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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top 10 Catchers in Baseball History: Bench or Berra at Number One?

Top 10 Catchers in Baseball History: Bench or Berra at Number One?

Publish Date: 01/10/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Catcher is the toughest position to play in baseball. You take a constant daily pounding, and because of that, not many Catchers in history have put up big numbers. The list of guys that are great offensively and defensively is small. But in today’s Top Ten, you will find the guys who could do it all.

Criteria

Stats, as always, are a big qualifying factor but not everything when ranking the all-time greatest catchers. Being a winner helps, the way you handled the pitching staffs on your team all factor in. This was not an easy list to compile, but it sure was fun. Current active players do not qualify for this list.

10) Carlton Fisk

Aside from batting 313 in 49 plate appearances in 1971, there were only two seasons when he hit over 300: 1975 (.331) and 1977 (.315). While he hit at least ten homers each season between 1975 (.331) and 1983 (195), only once did he surpass 26 homers and 100 RBI – when he amassed 37 homers and 107 RBI. Fisk only finished twice in the top seven of the AL MVP race: fourth place in 1972 (and third place in 1983).

Fisk cemented his place as an immortal Hall of Fame catcher through his longevity: 24 seasons behind home plate until the age of 45, hitting 18 home runs on average in each of those seasons and at least 134 games played each season.

As such, he’s similar to Nolan Ryan among catchers; outside of winning AL Rookie of the Year in 1972, there wasn’t one or multiple years where you can definitively say he was one of the greatest catchers ever; rather, his cumulative stats speak volumes. Fisk also hit one of the Greatest Home Runs in Baseball history in game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

  • AL Rookie of the Year 1972
  • 11 Time All-Star
  • Bold Glove Award 1972
  • 3 Time Silver Slugger Award
  • Red Sox and White Sox Retired Number
Video: Carlton Fisk Red Sox Career Highlights

Carlton Fisk Red Sox Career Highlights

9) Buster Posey

Buster Posey was awarded National League MVP for 2012, ending a four-decade drought. Before Posey was honored with this distinction, Johnny Bench in 1972 was the last catcher to accomplish that feat.

Posey earned this award by doing something few catchers ever manage: leading his league in hitting. Two years after being honored as Rookie of the Year, he hit an astounding.336 average with 24 home runs and 103 RBI – all three marks remain career bests to this day.

Posey was still impressive throughout this five-year peak period. From 2012 to 2016, he averaged 19 home runs and 88 RBI per season while appearing in at least 146 games, consistently finishing among the top 20 NL MVP voting results each year.

  • 7 Time All-Star
  • 3 Time World Series Champion
  • NL MVP 2012
  • NL Rookie of the Year 2010
  • Gold Glove Award 2016
  • 5 Time Silver Slugger Award
  • 2 Time NL Comeback Player of the Year
  • NL Batting Champion 2012
Video: Buster Posey Career Highlights (Giants all-time great catcher retires)

Buster Posey Career Highlights (Giants all-time great catcher retires)

8) Gary Carter

Gary Carter had a career of “always the bridesmaid, never the bride”. He finished as runner-up for 1975 NL Rookie of the Year honors and finished top six four times from 1980-1986 in NL MVP voting; however, he never received multiple first-place votes at once nor led any notable category (except matching Mike Schmidt with 106 RBI in 1984).

But he made up for lacking A-plus seasons with consistently strong B-plus and A-minus campaigns. He posted nine seasons with at least 20 homers and four with 100 RBI, three consecutively from 1984 through 1986. As a rookie, he earned an All-Star selection; subsequent All-Star appearances came every year between 1979 and 1988 in the Midsummer Classic competition.

Carter had an incredible arm behind the plate as well. While only catching 35% of base thieves during his career, he threw out 810 runners more than any other catcher on this list!

  • 11 Time All-Star
  • World Series Champion 1986
  • 3 Time Gold Glove Award
  • 5 Time Silver Slugger Award
  • Roberto Clemente Award 1989
  • NL RBI Leader 1984
Video: Kid - A Gary Carter Story (2018)

Kid – A Gary Carter Story (2018)

7) Bill Dickey

had an exceptional 17 seasons with the Yankees. He hit over 300 on eleven occasions, hit double-digit homers nine times, and contributed 100 runs batted in four times. In 1936 he started off hot by hitting 22 home runs and collecting 107 runs batted in; over his next four years this total would grow to 29/27/24 (133rbis/115rbis respectively) along with averages of.332,.313 & 302.

Dickey was a massive contributor to seven World Series championships. He was outstanding behind the plate and even better with the bat. He tends to get forgotten by some because of the star power on those great Yankees teams.

  • 11 Time All-Star
  • 7 Time World Champion
  • Monument Park Honoree
  • Yankees Retired jersey
Video: 1939 WS Gm1: Yankees win on Dickey's walk-off single

1939 WS Gm1: Yankees win on Dickey’s walk-off single

6) Mickey Cochrane

Mickey Cochrane won AL Most Valuable Player awards twice: in 1928 and 1934. Remarkably, however, in between those honours, he was statistically more valuable; from 1929-1933, Cochrane posted WAR marks of 4.7, 5.5, 5.6 and 6.3 over five seasons from 1929-33 – while also hitting amazing.330 average and knocking 72 homers during that half-decade!

Cochrane may have won more MVPs had there been an AL MVP Award during 1929 or 1930; unfortunately, there wasn’t.

Cochrane was legendary because he rarely struck out, only striking out 217 times in 6,208 PA–just 3.5 per cent of the time! Meanwhile, his walk rate of 13.8 per cent meant that during these five years of dominance, he averaged 4.24 walks for every strikeout- his performance in 1929 was particularly remarkable, as he only recorded eight strikeouts and 69 walks!

  • 2 Time All-Star
  • 3 Time World Series Champion
  • 2 Time AL MVP
  • .320 Lifetime Batting Average
Video: Mickey Cochrane World Series Walk Off

Mickey Cochrane World Series Walk Off

5) Ivan Rodriguez

Pudge Rodriguez achieved an.300 average, 15+ homers on ten occasions and hit his career-high of 35 homers during 1999 when his batting average reached 332, along with 113 RBIs, 25 stolen bases, MVP awards, 13 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Sluggers awards over 14 seasons as an All-Star and achieved fielding percentage of.991 across his entire career.

Defensively, he lived up to his billing: knocking off 49 per cent of runners who attempted to steal on him and appearing in his inaugural All-Star Game in 1992. Soon after that, his offence caught up to his defence; as soon as 1995 had arrived, he reached the.300 batting average threshold – steadily adding power at bat along the way.

  • 14 Time All-Star
  • World Champion
  • AL MVP 1999
  • NLCS MVP 2003
  • 13 Time Gold Glove Winner
  • 7 Time Silver Slugger
  • Rangers Retired Number
Video: Ivan Rodriguez (Pudge) Highlight Reel

Ivan Rodriguez (Pudge) Highlight Reel

4) Josh Gibson

Gibson is often considered one of the greatest home run hitter of all time – major leagues included. Gibson became widely considered one of the greatest home run hitters ever, hitting an average between.359 to.384 across his career and 55 homers over 137 games between Negro Leagues and other levels of competition (in 1933 alone, he hit .467! with 55 homers). On one occasion against the Pittsburgh Crawfords, Gibson hit an incredible walk-off homer that hit so far into the night sky that nobody could find the ball.

He was deficient as a defensive catcher, which drops him down a spot or two on this list. Also, never playing in the Major Leagues probably hurts him, but that was not considered in these rankings because it was not his fault. Gibson was so good that Babe Ruth has been called the White Josh Gibson!

  • 12 Time All-Star
  • 2 Time Negro League World Champion
  • 2 Time Negro League Batting Champion
  • 2 Time Triple Crown Winner
Video: HOFer Josh Gibson - Baseball's MVP

HOFer Josh Gibson – Baseball’s MVP

3) Roy Campanella

He stood out during his decade-long career for many reasons, most notably hitting over 20 home runs in seven of ten seasons, driving in 80+ runs in six of those years, and winning the MVP award three times with career bests of. With 325, 41 home runs batted in and 142 runs batted in, Campy made eight All-Star appearances while helping lead his Dodgers team to victory in the World Series. Campy threw out 48% of base runners during his best years between 1954-57 .

Campanella is the greatest Dodgers catcher of all time, and it’s not even close. He was an all-around great catcher and had his career cut short by a traffic accident. Campy was also relegated to playing in the Negro Leagues until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. He may have ranked even higher if not for those two factors.

  • 3 Time Negro League All-Star
  • 8 Time All-Star
  • World Series Champion 1955
  • 3 Time NL MVP
  • NL RBI Leader 1953
Video: Roy Campanella Highlights

Roy Campanella Highlights

2) Yogi Berra

Nineteen years of dominance, Berra was an incredible catcher who hit 358 home runs, drove in 1430 runs, and hit 285 caught nearly half of would-be base stealers since base-stealing statistics became available and earned 13 World Series rings and three MVP awards – truly outshone most everybody on this list.

The best word to describe Berra would be a winner. A lot of times, his personality is remembered more than his ability to play. Let’s say Berra could be a character. But Berra was so good that he is the only Catcher I considered putting at number one over Johnny bench. Berra was one of the greatest players ever to play the game.

  • 18 Time All-Star
  • 13 Time World Series Winner
  • 3 Time AL MVP
  • MLB All-Century Team
  • Yankees Monument Park Honoree
  • Yankees Retired Number
Video: Yogi Berra Highlights

Yogi Berra Highlights

1) Johnny Bench

He was known for his excellent arm, easily throwing out 43% of base stealers and revolutionizing catching by placing one hand behind his back while catching. Additionally, his hands were so strong he squeezed his mitt like an outfielder’s. Bench behind the plate was a one-of-a-kind player. He did things better than everybody else and also revolutionized the catcher position.

On the offensive side, Bench hit 389 home runs over 17 years and drove in 1376 runs – two-time MVP was undoubtedly an integral component of the Big Red Machine; following one of his worst seasons ever, he earned MVP honors at the 1976 World Series! Easily one of the greatest all-around catchers ever to play the game. Bench is still ranked as the Greatest Cincinnati RedsΒ  player of all time!

  • 14 Time All-Star
  • 2 Time NL MVP
  • 2 Time World Series Champion
  • World Series MVP 1976
  • NL Rookie of the Year 1968
  • 10 Time Gold Glove Winner
  • 2 Time NL Home Run Leader
  • 3 Time NL RBI Leader
  • MLB All-Century team
Video: Johnny Bench Highlights

Johnny Bench Highlights

Honorable Mentions

Yadier Molina

Molina stands out as one of the greatest defensive catchers ever seen, winning 10 All-Star selections, 9 Gold Glove awards and 4 Platinum Glove awards over his 10-year MLB career – earning himself nearly 2000 hits en route to Cooperstown membership.

Thurman Munson

Munson excelled during October, batting 357 over 30 career games and winning the 1970 American League Rookie of the Year Award and 1976 AL MVP honors. Unfortunately, however, his career was cut short due to a fatal plane crash in August 1979, and this fact kept him out of our top 10.

Gabby Hartnett

Hartnett would have made a strong candidate for MVP consideration had there been an MVP vote in 1930; his performance included 37 home runs and 122 RBIs- both career highs- batting at an incredible average of 349. Although no MVP award existed that season, he eventually did win National League MVP five years later, hitting an astounding.344 average and boasting an arm that caught 78% of base stealers; his caught-stealing rate stood at 56 per cent during 19 seasons as a Chicago Cub. However, even at his peak, his WAR wasn’t that impressive either.

Lance Parrish

Only seven catchers in MLB history have hit more than 275 home runs; six of these seven make our top 10, while Parrish (324 homers) deserves honorable mention. He never hit for average (.252) or struck out nearly one out of every five plate appearances, only ever making the playoffs once during his 19-year career but managing 15 straight seasons with at least 10 homers!

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