Catcher is the most important player on the team. He is the field general. As such, his role on the team can’t always be measured by his statistics. Durability, grit, and leadership all play a vital role in the makeup of a great catcher. This is my list of all-time favorite catchers. This is NOT my list of best catchers of all-time. You won’t see Berra (he is a Yankee) or Bench, who is the best ever but remains too elusive for me to collect. My list is comprised of the guys that I grew up watching and/or collecting. Two are Hall of Famers, one will be, and the other two were fantastic to watch.
5. Mike Piazza: I won’t wax poetic about him. We all know the offensive powerhouse that was Piazza. We know his story of making it to the Major League (drafted as a favor to his father). This guy was amazing, plain and simple. I don’t believe the steroid accusations. But I do believe he is the best offensive catcher of all time. When the Mets played the Yankees in the 2000 World Series, he and Roger Clemens almost went to blows. What a lasting image.
4. Jason Kendall: Man, I loved to watch Jason Kendall play baseball. He won the rookie of the year, was a 3x all-star and a solid defensive catcher. Unfortunately, he played for some of the worst teams in baseball: Pirates, Oakland, and the Royals. He never got much help, but he managed to hold his own against just about anyone, thanks to his grit and determination.
3. Jason Varitek: “Tek” was a beast. For 15 years, he was the leader of the Red Sox. With a career that included 3 trips to the all-star game, a Silver Slugger Award, and a Gold Glove, Tek proved that he could do it all. He called a great game and managed some of the best pitchers in baseball, at the time. He was instrumental in 2 World Series championships. He was an all around solid catcher.
2. Gary Carter: “Kid” was an 11x all-star, 3x Gold Glover, 5x Silver Slugger, and a crucial part of the 86′ Mets winning the World Series. He was the premier catcher of the 80’s. He was feared as a hitter and respected as a great backstop. His time with the Expo’s limited his exposure to the spotlight. Had he played for New York his entire career, he would probably be considered as one of the top five all-time catchers. During my childhood, I had more of his cards than anyone else. Sadly, in 2012, “Kid” Carter was called home. But his legacy will remain.
1. Carlton Fisk: I will limit the length of this entry, as I could write a book about Fisk. “Pudge” was the most influential baseball player of my youth. Durability and determination drove him to become one of the greatest catcher of all-time. 11 times he made the all-star team. He was rookie of the year, a Gold Glover and a 3x Silver Slugger. His career spanned 24 years and he was active as catcher the entire time. The image of him “waving it fair” is one of the most iconic images in baseball history.