In honor of Brian McCann‘s 30th birthday, this list is dedicated to catchers. But not just catchers, the best darn backstops who have ever donned stripes. This list will evaluate how well players did in the Bronx; players who contributed with mainly other teams and finished off an illustrious career with the Yankees will not count. With that said, McCann does not qualify for this list, but hopefully he will someday. Here are the top five catchers in Yankees history.
5. Jorge Posada- The Yankees backstop during the height of their 1990’s dominance, Posada was one of the best offensive catchers throughout his 16-year career. An integral part of the “Core Four” of Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and himself, Posada was a member of five World Series teams from 1996, ’98-2000 and 2009. His professionalism and prowess both behind the plate and in the batter’s box led to 1574 games caught, 1661 hits, and 275 home runs. He retired in 2011, but still remains active during Yankee promotional days.
4. Elston Howard- The Yankees version of Jackie Robinson, Howard appeared as the first African-American baseball player in the Bronx in 1955 after several years in the Negro Leagues. In his 14-year career in the Major Leagues for the Yankees and Red Sox (he was traded in 1968), Elston Howard was voted to nine consecutive All-Star appearances from 1957 to 1965, and won two Gold Glove Awards in 1963 and 1964. Additionally, he garnered the 1963 American League MVP award with 28 home runs and 85 RBI while leading the Yankees to the World Series. Even though the Yanks lost to the Dodgers in 4 games, Howard was still involved in nine other World Series, earning victory in four. After his retirement in 1968, he joined the Yankees as a coach in 1969, becoming the first black first base coach until 1979. Sadly, he developed a heart ailment and passed away in 1980. Also a military veteran, Elston Howard will always be remembered for his class and contributions to the diversity of baseball as well as his playing career.
3. Thurman Munson- George Steinbrenner touted Munson as the first Captain of the Yankees since Lou Gehrig, and what a captain Squatty Body was. Drafted fourth overall out of Kent State in 1968, Munson made his debut in 1969, and had his rookie season in 1970, where he won Rookie of the Year honors. The epitome of a leader, Munson toughed his way to the top by hitting, fielding, and just playing all out. Everyone respected him, from his various All-Star teammates (seven times) to his Yankees teammates (eleven seasons) to coaches and players around the league. He would win MVP in 1976 and two World Series titles in 1977 and 1978. Tragically, he died during a crash while piloting a small Cessna on August 2, 1979. His legacy still lives on however, as no one will ever wear number 15 again.
2. Bill Dickey- While The Man Nobody Knows never won a Most Valuable Player Award, Dickey was a beacon of consistency during his 17 seasons in Yankees pinstripes. After playing ten games late in the 1928 season, Dickey assumed the starter’s job the next season, batting .324 as a 22-year-old. While he was always a great defensive catcher, he blossomed offensively in 1936, hitting .362 with 107 RBI. Dickey would hit at least 24/105/.302 in his next three seasons, winning the World Series each year. His career accolades include eleven All-Star seasons, 1969 hits, a career .313 batting average, and 7 World Series titles. Maybe his most mind-boggling stat: in over 7,000 plate appearances, he struck out a total of 289 times in total! He also managed the Yankees as player-manager in 1946, and was voted into the Hall of Fame. The Yankees retired his number 8, too. Everybody knows this man now.
1. Yogi Berra- Ya gotta believe Lawrence Berra would be the top catcher on this list. Also number 8 for the Yankees, Berra led 14 Yankees teams to the World Series, and won enough rings for all of his fingers. His legendary sense of humor has charmed writers and fans across the United States, and is arguably the most popular Yankee alive. In his 18 total Yankee seasons, Berra won 3 MVP’s, played in 15 All-Star games, mashed 358 longballs, collected 2150 safeties, and the list goes on and on. In addition to his playing career, Yogi managed the Yankees and the Mets to two pennants, including a World Series trip with each team. There is no doubt that Yogi Berra is the best catcher in Yankees lore. Hopefully, the birthday man joins this list someday.