Top 15 MLB Catchers of the Live Ball Era
Top 15 MLB Catchers of the Live Ball Era
If Major League Baseball was a war instead of a sport, the man at the catcher’s position would be the General. He runs the game on the field from behind the plate. He makes the call of where a ball should be thrown to. If a runner is charging towards home plate, the catcher is the one that says bring it on, or throw it to first. Of course the catcher’s most important job is to call a good game behind the plate for his pitcher.
You can bet that no matter how good a pitcher is, if he has to keep shaking off his catcher all game long he won’t have a good game. It is vitally important to each game that the catcher knows the scouting reports and tendencies of the hitters as well as the base runners and his own fielders to know what to do with the game. Yes, some of this stuff can be and is sometimes called from the dugout. But when a great catcher or field general is playing, he doesn’t need input from the coaching staff to know what to do.
This list celebrates the fifteen best catchers in the live ball era of MLB. These guys encompass the very best that have graced the game with their presence. They are tough behind the plate and put a great at-bat on the opposing pitcher. They can be the MVP of a series while getting very few hits during it. That is how important these guys were to their particular teams and in the end how important they are to the sport itself.
Santiago is probably best remembered for his time playing for the San Diego Padres. He had great speed for a player, not just a catcher and could certainly hit. He was most memorable because of his great defense and his incredible arm. This was especially true when he would throw good base stealers out without even standing up.
When the New York Yankees made their run throughout the late 1990’s and 2000’s their main field general was Posada. He was an all-star five times during that period and led the Yankees to all of those World Series championships while catching some of the best pitchers in the game.
When they were still called the Philadelphia Athletics is when this franchise probably saw its best catcher. Cochran was a two time MVP and was definitely one of the top few catchers in the game while he was playing the game.
While many were in awe over the catching greatness of Johnny Bench, the fans of the St. Louis Cardinals loved Ted Simmons. His .287 batting average and 1389 RBI are better career numbers than bench. He wasn’t quite the defensive catcher that Bench was but with a career fielding percentage of .987, he clearly would have won a few Gold Gloves if he wasn’t playing in the same league as Bench for most of his career.
There have been some good catchers in Chicago Cubs history but Gabby Hartnett was the greatest. He had several all-star appearances and won an MVP but perhaps most significant to the Cubs franchise is that he led the Cubs to winning seasons and World Series appearances during his time with the team. No other Cubs catcher has led them to that level of success.
Joe Torre would most definitely be in a top ten list of the greatest managers in MLB history but he also is more than good enough to make this list of the game’s great catchers. He did play other positions later in his career but for the majority of his time in the game he was behind the plate for both the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. A .297 career batting average and a .990 career fielding percentage let you know that this great leader from the manager’s seat was first a great leader from behind home plate.
Though he garnered the lovable nickname of “Pudge” for his long successful career, Rodriguez was anything but a joke behind the plate. He ran the game with a golden arm and with the untouchable confidence of a true leader. Pudge’s 14 all-star appearances and 13 gold gloves are not an accident. He is one of the best ever.
This man’s spot at Cooperstown is just being kept warm until the baseball writers decide to put him in there. Piazza was a leader from behind the plate but probably is most well remembered as the best overall offensive catcher in the history of baseball. If his defensive numbers were as great as his offensive ones, he would be number one on this list with a bullet.
If you notice there are a lot of New York Yankees catchers on this list. The Yankees won a lot of Championships because they knew how to put together winning teams. During the 1970’s Munson was the leader of the Yankees with several all-star honors and an MVP to his credit.
Playing catcher at the MLB level is not an easy thing to do. Fisk did it for the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox for the better part of 24 seasons, playing his first game during the 1960’s and retiring after the 1993 season. That longevity speaks for itself without the 11 all-star appearances and the other awards he won. He was great through three decades.
Bill Dickey is the second best catcher in the history of New York Yankees baseball. He was the best until the guy at the top of this list came right behind him. Still, Dickey’s .313 average stands alone as one of the best career marks for any catcher in history. He was good behind the plate as well.
Who didn’t love watching Gary Carter play baseball? Most of what I have seen was recorded while I was young but this guy who they called “The Kid” even after he wasn’t, won 11 all-star appearances and three gold gloves during his great career. Carter was one of the better team leaders in baseball history.
The catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers won three MVP awards, tied for the most by anyone on this list. Campanella’s 1953 campaign is one of the greatest seasons by a catcher ever. He hit .312 with 41 homers and 142 RBI while scoring 103 runs. That is hard to match and when combined with his .988 career fielding percentage lets you know why he sits third on this list.
The top two on this list are extremely difficult. Without a doubt Bench is one of the top two catchers in the history of MLB and always will be. His 14 all-star appearances and 10 gold glove awards remain part of this man’s stellar career which has become the standard for greatness at his position. Bench was simply unmatched by anyone during his time in the game or sense.
Without a doubt Yogi Berra is the most recognized catching figure in New York Yankees history and he is the best catcher in Yankees history. He is well remembered for his great quotes such as, “Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical”. The other side of Berra is that he was elected to 15 consecutive all-star games and was in the top several in MVP voting 15 years in a row as well while winning three MVPs. This unprecedented streak of greatness just barely helps him edge out Bench on my list.