The pitching in the 1960s was the best in baseball history. That means the guys behind the plate, calling and catching those games, had to be among the best, too.
The 1960s may have been thin on Hall of Fame catchers. (Only Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk are Hall of Fame catchers who played in the 1960s … but played most of their careers in other decades.) However, there were several receivers who consistently delivered, both offensively and defensively, to their teams’ success.
Here’s my rundown of the top 10 catchers of the 1960s, based on a combination of their hitting prowess and their handling of pitchers.
1. Elston Howard – A masterful handler of pitchers with a potent bat, Howard hit .287 during his MVP season of 1963, catching 132 games and winning the first of his 2 Gold Glove awards.
2. Joe Torre – Though his best years came with the St. Louis Cardinals in the early 1970s (including a batting title and Most Valuable Player award in 1971), Torre was probably the best all-around catcher in the National League during the 1960s. From 1960 to 1968, he hit a combined .294 with a career-high 36 home runs in 1966.
3. Bill Freehan – This durable Tiger caught more than 100 games per year from 1964 through 1972, winning consecutive Gold Gloves from 1965 to 1969. His .993 fielding percentage is tied for 3rd all-time among catchers.
4. Earl Battey – The “heart” of the Minnesota Twins 1965 American League championship team, Battey was in the powerful Twins lineup for his defense, but had plenty of pop in his bat. Battey hit .277 during the 1960s (.270 for his career).
5. John Roseboro – Handling the likes of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Johnny Podres and Claude Osteen, it could be argued that Roseboro caught the best starting rotation of the 1960s. He was a .240 career hitter who best single-season average was .287 in 1964.
6. Tim McCarver – In 1966, McCarver became the last (thus far) catcher to lead the major leagues in triples, with 13 that season. Except for short stints in Boston and Montreal, He spent nearly his entire career with the Cardinals and the Phillies, hitting .271.
7. John Romano -Romano’s best year was 1962, when he hit 25 home runs and knocked in 81 runs as Cleveland’s starting catcher. He was traded to the White Sox in 1965 in a 3-team deal that brought Rocky Colavito back to Cleveland.
8. Randy Hundley – Randy Hundley baseball’s most durable catcher in the 1960s, and one of the best defensively. He caught over 600 games from 1966 to 1969, averaging 63 RBIs per season.
9. Johnny Edwards – For most of the 1960s, Johnny Edwards was the everyday catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. He averaged 130 games per year at catcher through 1965, with an average of 10 home runs and 55 RBIs per year.
10. John Blanchard – A career back-up (to Yogi Berra and Elston Howard), Blanchard hit .305 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs in only 243 at-bats. He also hit 4 pinch home runs that season, the 4th highest total in major league history.