Ranking the 10 greatest catchers in MLB history

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Yadier Molina
“Yadier Molina” flickr photo by IDSportsPhoto https://flickr.com/photos/idsportsphoto/42183164304 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

There should be no more respected group of baseball players than the best catchers of all time. They take a beating behind the plate inning after inning and game after game while managing a staff of a dozen pitchers, and yet, we still expect them to produce offensively on top of that.

That’s why we thought that the best catchers in MLB history needed some recognition and their moment in the sun.

Best catchers of all time

In recent years, most discussions about catchers have become about Posey vs Molina, and for good reason.

However, past generations have also produced some of the greatest catchers ever. While it’s tough to compare players from different generations, the job of catchers remains just as challenging as they were years ago. That being said, it wasn’t easy limiting our list to 10 catchers, but here is our ranking of the best catchers of all time.

10. Micky Cochrane

If his career hadn’t ended early because of an errant pitch that hit him in the head, who knows how we would have remembered Micky Cochrane.

Nevertheless, he was a two-time all-star and a two-time MVP, not to mention a three-time World Series champion. Over his 13 seasons in the majors, Cochrane hit .320, which remains the best career average for any catcher, making him worthy of being mentioned among the best catchers in MLB history.

9. Buster Posey

Even compared to catchers of previous generations, Buster Posey’s accomplishments stand out. His career ended with 1,500 career hits and a .302 average. He won the batting title and MVP honors in 2012 and was a seven-time all-star while also playing an integral role in the Giants winning three World Series titles during his career.

Posey was undoubtedly the best hitting catcher of his generation, winning the Silver Slugger five times. He was also great defensively, managing to wrestle the Gold Glove away from Yadier Molina in 2016.

8. Carlton Fisk

In folklore, Carlton Fisk is best remembered for his home run during the 1975 World Series. But he was so much more than that.

He won both Rookie of the Year and a Gold Glove in 1972, which was also his first of 11 all-star selections. At the time of his retirement, Fisk held the all-time records for games played and home runs among catchers, although he has since been passed on both lists. Nevertheless, his 2,356 hits and 376 home runs are nothing to scoff at. 

7. Roy Campanella

In another era, Roy Campanella would have been remembered by history far more fondly. He played just 10 seasons in the majors, starting his career with the Dodgers in 1948, the year after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Dodgers.

Of course, Campanella made the most of those 10 years, winning MVP honors three times and being selected as an all-star eight times. His career also ended prematurely and suddenly because he was paralyzed in a car accident.

On the bright side, Campanella did enough to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame despite his career being much shorter than it should have been. Between his 10 seasons with the Dodgers and his years in the Negro Leagues, Campanella is undoubtedly one of the finest catchers to ever play the game.

6. Gary Carter

The late Gary Carter undoubtedly belongs among the best catchers of all time. If you were building a catcher from scratch, you’d want him to possess every trait that Carter had. He knew how to manage a pitching staff, he could field his position, he knew how to hit, and he was an incredible leader.

Carter found his way to 11 All-Star Games while winning five Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves. He also won the 1986 World Series with the Mets, getting the hit that started the famous two-out rally in Game 6, meaning that comeback win doesn’t happen without Carter.

5. Yadier Molina

Among contemporary catchers, the Posey vs Molina debate has been a good one, although Yadier Molina gets a slight edge. Even before he retires, Molina had done more than enough to earn a spot as one of the greatest catchers ever.

Outside of a couple of the other catchers on our list, one would have to search far and wide to find a better defensive catcher. Molina owns nine Gold Gloves and four Platinum Gloves on top of being a 10-time all-star. He can handle a pitching staff as well as anyone and is no slouch at the plate, racking up more than 2,000 hits during a career that will surely send him to Cooperstown one day.

4. Mike Piazza

If we didn’t take defense into consideration, Mike Piazza would likely be at the top of our list. For what it’s worth, he was far better defensively than he got credit for during his career.

However, Pizza is best remembered as the best hitting catcher in baseball history.

In his first full season in the majors, he won Rookie of the Year, the Silver Slugger Award, and was named an all-star. In fact, it would be his first of 10 straight Silver Sluggers and his first of a dozen all-star selections. Plus, his home run when baseball returned to New York after September 11, 2001 will forever be an iconic image. Needless to say, he has a spot in Cooperstown, finishing his career with a .308 average and 427 home runs.

3. Ivan Rodriguez

There are few players in baseball history who are more respected than Pudge. He played 21 seasons in the big leagues and always seemed to take fewer days off than most catchers. He was back there every day and he was outstanding defensively day after day, helping him earn 13 Gold Gloves, including a run of 10 straight.

Ivan Rodriguez was also a 14-time all-star with many forgetting that he also won MVP honors in 1999. His defense always earns him accolades, but Rodriguez finished his career as a .296 hitter with over 2,800 hits and 311 home runs, which is why he also won seven Silver Slugger Awards and was undoubtedly the best catcher of his generation.

2. Yogi Berra

It’s tough to find many big leaguers who played 19 seasons, much less did so as a catcher, which is what Yogi Berra did.

Not only did he play 19 seasons but Berra was also named to the All-Star Team 18 times in addition to winning MVP honors three times, including back-to-back years in 1954 and 1955.

If winning means anything, Berra won 10 World Series titles with the Yankees as a player and three more as a coach with the Mets and Yankees. Keep in mind that he did all of that after winning a Purple Heart during World War II.

Unfortunately, he’s only second on our list of the greatest catchers ever because the guy ahead of him was even more special. But let’s be clear that Berra was the clear choice for second, far ahead of everyone else.

1. Johnny Bench

There should be little argument that Johnny Bench is the greatest catcher in baseball history. The guy had a career that even puts some of the other players on our list of the 10 best catchers in MLB history to shame.

Bench was outstanding defensively, throwing out runners while also managing pitching staffs, which is why he won 10 straight Gold Gloves. He could also hit, batting .267 in his career with over 2,000 hits and 389 home runs.

In fact, he held the record for most home runs in a season by a catcher until 2021.

Bench was a 14-time all-star and was twice named MVP. He was also the heartbeat of the Reds during the 1970s when they were the Big Red Machine, reaching the World Series four times and winning world championships in 1975 and 1976. Eventually, Bench was inducted into the Hall of Fame on his first try with over 96% of the vote, making it clear that he’s the best catcher to ever play the game.



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Anna C. Knight

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