Changing times: Catchers often switch positions

  • Updated: March 29, 2014 - 10:42 PM

Yogi Berra, catcher for the New York Yankees, is shown during spring training in March 1960. (AP Photo)

Changing times

There was a time when catchers were catchers. Period. Such Hall of Fame catchers as Ernie Lombardi, Rick Ferrell, Roy Campanella and Bill Dickey never played even a single game at another position. But the game has changed. These Hall of Fame catchers each played other positions, although none made a switch full-time as young as Mauer:

Gary Carter, 1974-92 • Inducted: 2003 Ø

Carter was a rare talent, drafted as a shortstop, converted to catcher in the minors and making his major league and All-Star Game debut as a right fielder. But in 1977 the Montreal Expos had young outfielders Andre Dawson, Ellis Valentine and Warren Cromartie, and Carter moved to catcher virtually full-time for the rest of his career. He started 1,954 games at catcher, 120 as an outfielder and 53 at first base.

Carlton Fisk, 1969-93 • Inducted: 2000 Ø

The White Sox attempted to make Fisk, then 38, an outfielder in 1986. The outspoken Fisk did not embrace the move. Once, when asked the toughest part of his new position, he replied, “Staying awake.” Fisk started 29 games in right field that season and had 65 starts at catcher. The next season Fisk played 122 games at catcher. At the age of 43, in 1991, he caught 106 games. Fisk made 2,097 starts at catcher for his career, 38 in left field and 21 at first base.

Johnny Bench, 1967-83 • Inducted: 1989 Ø

Bench did nothing but catch his first three seasons with the Reds, playing in 154 games in 1968 and 147 the next season. But Cincinnati soon realized how imperative it was to keep Bench’s bat in the lineup. He began playing other positions in 1970, when he made 17 outfield starts and five at first base. Injuries forced him from catching later, and he made 103 starts at third base in 1982. He had 1,627 starts at catcher in his career, 182 at third base, 98 at first base and 96 in the outfield.

Yogi Berra, 1946-65 • Inducted: 1972 Ø

The Yankees’ three-time MVP was one of the best defensive catchers in baseball with a strong arm and quick feet. Those qualities enabled him to play better-than-average defense in left and right field. He played at least 120 games at catcher from 1949-57 but was no stranger to the outfield. He made 20 starts there as a 22-year-old, and in 1958, at age 33, he began to see increasing time in the outfield. For his career he started 1,641 games at catcher and 246 in the outfield.

Worth noting

Joe Torre will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a manager this summer. The Twins are hoping Mauer’s move to first base will parallel Torre’s move to third base in 1971. The Cardinals in 1971 made Ted Simmons their catcher and Torre switched to third base, where won the NL batting title (.363) and drove in 137 runs while playing 161 games.

Dennis Brackin











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