The Tuesday Discussion: My Favorite Yankees Catcher
This week we asked our writers to name their favorite Yankees catcher of all-time.
Here are the responses:
*** Tamar Chalker – My favorite Yankees catcher is Jorge Posada, though it was hard to decide against Yogi Berra. Still, I remember watching Posada as Girardi’s backup and then as he became the new starter. It was just as I was becoming a big baseball fan and I played catcher back then, so I was always partial to Jorge.
Paul Semendinger – For me, it cannot be anyone other than Thurman Munson. My goodness, being a kid, seeing Thurman play- the respect he had from all. I only recall the announcers always being in awe of Munson. “He bats third, where the best players hit,” “He drives in 100 runs a year,” “He is clutch,” “No one is tougher…”
I have shared this story before, but when I turned nine, my neighbors who were a few years older than me, and the coolest people anywhere, gave me a Thurman Munson poster for my bedroom. I was in awe of them and Thurman.
On August 2 I always pause and remember that terrible day more than 40 years ago…
Thurman is my favorite catcher of all-time. That will never change.
Owen Hetherington – My favorite Yankee catcher of all-time has to be Jorge Posada. Growing up, I really looked at Jorge as the second captain on the team with Jeter. His ability to control the game behind the plate is something I will always remember. He was a rare switch-hitting catcher with power that you don’t see in the game anymore.
Lincoln Mitchell – The Yankees have had many likable catchers. Bill Dickey was way before my time, but he was a great catcher who I am sure I would have liked if I had seen him play. Yogi Berra, who was also before my time, was the greatest catcher ever (sorry fans of Johnny Bench or Ivan Rodriguez), and was also an American treasure. I always liked Jorge Posada and even was fond of some less remembered Yankees backstops like Butch Wynegar and Don Slaught. However, when it comes to favorite Yankees catcher ever, it is not even close. Perhaps this is because of my age, but Thurman Munson is on the short list of my favorite players ever. He was the best player on the first Yankees team I followed closely in 1976 and could do everything on the ballfields. He was a good hitter, who got better in the clutch, whose defense was not always appreciated. He also struck me as the kind of guy you’d want as a teammate. I cried the day he died, but prefer to remember the day October in 1978 when I was walking home from school and the crossing guard told me that this had happened.
Chris O’Connor – My favorite Yankee catcher of all time is Yogi Berra. Yankees become legends in October and Yogi played in 14 World Series, winning 10 of them. He showed up when it mattered most: he slashed a solid .274/.359/.452 with 12 homers in 75 World Series games and he was the backbone behind many of those teams. Catcher is notoriously the most physically demanding defensive position in baseball and for Yogi to man the position throughout the Yankees dynasty, while winning three MVP awards himself, makes him one of the most legendary Yankees at any position.
Derek McAdam – Although I never had the ability to watch him player or manage a team, Yogi Berra is the obvious choice for my favorite Yankee catcher of all-time. One of the great things about Yogi that I enjoy are some of his famous catchphrases and sayings. Even if you are not a fan of baseball or know who Yogi Berra is, you’ve probably heard one of his famous quotes in your lifetime. He was a fantastic catcher, but an even better person off the field.
Ed Botti – There is a difference between best catcher and favorite catcher.
Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey stand tall as the best catchers in the history of the Yankees, neither of which I saw play (obviously). Some could argue which one was the best.
From my perspective, my favorite catcher to wear the pinstripes was Thurman Munson.
Home grown. Tough as nails. A leader. As clutch as could be. Brutality honest with the media and even the Boss. Respected throughout the League, even by his nemesis Carlton Fisk.
Hands down Thurman was the guy for me!!
Jorge is next in line from players I actually saw play.
Mike Whiteman – My favorite Yankee catcher of all-time was Yogi Berra. Truly one of a kind.
Yogi was a top-five MVP finisher seven seasons in a row from 1950-1956 (three winners). Willie Mays didn’t do that, Barry Bonds didn’t do that, Mickey Mantle didn’t do that. You don’t hear a lot about his work behind the plate, but he controlled the running game, had positive dWAR and Yankee pitching was at the top of league ERA during this time.
He just edges out my second favorite, Elston Howard.
Andy Singer – Yogi Berra would be the easy answer here, and for sure, it’s a good one. After all, beyond his Hall of Fame career and hilarious Yogi-isms, he was a committed philanthropist who gave his time and resources to good works in his larger community. I love Yogi as much as all Yankee fans.
However, I am a product of the era in which I grew up, and it’s tough for me to shake the image of Joe Girardi as the ideal Yankee catcher. Girardi was tough, skilled defensively, handled a diverse pitching staff with veteran touch, and was always immersed in the game in a way few modern players seem to accomplish. Was Girardi a great catcher from a statistical standpoint? Hardly. In fact, he was likely the ideal backup catcher from a statistical standpoint. However, his best year came in pinstripes during the 1996 World Series Championship season, when he was a rock behind the plate while doing just enough in the 9-hole to not embarrass himself. Yankee fans will always remember Girardi’s triple in Game 6 of the World Series to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead, and if I close my eyes, I’m a kid on the floor of the living room in my childhood home cheering as Girardi sprinted around the bases.
I loved Girardi as a manager, but I first loved watching him behind the plate, and as good as Jorge Posada turned out to be as a player, I was deeply saddened when Girardi lost his job. Joe Girardi is my favorite Yankee catcher until otherwise noted.
Ethan Semendinger – As much as I love to learn about the history of baseball and the New York Yankees, I don’t think that I can truly say a player I never watched play was my favorite in a thought experiment like this. At the catching position this puts me at a severe disadvantage as I lose out on players like Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson, etc.
Since I really truly started to watch baseball in the mid-2000’s, the Yankees have had 8 different starting catchers according to Baseball Reference. This is a good sample of players to pick from, including Jorge Posada, Brian McCann, and Russell Martin. But truthfully, while I liked each I wouldn’t say any of them were a favorite. It might sound odd, but I think of the years I watched and have understood baseball, I can narrow my list to two catchers: John Ryan Murphy and Kyle Higashioka.
JRM became a fun joke within the RAB community and he was fun to watch before the Yankees sent him to Minnesota for Aaron Hicks. I thought he was going to be a good starting catcher for the Yankees after McCann until Gary Sanchez. For Kyle Higashioka, he instantly became a household favorite when he destroyed David Price for his first career hit. I also think he could be a solid starter for the Yankees as he not only crushes baseballs, but he can also shred on the guitar. I’ll chop this pick up to my love for the underdog player.