The Tools Of Ignorance: My Favorite All-Time Catchers.
Recently I was looking through all the Baseball related photos I have saved and scanned over time. While doing so I realized some of my all-time favorite players, many who I have admired since I was a young boy have been Catchers. In turn this made me want to do a post of my personal favorite Catchers in Baseball history. So yeah, that’s basically what this post is about. Here are my 7 favorite players in 5 photos in no particular order who have donned the “Tools Of Ignorance” over the history of this great game.
Yogi Berra: I’ll start off with the man who should be #1 at the top of any list like this. I remember being in 2nd grade and being incredibly confused that there was a man named “Yogi Berra” and a cartoon named “Yogi Bear” and I assume that was the case for many children over the years. I can write sooo much about how great Yogi is/was but everyone should already know this.
I will make this quick and suggest that everyone do yourself a favor and go out and purchase the newest issue of Sports Illustrated (pictured above) as most stores still have it on their stands. The photo above is absolutely incredible and the article written by the always great Joe Posnanski is as informative as it is beautifully written. I have to admit, this was the first issue of SI I have personally bought since the mid ’90’s.
Josh Gibson & Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe: Two of my favorite Negro League stars just happen to be Catchers and this awesome photo from one of the East-West All-Star games in the early 1940’s in Comiskey Park captures both of them in action. Radcliffe’s “Double Duty” nickname was no joke as during his career he had more than 4000 career hits and hit over 400 home runs while batting. While pitching he won close to 500 games and struck out over 4000 batters. This was all while playing for over 30 Negro League, Barnstorming and Independent League teams during his 36 year career in the game. His autobiography, “Ted ‘Double Duty’ Radcliffe: 36 years of Pitching & Catching in Baseball’s Negro Leagues” is great and I suggest every Baseball fan read it.
As far as the “Black Babe Ruth” goes, Josh Gibson (along with Sadaharu Oh) blew my mind as a kid when I found out that he hit more home runs then Hank Aaron. Now that I am older I know to take some of that with a grain of salt for various reasons. However as any Baseball fan will probably tell you, if Gibson played his entire career in the Major Leagues then he very possibly would have been the home run king. This is always a cool little “What If….” idea to think about.
A little fun fact: Gibson had a son (Josh Gibson Jr.) who also played professional Baseball. During his short career he spent time with the Youngstown Colts, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Farnham Pirates, and Homestead Grays.
Benito Santiago: As a kid, the first 2 Baseball players I became fans of were Tony Gwynn & Benito Santiago. This was due to them being the San Diego Padres stars of those years. Benito Santiago was super cool in my eyes for a few reasons. The main reason being that he won the 1987 Rookie Of The Year as a member of the Padres while setting the Major League record for a hitting streak by a rookie with a 34 game streak. Add that to the the fact that he would throw out batters from his knees quite regularly and I was a fan for life.
It’s too bad Benito got caught up in steroids during his years up in San Francisco and in some ways tarnished his legacy as one of the great Catchers of his time. Even with that said, I got to admit that I’ll still always have a spot in my heart for ole’ Benito.
Carlton Fisk & Thurman Munson: These two guys represented both sides of one of the most hated rivalries in sports history while playing the game hard-nosed and with incredible passion. Neither Fisk or Munson were shy about their dislike for each other and each other’s teams and this added to what was so cool and admirable about these Baseball legends. It has always been said that after Munson’s accident, Fisk admitted to crying though so I guess the hatred didn’t go to extreme levels.
Unfortunately I never personally saw Munson play as he died 2 months before I was born, however I did watch Fisk play a lot as a kid and he was always one of my favorites. My favorite Fisk story/memory involves a near scuffle he had with Deion Sanders in which Fisk attempted to put Neon Deion in his place during a game at Yankee Stadium. A good article explaining what went down can be found about halfway down THIS page. Fisk didn’t take crap from anyone nor did the late Munson, including from each other and that’s why they both make this list.
Roy Campanella: A great color photo of Campy and I gotta admit that something about this photo just gets my Baseball juices flowing. I fell in love with Campanella as a kid after learning about Jackie Robinson and therefore the Brooklyn Dodgers became my favorite team of yesteryear. I still remember the feelings I got when I discovered that Campy’s career had been cut short when he became paralyzed by a car accident. Even though it happened in 1958, it still bummed me out as a kid in the late 80’s.
What I would give to have been around during the 10 years that Campanella played in Brooklyn so I could have witnessed the Hall of Famer hold it down behind the plate. New York Baseball fans were seriously spoiled in the 40’s & 50’s as they were able to watch both Berra and Campanella. When I think of stuff like this, I swear I was born in the wrong decade.