Pudge” brought home the AL MVP honors after hitting .332 with 35 homers, 113 RBIs, 25 stolen bases and one of his 13 career Gold Gloves. He also led the Marlins to a World Series title in 2003 earning his first ever National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player.
5. Mike Piazza-Los Angeles Dodgers (1992-98), Florida Marlins (1998), New York Mets (1998-2005), San Diego Padres (2006), Oakland A's (2007)
While never considered a great defensive catcher, the 12-time All Star could sure swing the lumber, recording the most home runs ever hit by a catcher with 396, with a career total of 427. However, it was his 1997 season with the Dodgers that would define Piazza’s career, as he hit .362 with 40 home runs, 124 RBIs, and 201 hits. Besides winning the Louisville Silver Slugger Award a record 10 consecutive times, Piazza tied a Mets club record on July 18, 2000 when he hit his third grand slam of the season and had one RBI in 15 consecutive games that same year, the second-longest RBI streak in Mets history.
4. Roy Campanella-Brooklyn Dodgers (1948-57)
Besides being one of the first players to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, "Campy", was perhaps one of the best catchers in the game’s history, setting a single-season record for the men in masks, with 41 homers and 142 RBIs in 1953. Besides being selected to appear in eight consecutive All-Star games, Campanella was also awarded the NL MVP three times between 1951 and ’55, and in each of his MVP seasons, batted over .300, while tallying over 30 home runs and over 100 RBIs. His career ended because an auto accident in 1958 that left him paralyzed, but not before he left his mark on the game.
3. Gordon Stanley Cochrane-Philadelphia Athletics (1925-33), Detroit Tigers (1934-37)
Known to his teammates as "Mickey", the two two-time AL MVP and Hall of Fame catcher finished his short 12-year MLB career—after being hit in the head by a pitch in 1937--hitting an average .320. He was a cornerstone in the lineup of some great Philadelphia teams in the 1920s and 1930s, winning pennants in three consecutive seasons. He also was player-manager on two pennant winning teams in Detroit, and a World Series-winning team in 1935. In the same year, Cochrane became the first MLB player to ever appear on the cover of Time Magazine.
2. Johnny Bench -Cincinnati Reds (1967-83)
With the right amounts of power at the plate and defensive ability, Bench started his pro career wining the 1968 NL Rookie of the Year and went on to be selected 14-times as an All-Star while leading the league in RBIs three time and being named the NLs Most Valuable Players twice. Bench was no doubt the best offensive and defensive catcher of the 1970s, and perhaps the biggest contributing member on Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” that won six division titles, four National League pennants, and two World Series championships. Bench also won 10 Gold Gloves before retiring as the career home run leader for catchers, a record that stood until surpassed by Carlton Fisk and the current record holder, Mike Piazza.
1. Yogi Berra -New York Yankees (1946-1963), New York Mets (1965)
A three-time AL MVP, Berra was perhaps the purist hitter the game’s has ever seen. He was a champion among the fans, receiving MVP votes for 15 years in a row - and was an 18-time AL All-Star who won 10 World Series as a Yankee in a 16-year span. He hit 358 homers and led the Yankees in RBIs in every season from 1949-55 on teams loaded with future Hall of Famers. He also caught Don Larsen's World Series perfect game in 1956.