The Best Catchers of All Time is the first of a series for KnupSports. In this article Tom lists his greatest players at each position. In doing this, we realize everyone has their own thoughts and opinions for what makes a player great. These can be argued for eternity.
One thing that happens is arguments are many times based on what we have seen in person and rate these players higher. When it comes to facts, we tend to pick and choose what we believe is important. Let’s begin this process and apologies if we offend you with our picks.
10. Bill Dickey
He played for the Yankees from 1929-1943 and also managed them. During Dickey’s playing career, the Yankees went to the World Series nine times, winning eight championships. He was named to 11 All-Star Games. He went on to briefly manage the Yankees as a player-manager, then contribute to another six Yankee World Series titles as a coach.
Dickey was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1954.The 1941 season marked Dickey’s thirteenth year in which he caught at least 100 games, an MLB record. He also set a double play record and led AL catchers with a .994 fielding percentage. Dickey had a terrific season in 1943, batting .351 in 85 games and hitting the title-clinching home run in the 1943 World Series.
After the season, the 36 year-old Dickey was honored as the player of the year by the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.He retired after the 1943 season, having compiled 202 home runs, 1,209 RBIs and a .313 batting average over his career. He was an eleven time all-star and seven-time world champion and batted over .300 eleven times. His lifetime WAR is 59.
9. Ted Simmons
Often overshadowed by his contemporary, Johnny Bench, Simmons is considered one of the best hitting MLB catchers in history. While his power numbers paled in comparison to Bench, Simmons still managed to hit for a higher batting average despite playing home games in a notoriously tough hitter’s park.
At the time of his retirement, Simmons led all catchers in career hits and doubles and ranked second in RBIs behind Yogi Berra and second in total bases behind Carlton Fisk. He also retired with the National League record for home runs by a switch-hitter despite playing several years in the American League. Simmons hit .300 seven different times, hit 20 home runs six times, and caught 122 shutouts, eighth-most all-time.
In a 21-year major league career, Simmons played in 2,456 games, accumulating 2,472 hits in 8,680 at bats for a .285 career batting average along with 248 home runs, 1,389 runs batted in and a .348 on-base percentage. He ended his career with a .986 fielding percentage.] An eight-time All-Star, he batted above .300 seven times, reached 20 home runs six times, and eight times exceeded 90 runs batted in.
He switch-hit home runs in a game three times and established a since-broken National League career record for home runs by a switch-hitter (182). Simmons held major league records for catchers with 2,472 career hits and 483 doubles, since broken by Iván Rodríguez. He ranks second all-time among catchers with 1,389 runs batted in and 10th with 248 home runs. He caught 122 shutouts in his career, ranking him eighth all-time among major league catchers.His lifetime WAR is 50.3.
8. Yogi Berra
He played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) (1946–1963, 1965), all but the last for the New York Yankees. He was an 18-time All-Star and won 13 World Series championships as a player—more than any other player in MLB history. Berra had a career batting average of .285, while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in.
He is one of only six players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. He is widely regarded as one of the best MLB catchers of all time and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. Probably the most notable game of Berra’s playing career came when he caught Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, the first of only three no-hitters, and lone “perfecto” ever thrown in MLB postseason play.
The picture of Berra leaping into Larsen’s arms following Dale Mitchell’s called third strike to end the game is one of the sport’s most memorable images. His lifetime WAR was 59.5.
7. Buster Posey
As a rookie, he finished with a .305 batting average, 18 home runs, and 67 runs batted in. He caught every inning of the playoffs as the Giants won the 2010 World Series. He was named the NL Rookie of the Year.
In 2011, after he was severely injured in a collision with the Florida Marlins’ Scott Cousins at home plate, Posey missed most of the year. The collision is widely seen as pushing Major League Baseball to adopt rule 7.13 in regards to blocking the plate prior to the 2014 season, informally known as the “Buster Posey Rule”.
Posey returned from his injury in 2012 and posted perhaps one of the greatest individual comeback seasons in sports history. He caught Matt Cain’s perfect game, batted .336 to win the 2012 NL batting title and was voted the 2012 NL MVP. He won his second World Series that year, as the Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in four games. In 2013, Posey signed a franchise-record eight-year, $167 million contract extension with the Giants.
He won his third World Series the following year as the Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals. Posey is the second player in MLB history, after Pete Rose, to win the Rookie of the Year, a League MVP, and three World Series championships. Posey played in four no-hitters in his career, catching three of them. In 2016, he won a Gold Glove Award.
In 1371 games over 12 seasons, Posey posted a .302 batting average (1500-for-4970) with 663 runs, 293 doubles, 158 home runs, 729 RBI, 540 walks, .372 on-base percentage, and .460 slugging percentage. Defensively, he recorded a .995 fielding percentage in 1093 games played as a catcher and a .995 fielding percentage in 229 games played at first base. In 58 postseason games, he hit .252 (57-for-226) with 18 runs, 6 doubles, 5 home runs, 25 RBI and 23 walks.
6. Joe Mauer
Find Joe Mauer at sixth on the All-time greatest MLB catchers list. He spent his entire 15-year Major League Baseball (MLB) career with the Minnesota Twins. A six-time All-Star, Mauer is the only catcher in MLB history to win three batting titles, and the only catcher to ever win a batting title in the American League (AL).
Mauer also won three consecutive Gold Glove Awards (2008–2010), five Silver Slugger Awards (including three in a row) and the 2009 AL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award. As of 2021, he is the most recent catcher to win (or even place in the top three in the voting) the MVP award in the American League.In 1,858 games over 15 seasons, Mauer posted a .306 batting average (2,123-for-6,930) with 1,018 runs, 428 doubles, 30 triples, 143 home runs, 923 RBIs, 939 bases on balls, .388 on-base percentage and .439 slugging percentage. He finished his career with a .996 fielding percentage playing at catcher and first base. Mauer had five career five-hit games and 23 four-hit games in his MLB career. His career WAR is 55.3.
5. Carlton Fisk
In 1972, he was the first player to be unanimously voted American League (AL) Rookie of the Year. Fisk is best known for his game-winning home run in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, during which he memorably waved his arms hoping for the batted ball to remain fair.
At the time of his retirement, Fisk held the record for most home runs all-time by a catcher with 376 (since surpassed by Mike Piazza). He has held several age- or longevity-related records, including the record for most games played at the position of catcher with 2,226 (later surpassed by Iván Rodríguez, who also shared Fisk’s nickname “Pudge”.). Fisk still holds the AL record for most years served at the position . Fisk was voted to the All-Star team 11 times and won three Silver Slugger Awards which is awarded annually to the best offensive player at each position. Fisk was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.
For his career, Fisk caught a then-record 2,226 games over 24 seasons. Playing in 2,499 total games, Fisk also played 41 games in left field, 27 games at 1B and four games at 3B and was a DH for 166 games in his career. Overall he hit .269 with 376 home runs and 1,330 RBI in his career. His lifetime WAR was 65.7.
4. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez
He was awarded the AL MVP award in 1999. He won the 2003 World Series with the Florida Marlins and played in the 2006 World Series while with the Tigers. In 2009, he set an MLB record by catching his 2,227th game, passing Carlton Fisk. He had the best career caught-stealing percentage of any major league catcher, at 45.68% (versus a league average of 31%), and he had nine seasons with a caught-stealing rate of 50% or higher. Only one major league catcher (Yadier Molina) has more putouts.
In 2017, Rodríguez was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility, receiving 76% of the votes cast. n 2,543 games over 21 seasons, Rodríguez posted a .296 batting average (2,844-for-9,592) with 1,354 runs, 572 doubles, 51 triples, 311 home runs, 1,332 RBI, 127 stolen bases, 513 bases on balls, .334 on-base percentage and .464 slugging percentage. Defensively, he recorded a .991 fielding percentage. In 40 postseason games, he hit .255 (39-for-153) with 17 runs, 9 doubles, 4 home runs, 25 RBI and 14 walks.
3. Gary Carter
Over a nineteen-year major league career Carter was an eleven-time All-Star, won three Gold Glove Awards, and five Silver Sluggers. He played in 2,296 games, accumulating 2,092 hits in 7,971 at bats for a .262 career batting average, along with 324 home runs, 1,225 runs batted in, and a .335 on-base percentage.He hit 307 home runs as a catcher, ranking him seventh all-time at the position. His 1,225 career runs batted in also ranks him seventh all-time among major league catchers.
Carter’s 2,056 games played as a catcher rank him fourth on the all-time list. He caught 127 shutouts during his career, ranking him sixth all-time among MLB catchers in that category. He led National League catchers eight times in putouts, five times in assists and three times in baserunners caught stealing. His 810 baserunners caught stealing are the most for any major league catcher since the end of the dead-ball era, when stolen bases were more prevalent. His 11,785 putouts and 149 double plays during his playing career both rank tenth all-time among major league catchers.
Carter’s .991 career fielding percentage was five points above the league average during his playing career. When he broke the 100 assists barrier in 1977, he joined Johnny Bench and Jim Sundberg as the only major league catchers to have more than 100 assists in a season since the end of World War II.
In all, Carter amassed the second highest career WAR for a catcher during his career.
2. Gabby Hartnett
Prior to Johnny Bench, Hartnett was considered the greatest catcher in the history of the National League. A six-time All-Star, he appeared in four World Series during his playing career. At the time of his retirement, Hartnett held the career records for catchers in home runs, runs batted in, hits, doubles and most games played as a catcher. Hartnett was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.
Hartnett’s 236 home runs, 1,179 runs batted in, 1,912 hits, and 396 doubles were all records for catchers. Bill Dickey surpassed his records for most runs batted in and hits in 1943, while his career home run record for catchers was broken by Yogi Berra in 1956. His career mark for doubles stood until 1983 when it was broken by Ted Simmons. Hartnett also finished among the National League’s top ten in slugging percentage seven times in his career. A six-time All-Star, he was the recipient of one Most Valuable Player Award and played on four pennant-winning teams. Hartnett’s .370 career on-base percentage was higher than the .342 posted by Johnny Bench and the .348 posted by Yogi Berra. His 56.11% career caught stealing percentage ranks second to Roy Campanella among major league catchers. Hartnett’s bat and catcher’s mask were the first artifacts sent to the newly constructed Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938. In his book, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, baseball historian Bill James ranked Hartnett 9th all-time among major league catchers.
1. Johnny Bench
A fourteen-time All-Star and a two-time National League Most Valuable Player, Bench excelled on offense as well as on defense, twice leading the National League in home runs and three times in runs batted in. At the time of his retirement in 1983, he held the major league record for most home runs hit by a catcher. He was also the first catcher in history to lead the league in home runs. He hit 45 home runs in 1970, which was a single-season record for catchers until Salvador Perez hit 48 in 2021. His 389 home runs and 1,376 runs batted in remain the most in Cincinnati Reds history.
On defense, Bench was a ten-time Gold Glove Award winner who skillfully handled pitching staffs and possessed a strong, accurate throwing arm He caught 100 or more games for 13 consecutive seasons. In 1986, Bench was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989. ESPN has called him the greatest catcher in baseball history.
He retired as the career home run leader for catchers, a record which stood until surpassed by Carlton Fisk and the current record holder, Mike Piazza. Bench still holds the Major League record for the most grand slam home runs by a catcher, with 10. In his career, Bench earned 10 Gold Gloves, was named to the National League All-Star team 14 times, and won two Most Valuable Player Awards.
He led the National League three times in caught stealing percentage and ended his career with a .990 fielding percentage at catcher and an overall .987 fielding percentage. He caught 118 shutouts during his career, ranking him 12th best catchers of all time in MLB. Bench also won such awards as the Lou Gehrig Award (1975), the Babe Ruth Award (1976), and the Hutch Award (1981).
Just outside: Yadier Molina, Wally Scheng, Roy Campanella, Thurman Munson
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