The New York Yankees are privileged. They have enjoyed excellent production from one of the most demanding positions in the diamond: catcher. Several Hall of Famers have donned pinstripes.
Who’s the greatest, though? Who would you say is the best catcher ever to play for the Yankees? I would narrow it down to five options:
Actually, Bill Dickey had the assignment of teaching Elston Howard the nuances of the catching position. He also did it for Yogi Berra. Dickey played for the Yankees from 1928-1946, but he missed a couple of seasons (1944-45) serving in the US Navy.
Dickey was part of eight World Series championship teams as a player. As a manager or coach, he won six more.
He was a fantastic defensive catcher himself who knew how to call a game and handle a staff. He finished his career with a fine .313/.382/.486 line, 202 homers, 930 runs, 1209 RBI and 56.1 fWAR.
“Bill is the best [catcher] I ever saw,” Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller once said, per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “He was as good as anyone behind the plate, and better with the bat. There are others I’d include right behind Dickey, but he was the best all-around catcher of them all. I believe I could have won 35 games if Bill was my catcher.”
Yogi Berra is considered one of the best catchers in MLB history. He is a true Yankee, even though he played his last season with the Mets.
Berra is the player with the most World Series championships in his resume, with 10. He then won three more as a coach.
Yogi went to a whopping 18 All-Star games. He won three MVP awards and had a lifetime line of .285/.348/.482 with a 124 wRC+. He was the Babe Ruth of catchers. Berra’s 63.8 fWAR puts him in sixth place among Yankees’ hitters historically, only bested by Ruth himself, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Derek Jeter.
Elston Howard is considered one of the best defensive catchers in the history of the New York Yankees. Besides catcher, he also played some left field. He was part of the iconic Negro Leagues team Kansas City Monarchs before playing in the Bronx. He was the first African American player ever to play for the Yankees, debuting in 1955.
Howard is a 12-time All-Star, a six-time World Series champion, and a two-time Gold Glove Award winner. He also won the American League MVP award in 1963.
The Yankees retired number 32 to honor Howard. He accrued 31.3 fWAR and batted .274/.322/.427 with a 105 wRC+. He hit 167 home runs, scored 619 times and drove in 762 runs over his major league career.
A tragic death in an airplane accident took away his life, but not before he had established himself as a true Yankees legend. He had played 11 seasons in the show, batting .292 with 113 home runs and 701 RBI, and was a fantastic defensive backstop. He won Gold Gloves in 1973, 1974 and 1975, continuing with a tradition of excellence behind the plate for the Yankees.
Munson was a seven-time All-Star, a two-time World Series champion, the Rookie of the Year in 1970, and the AL MVP in 1976. He was the Yankees’ captain from 1976 until the moment of his death. His number 15 is retired by the organization.
Munson accumulated 40.9 fWAR in his career. His best season was actually 1973, when he had 6.6 fWAR and hit 20 home runs.
Unlike the four names previously mentioned in this article, Posada wasn’t an outstanding defensive catcher. But he wasn’t as bad as some people tend to believe. In fact, he had a positive “Def” rating in FanGraphs with 12.9 fielding runs above average. He was above average in his first eleven full seasons, but he was pretty bad in his final four years.
Nevertheless, Posada was the gold standard for offense from the catcher position in the American League in the late nineties and the 2000s. He routinely posted 20-homer seasons for excellent, winning teams.
Posada won the World Series four times and was an All-Star five times. In five different occasions he won the Silver Slugger Award and he accumulated 40.4 fWAR in his 17-year tenure. For his contributions in the latest dynasty, the Yankees had his number 20 retired.
What’s your take?
These five players all excelled in their time. For me, Yogi is the best of them all, with Dickey a close second. I would rank Munson third, Posada fourth and Howard fifth. All five were awesome, though, and I would have no problem taking any of them for my team.
What’s your take? Would you change the order? Or would you consider any name off this list? Feel free to drop by the comments section and share your thoughts!