One of the most physically and mentally demanding positions in baseball is catching. Often, catchers are held to a different standard compared to pitchers and infielders. Teams must be strong up the middle, and if you have a quality defensive player with some production, that can lead you to a World Series.
These players did their best to win or set some impressive records. But, there will be at least four more people on this list who will end up in Cooperstown a little bit down the road.
Buck Ewing Was The First Of His Position To Do Something Unique
Ewing was one of the first of his position to crouch behind the plate. That cut down the time it would take to throw runners out at second, and catch the ball closer to home.
In the early part of his career, Ewing didn't wear a chest protector or a solid mask. As baseball evolved as a sport, so did protections for catchers. Ewing played the game dangerously, making his career that much more impressive.
Josh Gibson Could Have Broken The Color Barrier
Gibson posted an absurd 1.026 OPS and .624 in the Negro Leagues. Playing for the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords, Gibson hit an impressive .350 during his career. His next stop should have been the big leagues.
Unfortunately, he never played in the big leagues, passing away a few months before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. We imagine it would have truly been something special to see them take the field at the same time.
Gabby Hartnett Had An Insane Season In 1930
The former Cubbie had one of the best statistical seasons for a catcher. In 1930, Hartnett batted .339 with 37 home runs and 122 RBI. In 1937, he would hit .354, an average that stood still for 60 years.
Old Tomato Face would rake in 236 home runs and have a career batting average of .297. It's not often catchers are known for their offense, but Hartnett was one of the best both in front of, and behind the dish.
A three-time winner of the batting title, Mauer is the only catcher to accomplish the feat in the American League. Mauer has over 2,000 hits in his career, and he set an MLB single-season record for catchers.
In 2009, he had a .265 batting average as well as a record .444 OBP. If Mauer had managed to stay healthy his entire career, he would have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
For 21 years, Tim McCarver was one of the best game callers behind the dish. Most catchers are lucky to last 10! His best pitcher/catcher relationship came with Bob Gibson, who had a career 2.44 career ERA when throwing to him.
Without McCarver, Gibson's ERA blew up to a still respectable 3.02. And during games Gibson pitcher to McCarver, the catcher hit a lot of home runs, proving just how mutual the relationship was.
Aside from his knack for hitting, Campanella was known for his quickness. He finished his career with 242 home runs and 856 RBI. His numbers could have been better if he didn't suffer a career-ending injury.
Campanella was immobilized after a tragic car accident. Despite having a shortened career, the impact "Campy" had on the game was undeniable. In 1969, he was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
While his defense wasn't as good as others on this list, Piazza was an offensive juggernaut for the Mets and Dodgers. The 12-time All-Star had one of the greatest seasons in MLB history.
In 1997, the Hall of Famer's slash line was .362/.431/.638 with 40 home runs and 124 RBI. Around the same time, Piazza became the headliner of his own baseball video game franchise, which is still considered one of the best ever made.
Bench was able to gun down runners. He would help the Cincinnati Reds to two World Series titles while piling up MVP, Gold Glove Awards, and Rookie of the Year.
His two MVP seasons had him compile 45 home runs and 148 RBI, then 40 home runs and 125 RBI.
Posey has already amassed numbers and awards that should have him reach Cooperstown. He is a three-time World Series champion, MVP, Rookie of the Year, and more. The Giants back-stopper is no slouch behind the plate.
By the time Posey's career comes to an end, he'll be regarded as one of the greatest catchers baseball has ever seen. Until that time comes, we will enjoy watching every inning he is allowed to play.
Fisk has the sixth-most RBI all-time by a catcher. With 1,330 RBIs and 376 homers, the original "Pudge" ranks fourth all-time in WAR. Fisk played for over 20 seasons and was the first person in to ever unanimously be voted the American League Rookie of the Year.
Not only did Fisk launch the game-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, but it also became one of the most memorable plays ever.
One of the most popular players in the league, Carter led all catchers in a few categories. Total chances, put-outs, assists, and double plays were his calling card in the 70's and 80's.
Carter played for the Montreal Expos but helped lead the New York Mets to a memorable World Series run in 1986. The Mets returned to the World Series once since then, while the Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals.
Ernie Lombardi Was The Slowest Man In Baseball
"Schnozz" was known for his massive hands. He had an odd batting stance where he would interlock his hands. A career .306 hitter, the catcher relied on his power to make up for his lack of speed.
In 1938, he was the backstop for back-to-back no-hitters. Other nicknames for Lomardi included, "Lumbago", "Bocci", "The Cyrano of the Iron Mask" and "Lom." He was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.
The best defensive catcher was a sniper behind the plate. A member of the 2003 World Series champion Marlins, "Pudge," leads all catchers with 2,844 hits, 14,864 put-outs, and 2,427 games caught.
His prolific career was rewarded when he was inducted into Cooperstown in 2017. Since then, he has been lucky enough to witness his son, Derek Rodriguez, make his major league debut as a starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.
Molina is one of the better defensive catchers of all-time. The Cardinal great is known for controlling the game behind the plate through his pitch selection. The Puerto Rico native ranks second all-time among catchers with 130 Defensive Runs Saved.
And, he's won two World Series while handling the plate. If it wasn't for him playing at the same time as Buster Posey, he might have won a few more. When Molina finally retires, his replacement in St, Louis will have iconic shoes to fill.
Before a fastball to the head ended his career, Cochrane compiled a .320 batting average. In 1930, he would hit a career-best .357, then hit .349 the following season.
Cochrane's hitting ability was only part of the equation, as he was known for his ability to control a game from behind the plate. He was a two-time all-star and three-time World Series Champion. In 1947, he was inducted in Cooperstown.
The 11-time All-Star posted 11 seasons hitting over .300. His best stretch was between 1936-1939. During that span, he had 102 home runs, 460 RBI, and he finished among the top five in MVP voting.
After his playing days, Dickey managed the Yankees for a season.
Posada was the heart of the Yankees last dynasty. The four-time World Series champion had a consistent bat and played good defense.
The future Hall of Famer hit more home runs and batted in more runs than any catcher between 2000 and 2011, and was part of a Yankees trio that included Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Simmons was one of the feistiest catchers in the game. The eight-time All-Star had seven seasons where he broke the .300 mark. He would set significant league records among catchers with 2,472 career hits and 483 doubles.
Both of those records have since been broken. Simmons was an eight-time all star and a one time Silver Slugger Award winner. He was selected by the Modern Baseball Era Committee for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2020.
Because of his legendary coaching career, the incredible catching career of Joe Torre has been seemingly forgotten. The catcher player for 17 seasons, mostly with the Atlanta Braves, and retired with a career WAR of 57.6.
Torre actually split his time between catching, first, and third base, and we think his versatility should be celebrated. An MLB lifer, Torre became a manager after playing, and now works directly with MLB.
Berra was a part of 10 World Series winning teams, all with New York. From 1950-1956, the Yankee great finished in the top four of the MVP vote. A three-time MVP and 18-time All-Star, Berra was thankful for one thing.
He was mentored by another Yankee great, player-turned manager Bill Dickey. After his playing days ended, Berra was a manager and coach for over 20 seasons. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.
The star catcher of the Pinstripes led New York to two World Series championships. Munson is the only catcher in postseason history to hit at least .300, have 20 or more RBIs and throw out over 20 runners.
Munson was a seven time all star two time World Series champion and a Monument Park honoree in New York. The three-time Gold Glover and MVP had his No.15 retired shortly after his tragic death.
Mackey was named to five East-West All-Star teams. With a career that lasted nearly three decades, Mackey was considered one of the all-time greats.
While the Texas native never reached the major leagues, he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. When he retired, Mackey moved to the West Coast, settling in Los Angeles and becoming a forklift driver. He spent the rest of his living days in the Souther California sunshine.
Mike Stanley played for three different teams over the course of his career. He spent most of that time with the Rangers but only appeared in the postseason with the Yankees and Red Sox.
Early in his career, Stanley was used more as a platoon player than every day. In today's MLB, he would fit right in. By the end of his 16-year career, he had 187 home runs and 702 runs batted in.
Even if you don't know the name Bill Freehan, you'e probably seen his picture. He caught the final out of the 1968 World Series, and the image snapped has become one of the most iconic baseball images of all-time.
For a span of ten years, Freehan was widely considered to be the best catcher in baseball. By the time he called it a career, he had three World Series titles to his name, cementing his place on this list.
Jim Sundberg played professionally from 1974 until 1989, and was the first player to catch more than 130 games in ten straight seasons. Usually catchers need to play less time as they get older or their knees give out.
Sundberg won six Gold Gloves by the time he retired, and would probably be remembered more fondly if he had played for more competitive teams in his career. He deserves more credit than he's ever gotten.
Early in his career, Jason Kendall was on pace to not only become the greatest catcher of all-time but one of the greatest MLB players ever. By age 26, he had a 20 WAR, and was considered a prodigy.
After nine years in Pittsburgh, though, Kendall's flame began to dim. Around the time he was 30-years-old, he suffered a devastating leg injury that nearly ended his career. He was never the same.
Darrell Porter is probably the most tragic player on this list. Throughout he adult suffered he fought tooth and nails with a cocaine addiction. During his MLB career, he won a World Series and became the one of two catchers to score and drive in 100 runs.
When his career ended, he couldn't keep his bad habits at bay. Porter, for as great as he was on the field, passed away just after his 50th birthday from a drug overdose.
Lance Parrish played the underdog card when he originally made it to MLB. He had huge muscles, and as a result his manager didn't think he would be flexible enough to play catcher.
By the end of his 19-year career Parrish caught over 1,800 games, proving Sparky Anderson wrong. He was mentored by Bill Freehan, and is one of the few catchers to find a normal spot in the heart of the batting order.
A journeyman catcher for most of his career after making his name with the Oakland A's, Kurt Suzuki is one of the best catchers of the modern era. Known for his ability to call a game, he also has decent power.
Suzuki may not have the batting numbers to justify a higher spot on this list, but he more than earns his keep. He is widely respected by his teammates and has a career WAR of 20.
Another modern era catcher who has already cemented his legacy in MLB, Russell Martin is one of the greatest leaders the sport has ever seen. Playing mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Martin has also spent time with the Toronto Blue, Yankees, and Pirates.
Despite bouncing around the league, wherever Russell has gone, success and postseason appearances have seemed to follow. It helps that he is one of the top rated defensive catchers of the last ten years.
Like so many other catchers before him, Victor Martinez was one of the best backstops offensively and defensively early in his career. Later in his career injuries slowed him down, by the end he was forced into a role as a designated hitter.
If Martinez had been able to stay behind the dish longer, especially with the offensive numbers he was able to produce, there is no telling how high he would be on this list.
Brian McCann has played for two teams during his MLB career; the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees. During that time he has proven to be one of the better offensive catchers the league has ever seen.
In ten of the years he's played, McCann has knocked 20 balls over the fence. The feat puts him in distinguished territory with Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, and Yogi Berra. He is truly one of the greats.
Aside from a mid-career lull that saw his offensive power numbers drop. Javy Lopez is one of the more consistent catchers on this list. His best season saw him hit 43 home runs and drive in 109 RBIs.
Unfortunately, playing most of his career alongside Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine didn't allow Lopez the recognition he deserved. Even in his biggest year he failed to crack the top four in MVP voting.
Chris Iannetta is perhaps the greatest platoon catcher of all-time. Over the course of his thirteen-year career, his OPS is 130 points higher against left-handing pitching than it is against right-handed pitching.
Because of his extreme splits, Iannetta has never found a job as a full-time catcher despite his lengthy career. Still, he has shown the power behind the plate to warrant consideration and earn a spot on this list.
Mike Napoli has made waves in MLB as a catcher, first baseman, and designated hitter. The reason for this is his offense. To put it simply, Napoli can hit the ball a country mile.
A series of injuries limited his ability to catch games regularly by the time he was 30. After, he was moved permanently to first base and later designated hitter. If not for the position switching, we might be talking about him higher on this list.
Alex Avila is one of MLB's great legacy players. He was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2004 as a favor to his father. He rewarded the team on his call up by hitting 19 home runs.
Unfortunately, Avila's numbers began to decline as he got several concussions, and his rookie campaign became considered a fluke. We will always wonder how good he could have been if he had stayed healthy.
Mike Scioscia started his MLB career straight out of high school and never looked back. He had his most notable role with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and retired with a reputation for being able to block balls better than anyone else.
After retiring, Scioscia stayed in the game, eventually becoming the manager for the Angels, whom he led to a World Series title over the San Francisco Giants in 2002.
The father of the Boone clan, Bob Boone spent most of his career with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he earned a reputation as one of the best hitting catchers of the time. To many, he is also considered the greatest Philly backstop ever.
Boone retired in 1990, but his legacy was carried on by his sons; Brett and Aaron, the latter of which is currently the manager for the New York Yankees.
Currently the manager of the Anaheim Angels, Brad Ausmus is one of the best defensive catchers of all-time. Spending most of his 17-year career with the Houston Astros, he was never considered an offensive threat, but he was still always feared by his opponent.
Amazingly, Ausmus was originally drafted in the 47th round of the draft. He ended up playing more games in the league thean 1,150 of the players taken in front of him.
Still going strong today, Matt Wieters is one of MLB's most respected back stops. He has won two Gold Gloves and has been named an all-star four time, all despite never reaching his full offensive potential.
Today, Wieters is more of a role player than everyday player, but still shines when called upon. An elbow injury in 2014 limited his ability behind the dish, but that hasn't stopped him from making an impact everywhere he's played since.
Darren Daulton played most of his MLB career for the Philadelphia Phillies. The former backstop was recognized by his signature cleft chin, the perfect look for a catcher.
Daulton was a three-time MLB All-Star, a 1992 Silver Slugger Award winner, and he won his only World Series title in his one season with the Florida Marlins in 1997.
In 2016, catcher Wilson Contreras joined the Chicago Cubs from their minor league team. Technically, in his rookie campaign, Contreras helped guide the Cubs to a World Series, their first in over a century.
Wilson made the MLB All-Star team three times in his brief career and left the Cubs to join their rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, in 2022.
Eight time MLB All-Star back catcher Salvador Perez deserves to be mentioned with the greatest of all time. The Venezuelan-born Perez was picked 13th in 2011 by the Kansas City Royals.
Perez helped catch the Royals way to a 2015 World Series title, and was named the MVP of that World Series. Perez won five Gold Glove and four Silver Slugger Awards.
Former catcher and manager Tony Pena had an impressive career catching balls and strikes behind home plate. Pena played for 17 seasons in the MLB, managed for three, and was the first base coach for the New York Yankees from 2006-2017.
Although Pena did not win a World Series as a player, he did earn one while with the Yankees in 2009.
Former MLB catcher Terry Steinbach deserves to be considered on the list of the greatest in history. In 13 seasons, Steinbach played for two teams, the Oakland Athletics and the Minnesota Twins.
Steinbach earned a World Series championship playing on an A's team with Mark McGuire and Jose Canseco in 1989.
The stats do not necessarily jump off the page at you, but former MLB catcher Mickey Tettleton was one of the best and most efficient.
On top of going to two All-Star games and winning three Silver Slugger Awards, Tettleton's .821 on-base plus slugging percentage is good for 11th 11th-highest in MLB history at the position.
By the time J.T. Realmuto is done with baseball, not only will he be among the greatest catchers in MLB history, but if he wins a World Series or two, he may retire one of the best players ever.
Before his 33rd birthday, Realmuto had been to the All-Star game three times, won two Gold Glove Awards, and hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, and a home run in the same game.).
With a name like Smoky Burgess, special consideration should be given to automatically putting him in the Hall of Fame. In all seriousness, the former catcher is in the Cincinnati Reds' Hall of Fame, and with good reason.
Burgess won a World Series in 1960 and was selected to the All-Star game nine times in an MLB career that spanned nearly two decades.
Longevity, consistency, and production are the start of the reasons Butch Wynegar is one of the best backstops in MLB history.
Wynegar retired with a 0.989 fielding percentage, played nearly 11,000 innings, and 1,100 hits. He also made the All-Star team two times in an 11-year career, representing three teams.
Jason Varitek was a catcher for the Boston Red Sox. He played 15 years, all with Boston. He won two World Series, a Gold Glove Award, a Silver Slugger Award, and is in the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Varitek then joined the organization as a Special Assistant to their General Manager before becoming the Red Sox's Player Information Coach in 2021.
In his MLB career, Ramon Hernandez caught for six teams from 1999-2013. The Venezuelan-born catcher had over 700 RBI and 169 home runs and was an All-Star in 2003.
After Hernandez hung up his mitt and cleats, he was hired by the Oakland Athletics in 2023 to be their Staff Assistant and Interpreter.
The only debate about former MLB catcher Rick Dempsey's greatness is the amount of seasons he played. Dempsey was a backstop for nearly a quarter of a century, most with the Baltimore Orioles.
Dempsey won a World Series in 1983 and 1988, was the 1983 World Series MVP, hit nearly 100 homers, but never made an All-Star team.
Before becoming an MLB catcher, Elston Howard spent two seasons at the position in the Negro League. Once in the big leagues, Howard racked up an impressive resume of accomplishments.
Howard played 13 seasons in the MLB for the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The former 12-time All-Star won six World Series, an American League MVP, two Gold Glove Awards, and became a Yankees first base coach.
Not only was former MLB player Gene Tenace a great catcher, but he was also a first baseman, making him the ultimate utility man. Most importantly, Tenace was a winner.
Tenace won six World Series titles, was a big part of an Oakland A's dynasty that won three consecutive rings, and was the MVP of the 1972 World Series.
The catcher position is not often linked with the more athletic baseball players, but John Stearns might have changed all of that.
Stearns was a former two-sport collegiate athlete before playing in MLB for nearly a decade, including one game with the Philadelphia Phillies and nine full seasons with the New York Mets. Stearns also was selected to the All-Star team four times.
A.J. Pierzynski is well respected for his contributions to the diamond as a catcher, but he did not exactly endear himself to opponents and cared very little about that.
Pirerzynksi won a World Series in 2005 as a member of the Chicago White Sox, won a Silver Slugger Award, and was voted the most hated player in 2012 by his peers.
Ernie Whitt is a former MLB catcher and honorary Canadian. Whitt squatted behind the plate for 15 seasons, 10 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Polishing his craft and grinding away in the major leagues in Canada earned Whitt respect with his stats and as a potential coach.
Whitt was an All-Star in 1985, lost to the Oakland A's in the 1989 American League Championship Series, narrowly missing a World Series, and started coaching the Canadian National Baseball Team in 2004.
One close look at the career of former MLB catcher Charles Johnson and people might mistakenly think he was a journeyman and not valued because he played for seven teams. This was far from the truth.
Johnson won a World Series in 1997, made the All-Star team twice, and represented the United States in international baseball.
Carlos Ruiz is on the bottom rung of the ladder for MLB catchers and should not be. Ruiz was a ten-year veteran, a World Series champion in 2008, and an All-Star in 2012.
Ruiz epitomized plate discipline with his eagle eye, and he did not move like a typical catcher, often running the bases like the game depended on it.
Where former MLB catcher Joe Ferguson ranks on the list of catching greats is debatable, but including him should not be.
Ferguson was behind the plate in the majors for 13 seasons. He became part of the coaching staff of former teammate Bobby Valentine for the Texas Rangers before winning a World Series in 1988 as a coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.