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Top 10 Catchers in Major League Baseball History

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Catchers have perhaps the toughest jobs on the diamond, a grueling position that requires durability, a great arm, the mind to call a game and, of course, the ability to hit always helps, too. These 10 did it the best, and eight of them are in the Hall of Fame because of it, with the two others almost certainly going to Cooperstown someday. A look at the 10 best catchers in Major League Baseball history:

1. Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

New York Yankees (1946-1963), New York Mets (1965)

Wasn't quite the defensive equivalent of No. 2 on this list, but he was probably even better as a pure hitter. He was AL MVP three times - and received MVP votes for 15 years in a row - and was a 15-time AL All-Star who won 10 World Series as a Yankee in a 16-year span. He hit 358 homers and led the Yankees in RBI in every season from 1949-55 on teams loaded with future Hall of Famers. He also caught Don Larsen's World Series perfect game in 1956.

2. Johnny Bench

Johnny Bench
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Cincinnati Reds (1967-83)

Perhaps the central figure in the Big Red Machine teams of the 1970s, he was a combination of power at the plate and defensive ability behind it that was unprecedented. Bench won 10 Gold Gloves, two NL MVP awards and was named to 14 All-Star teams in his 17 seasons. The 1968 NL Rookie of the Year also led the league in RBI three times.

3. Mickey Cochrane

Mickey Cochrane
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Philadelphia Athletics (1925-33), Detroit Tigers (1934-37)

A two-time AL MVP with a career average of .320, he was a pillar in the lineup of some great Philadelphia teams in the 1920s and 1930s, winning pennants in three consecutive seasons. He also was player-manager on two pennant winning teams in Detroit, and a World Series-winning team in 1935. His playing career ended at age 34 when he was hit in the head by a pitch in 1937.

4. Roy Campanella

Roy Campanella
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Brooklyn Dodgers (1948-57)

Played just 10 big-league seasons after starting his career in the Negro Leagues, coming to the Dodgers a year after Jackie Robinson. He set a single-season record for catchers with 41 homers and 142 RBI in 1953, and played in eight consecutive All-Star games. His career ended because an auto accident in 1958 that left him paralyzed, but he left his mark on the game.

5. Mike Piazza

Mike Piazza
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Los Angeles Dodgers (1992-98), Florida Marlins (1998), New York Mets (1998-2005), San Diego Padres (2006), Oakland A's (2007)

Never considered a great catcher defensively, Piazza was great at the plate, hitting more homers than any catcher in history. He is considered perhaps the best hitting catcher of all-time. Piazza batted .308 lifetime with 427 homers and nine seasons with 30 or more. His 1997 season might be the greatest ever for a catcher statistically as he hit .362 with 40 home runs, 124 RBI and 201 hits. He was a 12-time All-Star. Quite a ride for a 62nd-round pick who was passed over 1,389 times in the 1988 draft.

6. Ivan Rodriguez

Ivan Rodriguez
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Texas Rangers (1991-2002, 2009), Florida Marlins (2003), Detroit Tigers (2004-2008), New York Yankees (2008), Houston Astros (2009), Washington Nationals (2010-)

No player has caught more games than "Pudge" Rodriguez, who remains active as of this writing, going into his 21st season in 2011. With a strong arm and great skills behind the plate, the native of Puerto Rico became a great hitting catcher as he matured, hitting more than 300 career home runs and a career batting average of .298 entering 2011. His best season came at age 27 in 1999, when he won AL MVP honors after hitting .332 with 35 homers, 113 RBI, 25 stolen bases and one of his 13 career Gold Gloves. He led the Marlins to a World Series title in 2003.

7. Carlton Fisk

Carlton Fisk
Getty Images

Boston Red Sox (1969, 1971-80), Chicago White Sox (1981-93)

While Bench was the star in the NL, Fisk was considered the best in the AL. And he continued to be among the best for 10 more years. The durable catcher ever caught 2,226 games in 24 seasons, and he hit 376 homers with a .269 average, second all-time among catchers, and first at the time of his retirement. He was a 10-time AL All-Star who hit one of the most memorable homers all-time to end Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

8. Bill Dickey

Getty Images

New York Yankees (1928-43, 1946)

He's the second-best Yankees catcher to wear No. 8, but that's no knock on Dickey, Yogi Berra's predecessor in New York. He batted .313 in his career, better than .300 in 10 of his first 11 seasons, and hit .362 in 1936, the highest average for a catcher until Joe Mauer hit .365 in 2009. With a strong arm and durability, he was also legendary defensively. He made 11 All-Star teams and his Yankees teams won seven World Series.

9. Gary Carter

Gary Carter
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Montreal Expos (1974-1984, 1992), New York Mets (1985-1989), San Francisco Giants (1990), Los Angeles Dodgers (1991)

The best all-around catcher of the 1980s, the squeaky-clean Carter was a great clutch hitter with 324 homers in 19 seasons. Carter was an 11-time All-Star who played a key role on the 1986 New York Mets championship team. He surpassed 100 RBI four times.

 

10. Gabby Hartnett

Gabby Hartnett
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Chicago Cubs (1922-40), New York Giants (1941)

A fine defensive catcher and hitter, he's considered perhaps the greatest of the first half of the 20th century. Hartnett hit .297 lifetime with 297 homers, including the "Homer in the Gloamin'," a famous blast in twilight in 1938 that helped lead the Cubs to the pennant. Hartnett was MVP in 1935, when he hit .344 with 13 homers and 91 RBI.

Next five: Thurman Munson, Buck Ewing, Jorge Posada, Joe Torre, Ted Simmons

Negro Leagues best: Josh Gibson, Larry Brown, Biz Mackey

Maybe someday: Joe Mauer

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