25 Greatest Catchers in Baseball History

Mark MillerCorrespondent INovember 23, 2011

25 Greatest Catchers in Baseball History

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    A great catcher is oftentimes a big difference maker between a good team and a great team.

    It's the most physically taxing position on the field and requires a great deal of skill as well as composure, as they're working directly with pitchers who are the difference makers for any team on the field.

    A number of exceptional catchers have come through this league, some who thrive on defense, others who put up outstanding offensive numbers.

    Occasionally, a team is lucky enough to have a backstop that boasts talent on both sides of the ball. Keeping that in mind, here are some of the best catchers to ever play the game (in no particular order).

Jorge Posada

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    Jorge Posada's 17 seasons with the New York Yankees have been mostly successful, and when all is said and done he'll go down as one of the best catchers in Yankees history.

    The five-time All-Star has over 1,000 career RBI to go along with his .273 average and his 1,664 career hits were an attribute to his success as the backstop of Yankees baseball for so long.

Roy Campanella

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    Hall of Famer Roy Campanella's career was relatively short, as he only played 10 seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but he certainly made them count.

    Campanella was a three-time MVP award winner, with his best season coming in 1953 when he hit 41 home runs en route to a 141 RBI total.

Carlton Fisk

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    Carlton Fisk's longevity in this league is a testament to the consistent play he displayed during his nearly quarter century in baseball.

    Statistically speaking, his 11 years in Boston were better, as his .284 batting average was 27 points higher than with the White Sox.

    The unanimous Rookie of the Year selection in 1972 boasted a .988 fielding percentage in over 2,200 games as a catcher.

Bill Dickey

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    A .313 career hitter in 17 seasons with the New York Yankees, Bill Dickey was a part of eight World Series championships between 1928 and 1946.

    He wasn't known as much of a power hitter, but did have four consecutive seasons in the 1930s in which he hit more than 20 home runs and drove in 100 runs.

Gary Carter

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    Gary Carter's most successful seasons came while he was a member of the Montreal Expos, as he was a seven-time All-Star selection and batted .269 with three Gold Glove awards in 12 seasons.

    He wasn't quite the same hitter when he moved to the Big Apple to play for the Mets, but his first season did yield 32 home runs and 100 RBI.

Joe Mauer

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    Having won three batting titles in his first six years in the league, Joe Mauer certainly proved that he's one of the best offensive catchers in the game today.

    He won't be on this list long if he's unable to stay healthy, though. Mauer has been hampered by injuries in recent years and continued talks surrounding moving him away from the catcher role just won't go away.

Josh Gibson

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    It really is a shame that Josh Gibson wasn't ever given the opportunity to showcase his talent in the major leagues, as he would've certainly given some of the best names in the game a run for their money.

    A career .359 hitter, Gibson consistently led the Negro National League in virtually every offensive category and was dubbed by many as the "Black Babe Ruth."

Mickey Cochrane

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    Mickey Cochrane won two MVP awards during his 13 major league seasons and was also a three-time World Champion, twice with the Philadelphia Athletics and once with the Detroit Tigers.

    He averaged nearly 100 RBI per season and finished his career with a .320 batting average and .985 fielding percentage in nearly 1,500 games behind the plate.

Joe Torre

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    Joe Torre has clearly made an impact in this league as a manager, but he also made quite an impact on a few teams during his 18 years playing with the Braves, Cardinals and Mets.

    Torre was a nine-time All-Star selection and took home MVP honors in 1971 when he led the league in hits, RBI and batting (230/137/.363).

Gabby Hartnett

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    Spending nearly all of his 20-year career with the Chicago Cubs, Gabby Hartnett was a reliable option for the bulk of his career—12 times catching more than 100 games and six times being selected as an All-Star (all in the second half of his career).

    Hartnett batted .344 and drove in 91 runs in 1935 en route to his only MVP award, despite finishing in the top 10 in voting three other times.

    He finished his career with the New York Giants, as he played in 64 games in 1941, batting .300 with 26 RBI.

Buck Ewing

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    As the earliest entry on this list, Buck Ewing's career spanned 1880-1897 as he played for five different teams, spending the majority of his time with the New York Giants.

    A .303 career hitter, he batted .306 in his nine seasons with the Giants and seven times stole more than 30 bases in a season including 53 in 1888.

Ted Simmons

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    Considered by some as one of the best hitting catchers in league history, Ted Simmons went deep 248 times and racked up nearly 2,500 hits and 1,500 RBI in his 21 major-league seasons.

    He was an eight-time All-Star selection and caught no-hitters from Bob Gibson and Bob Forsch during his time with the Cardinals.

Lance Parrish

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    Lance Parrish was a bit of a journeyman, having played for seven teams during his 19-year major-league career.

    He ranks fifth in MLB history for home runs by a catcher with 299 and ended his career with a .991 fielding percentage.

    Parrish was a six-time Silver Slugger award recipient and also won three Gold Gloves.

Thurman Munson

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    Thurman Munson's 11 seasons with the New York Yankees yielded great results and proved to be an important part of their successes in the late 70s.

    The seven-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner took home MVP honors in 1976 and won World Series championships in 1977 and 1978.

    He was a .292 career hitter and four times hit safely more than 180 times in a season.

Ivan Rodriguez

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    Ivan Rodriguez is certainly the best catcher the game has seen in recent years, and while his career appears to be winding down, we won't soon forget all his contributions.

    He's currently only 156 hits away from 3,000, and if he can hold out two more seasons, he could see the number become a reality.

    In 21 seasons between six teams, Rodriguez has hit 311 home runs while putting up a .296 batting average and .464 slugging percentage.

Mickey Tettleton

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    Mickey Tettleton never batted for a high average, as his .241 career clip would indicate, but he was still an offensive threat, four times hitting more than 30 home runs in a season. He took home three Silver Slugger awards and was twice an All-Star selection.

Yogi Berra

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    Hall of Famer Yogi Berra is certainly one of the more recognizable players in Yankees history.

    His playing career was a phenomenal one at that, as he made 15 consecutive All-Star appearances, won three MVP awards and was a part of 10 World Series championships.

    Berra was a .285 career hitter and drove in nearly 1,500 career RBI while going deep 358 times during his 18 seasons in the Bronx.

Jason Varitek

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    Spending his entire 15-year career with the Boston Red Sox, Jason Varitek has handled many great pitchers during his time, including Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling.

    He's had a number of up and down seasons offensively, batting as high as .296 in 2004 and as low as .209 in 2009.

    He's always been strong defensively however, and on top of that will be remembered as a great team leader.

Ernie Lombardi

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    As a larger player, Ernie Lombardi couldn't rely on speed (as evidenced by his eight career stolen bases).

    He was able to hit for some power during his career, hitting 190 home runs and driving in 990 runs in his 17 major-league seasons.

    Lombardi was an eight-time All-Star and won one World Series championship in 1940. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 1986.

Bill Freehan

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    Bill Freehan's entire career was spent with the Detroit Tigers, where he'd win five Gold Gloves and was a part of the 1968 World Series championship team.

    The 11-time All-Star was a .262 career hitter and twice finished in the top three in MVP voting (1967, 1968), and his career .993 fielding percentage is one of the highest ever by a catcher.

Elston Howard

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    Elston Howard broke the Yankees barrier, becoming the first African American to make the Bronx Bombers roster when he first played with the team in 1955.

    He'd spend 13 seasons with the Yankees, batting .279 while driving in 733 runs and striking out 786 times.

    He was a four-time World Series champion and went to the All-Star game 12 times.

Benito Santiago

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    Having spent nearly 2,000 games behind the plate, Benito Santiago was a staple at catcher for the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants for 10 years before spending the next 10 seasons with seven teams.

    He garnered a .987 fielding percentage as a catcher on the defensive side of the game, and batted .263 with over 200 home runs and nearly 1,000 RBI in 1,978 games.

Mike Piazza

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    Mike Piazza's career got off on the right foot in 1993, as he'd win Rookie of the Year honors thanks to a 35 home run, 112 RBI season.

    He wouldn't let up from there, as he'd hit at least 30 home runs eight more times, finishing his career with 427 home runs and 1,337 RBI along with a .308 career average.

Biz Mackey

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    Playing in 863 career games in the negro leagues, 2006 Hall of Fame inductee Biz Mackey was one of the best defensive catchers between 1920-1946. He had an impressively strong arm and quick move to second.

    On top of that, he boasted superior offensive talent, as he ranked towards the top of the negro leagues in RBI and slugging throughout his nine-team career.

Johnny Bench

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    1968 Rookie of the Year. Two-time NL MVP. Ten-time Gold Glove winner. Fourteen-time All-Star. Two-time World Series champion.

    The accolades for Johnny Bench could go on and on, but it's easier to say that he's probably the best catcher to ever play the game.

    Between 1969 and 1980, Bench hit at least 20 home runs in every season but one, twice hitting more than 40. He also drove in a career high 148 runs during his 1970 MVP campaign.