Johnny Bench warned “mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be catchers.” His decades old jest underlines the grueling nature of the position. Catchers get beat up, break fingers, and suffer the most in the summer heat. On the other hand, they are the center of the action and have the best grasp of the game. The following are the 10 greatest catchers in Major League history.
1. Johnny Bench: Sparky Anderson praised Johnny Bench as the greatest catcher in history. Bench revolutionized the position with his one-handed catching style and bat. He tucked his throwing arm behind his back safely while receiving. Bench won 10 Gold Gloves and created a generation of imitators. However, there was only one Johnny Bench and he proved that time and again. Bench made 14 All Star Games, won two MVP awards, and led the Reds to two world titles. The 1968 Rookie of the Year and 1976 World Series MVP retired in 1983. Bench received over 96% of the Hall of Fame vote in 1989 and made the All-Century Team in 1999.
2. Yogi Berra: Yogi Berra joined the Yankees after fighting World War II. Baseball must have seemed easy compared to the Normandy Invasion since Berra won three MVP awards in five seasons and 10 World Series championships as a player. The 18-time All Star was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972 and All-Century Team in 1999. Some sabermetricians consider Berra the greatest catcher in history because he has the highest win shares of all time for catchers.
3. Roy Campanella: Roy Campanella was one of the greatest hitting catchers of all time. Like Berra, he also won three MVP awards in the 1950s. Overall, he hit .276 for his career with 242 home runs, but in his prime, few could rake like Campy. He hit over .300 three times and led the league with 142 RBI in 1953. The eight-time All Star led the Brooklyn Dodgers to their only title in 1955. A car accident ended his career in 1958. He spent the remainder of his life confined to a wheelchair.
4. Mickey Cochrane: Mickey Cochrane not only caught, but managed as well. As a result, he held managerial duties, called the pitches, ran the pitching staff, and had to hit. Cochrane was a highly talented and intelligent player. He won two world titles and a MVP with the A’s and then managed the Tigers to their first world title and won a MVP award. Cochrane batted .320 for his career, which was unheard of for most catchers of the era.
5. Ivan Rodriguez: Ivan Rodriguez helped turn three franchises around. He was his generation’s Johnny Bench with 14 All Star appearances, 13 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, the 1999 MVP, 2003 NLCS MVP, and 2003 world championship. Pudge joined a mediocre Rangers squad and made them perennial playoff contenders. He signed with Florida in 2003 and led them to a World Series upset over the Yankees, and then Rodriguez signed with the Tigers and helped transform a sad-sack franchise into world title contenders. He finished his career with a .296 average, 311 home runs, and 2,844 hits. Rodriguez played more games behind the plate and had the greatest caught stealing percentage of any catcher in history.
6. Mike Piazza: Mike Piazza is the greatest hitting catcher of all time. The 1993 Rookie of the Year finished with a .308 average, remarkable .922 OPS, 427 home runs, and 1335 RBI. He appeared in 12 All Star Games, won 10 Silver Sluggers, and holds the record for home runs by a catcher. He was drafted by the Dodgers as a favor in 1988, debuted in 1992, and became an unstoppable force at the plate. Piazza engaged in a high profile feud with Roger Clemens and hit one of the great home runs in major league history when baseball returned following the 911 terror attacks.
7. Carlton Fisk: Carlton Fisk is the greatest catcher in the history of two franchises. He began his career with the Boston Red Sox in 1969 and won the 1972 Rookie of the Year. Fisk led the Red Sox to the World Series in 1975, hit the dramatic home run in Game 6, and engaged in a feud with Yankees catcher Thurman Munson. Fisk had a very public divorce from the Sox in 1980 and signed with the White Sox. He homered in his return to Fenway leading his new team to victory. Pudge remained with the White Sox until his career ended in 1993. He finished with a .269 average, 376 home runs, 1330 RBI, .797 OPS, 11 All Star appearances, three Silver Sluggers, and the Gold Glove in 1972.
8. Joe Mauer: Native Minnesotan Joe Mauer has won three batting titles for the Twins. He is the only catcher to ever win three titles. The .324 lifetime hitter also performs at a high level on the field. Mauer has won three Gold Gloves to accompany his four Silver Sluggers. The five-time All Star won the 2009 American League MVP award and has led Minnesota to three postseason appearances in his career.
9. Bill Dickey: The Yankees have two Hall of Fame catchers on their all-time roster. Bill Dickey is sometimes forgotten as he played alongside Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio. The Yankee Hall of Famer mentored a young Yogi Berra transforming raw talent into another Hall of Famer. Dickey won eight World Series as a player and another six as a coach. He batted .313 for his career with a .868 OPS, 202 home runs, and 11 All-Star appearances. He also appeared as himself in The Pride of the Yankees and The Stratton Story.
10. Gary Carter: Gary Carter was a prime time player. He always seemed to come up with the big hit when needed. He had the big home run in two All Star Games, to win his first home game as a Met, and then two huge blasts to bring the Mets back from the brink in 1986. Carter started the two-out rally in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. He played with a youthful exuberance which led to his nickname, “Kid.” Kid appeared in 11 All Star games, won the All Star Game MVP twice, and tallied three Gold Gloves and five Silver Sluggers. Carter began with an amazing Expos squad and then became the missing piece for the Mets. He finished his career with the Expos in 1992 as his baseball life came full circle.
Bench revolutionized the catching position with his one-handed catching style. He led the Reds to two world titles and was elected to the Hall of Fame.
Yogi Berra won three MVP awards and ten world championships. Although known for his “Yogi-isms”, he was sharp as a tack. Some sabermatricians consider Berra the greatest catcher of all time.
Roy Campanella was an amazing catcher and great hitter. Campy won three MVP awards and led Brooklyn to its only world title in 1955. A car accident cut his career short.
Mickey Cochrane was the greatest catcher of his era. He won a MVP and two world championships with Philadelphia. Then, the moved to Detroit, served as player-manager, won the 1934 MVP, and led the Tigers to two pennants and the 1935 world championship.
Ivan Rodriguez was an amazing fielder and great hitter. He won the 1999 MVP award and led three franchises to the postseason. Pudge caught more games than any catcher in history and has the all-time greatest caught stealing percentage.
Mike Piazza is generally considered the greatest hitting catcher of all time. He was drafted as a favor and developed into a Hall of Fame caliber player.
Carlton Fisk was a hero to two cities and two sets of Sox fans. He began in Boston and ended in Chicago. During the 1970s, people debated the merits of Fisk vs. Yankees captain Thurman Munson.
Joe Mauer has won three batting titles and led the Minnesota Twins to the postseason on a number of occasions. The only thing missing on his resume is a world title.
Bill Dickey rivaled Mickey Cochrane and Gabby Hartnett for the title of best catcher in baseball. Dickey is sometimes forgotten because of Yogi Berra’s emergence in the 1950s.
Gary Carter was baseball’s best catcher of the 1980s. He had a flair for the dramatic with game winning home runs and key hits. His bat revived the 1986 Mets and helped defeat the Boston Red Sox. Carter had the key home runs to bring the Mets back from the brink and the rally-starting single in Game 6.