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CATCHING 1000 GAMES

In 2010 Jason Kendall became just the 5th catcher to catch 2000 major league games.  Kendall has now caught 2025 games and ranks 5th among the 110 catchers who have caught at least 1000 games.  Kendall was injured for all of 2011 but vows to come back in 2012.  If he does, he may pass Gary Carter, currently in 4th place with 2056 games caught.  Kendall, who is now 37, has no chance to overtake the all-time leader in games caught, Ivan Rodriguez.  Rodriguez has caught 2427 games and may also play in 2012.

The first catcher to reach the 1000-game mark was Jack Clements early in the 1898 season. Clements, incidentally, is the only lefthanded thrower on the list. Two other catchers, Deacon McGuire and Hall of Famer Wilbert Robinson, also caught their 1000th game in 1898. McGuire was the first to reach the 1500 mark, in 1905.

Playing 1000 games at what is arguably baseball’s most arduous and demanding defensive position is a commendable feat, although with 30 major league teams more catchers are getting more opportunities to play than in previous eras. In each season since the 1890s, about half of all major league teams have had a 1000-game catcher on their roster.

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THE ALL-TIME LEADER

Rodriguez will be 40 years old on Opening Day 2012.  He owns the all-time records for games started (2346), completed (2081), won (1197), and lost (1140).

Always lauded for his individual talents, Rodriguez silenced criticism that he wasn’t a winner after he left the sad-sack Texas Rangers after 12 seasons to lead two downtrodden teams (Florida and Detroit) to championships in his 30s.

Interviewed in July 2007 after he caught his 2000th game, Rodriguez said, “I work very hard and feel very good physically right now... I've got a lot of baseball left in me, and I've just got to continue to play hard.”

Detroit manager Jim Leyland, a former catcher himself, commented, “You start with genes, then you go to the fact that he takes such good care of himself.  There's not an ounce of fat on him.  He eats right and keeps himself in great shape.  I can understand a shortstop, center fielder -- but a catcher, that's pretty amazing, really.”

Mike Rabelo, Rodriguez’s backup in Detroit, observed, “When the game's over and all the fans are leaving through the concourse, he goes back out and runs.”  (Evidently Rabelo did not run with him.)

Midway through 2009 Rodriguez broke Fisk’s record of 2226 games caught.  Some of us may remember the circumstances under which Fisk set the record.  Previous record holder Bob Boone retired after the 1990 season with 2225 games caught.  Fisk, who is just a month younger than Boone, caught 106 games in 1991 and 54 in 1992, bringing him within 24 games of tying Boone.  The White Sox reluctantly signed Fisk for 1993 although he was 45 years old and no longer an effective offensive or defensive player.  It was conceded by both player and club that Fisk was only on the team to break the games-caught record.  His presence was a distraction that mercifully ended after Fisk squatted behind the plate for the 2226th time on June 22.  After catching a few innings he was replaced by Mike LaValliere, and he was released the next day.

By breaking Boone’s record, Fisk simultaneously ensured his own election to the Baseball Hall of Fame and torpedoed Boone’s chances for enshrinement, a distinction Boone might have won if he had remained the all-time leader in games caught.  After all, Rick Ferrell’s sole credential for election to the Hall of Fame was the fact that when elected he held the American League games-caught record.

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THE EVOLUTION OF CATCHING RECORDS

Leader in games caught, career

 
1898
Jack Clements, 1062
 
 
1899
Wilbert Robinson, 1108
   
 
1900
Deacon McGuire, 1172
   
 
1901
Deacon McGuire, 1253
   
 
1902
Deacon McGuire, 1323
   
 
1903
Deacon McGuire, 1392
   
 
1904
Deacon McGuire, 1489
   
 
1905
Deacon McGuire, 1560
   
 
1906-1907
Deacon McGuire, 1609
   
 
1908-1909
Deacon McGuire, 1610
   
 
1910-1911
Deacon McGuire, 1611
   
 
1912-1924  
Deacon McGuire, 1612
   
 
1925
Ray Schalk, 1626
   
 
1926
Ray Schalk, 1706
   
 
1927
Ray Schalk, 1721
   
 
1928
Ray Schalk, 1722
   
 
1929-1938
Ray Schalk, 1727
 
 
1939
Gabby Hartnett, 1731
 
 
1940
Gabby Hartnett, 1753
 
 
1941-1944
Gabby Hartnett, 1787
 
 
1945
Al Lopez, 1805
 
 
1946
Al Lopez, 1861
 
 
1947-1986
Al Lopez, 1918
 
 
1987
Bob Boone, 1935
 
 
1988
Bob Boone, 2056
 
 
1989
Bob Boone, 2185
 
 
1990-1992
Bob Boone, 2225
 
 
1993-2008
Carlton Fisk, 2226
 
 
2009
Ivan Rodriguez, 2288
 
 
2010
Ivan Rodriguez, 2390
 
 
2011
Ivan Rodriguez, 2427
 

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WINNING 1000 GAMES

Ivan Rodriguez is now the all-time leader in catching wins with 1197.  Besides Rodriguez, Fisk, Boone, Berra, Bill Dickey, and Gary Carter (the National League leader in games caught) have also won 1000 games.

Lifetime New York Yankee Bill Dickey was the first catcher to win 1000 games, although he had to emerge from a two-year retirement to do it.

Dickey had decided to bow out on top at the age of 36. He caught the Spud Chandler shutout that won the fifth and deciding game of the 1943 World Series, contributing a 2-run homer in the 6th inning off Mort Cooper of the Cardinals that would constitute the game’s only scoring. This was the Yankees’ tenth championship. But there was a war on, and after the Series Dickey joined the Navy. While “The Big Man from Little Rock” served his country in the Pacific, the Bronx Bombers, predictably, foundered in 1944 and 1945 after winning 7 pennants in the last 8 seasons Dickey caught.

Although Dickey may not have been aware of it (the press certainly wasn’t), he had finished the 1943 season with 999 wins, which was at that time the major league record. Although not overeager to play again after the war, he was persuaded to return to the Yankees with the understanding that he would not be asked to catch regularly but would back up journeyman receiver Aaron Robinson until the Yankee catcher of the future, Yogi Berra, was ready for the big leagues.

Dickey got Win Number 1000 in his first try. He was behind the plate in Philadelphia on Opening Day (April 16, 1946), and he picked up right where he left off, catching a Spud Chandler shutout. In his first plate appearance he doubled hard off Russ Christopher and scored the only run Chandler would need as the Yankees beat the Athletics 5-0. Dickey won 22 games in 1946 before taking the managerial reins when Joe McCarthy resigned. His major league record of 1021 wins would stand until Berra, who broke in under Dickey in September 1946, overtook it in 1963, his final year in pinstripes.

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THE 1000-GAME HONOR ROLL

Note: My “games caught” totals for some catchers are slightly different from their official totals.

During the recent past, increased scrutiny of baseball records has uncovered many inaccuracies. The most notorious of these were Ty Cobb’s 1910 batting championship, which he was awarded mistakenly after one of his hits was counted twice, and Hack Wilson’s single-season RBI record, which he set in 1930 with 191, not 190 as previously believed. Nevertheless, the panjandrums of baseball have declined to undertake a full-scale recheck and cleanup of the statistical record.

I have found several participation totals for catchers that I believe were miscounted. Here are two examples:

1. On September 20, 1960, with New York fighting for the pennant, 13,129 screaming fans packed Yankee Stadium to watch the Bronx Bombers battle the improving Washington Senators. After 10 innings of play the teams were tied 1-1.

Washington did not score in the top of the 11th. In the bottom of the inning New York’s Bill Skowron led off with a single. Yankees manager Casey Stengel sent in Joe DeMaestri to run for the sore-backed Moose, and Ken Hunt laid down a perfect sacrifice. Next up was Yogi Berra, pinch hitting for catcher Elston Howard. Berra was walked intentionally. Then Gil McDougald walked, loading the bases for Tony Kubek. Kubek grounded to third. Washington third baseman Harmon Killebrew threw home, but when catcher Earl Battey dropped the ball DeMaestri scored the winning run. Once again Stengel had pushed the right buttons.

Although Berra entered the game as a substitute for the Yankee catcher, he had no opportunity to take a defensive position before the game ended. In the official records, however, Berra was mistakenly credited with a game caught.

2. Pittsburgh had already clinched the 1970 East Division title before their September 30 game at St Louis. Manager Danny Murtaugh’s lineup card listed Manny Sanguillen batting third and catching.

Sanguillen batted in the top of the 1st and struck out. But when the Pirates took their defensive positions in the bottom of the inning, Jerry May was the catcher. The Pirates lost 4-3 despite May’s go-ahead single in the 6th.

Sanguillen clearly played in the game, but he did not catch. I have not been able to learn why he did not catch. He might have been ejected by plate umpire Shag Crawford, but he might instead have been removed by Murtaugh for a myriad of reasons. Whatever the explanation, May caught the entire game.

Although Sanguillen was listed in the starting lineup and batted in the game, he did not play defense, and under official major league baseball scoring rule 10.20 his appearance should not have been listed as a “game caught.” However, it was mistakenly counted anyway.

Participation totals, susceptible to human error and never regarded as a top priority, have occasionally been miscounted throughout the history of baseball. Unfortunately, my 1990s correspondence with baseball’s “Keepers of the Flame” convinced me that these learned men are uninterested in recounting and correcting participation records officially.

I believe the career totals I have listed for “games caught” represent the best information available. I have listed career won-lost records if I have completed them.

GC
=Games caught
 
GS
=Games started
 
CG
=Complete Games
 
GR
=Games relieved
 
W
=Won
 
L
=Lost
 
ND
=No decision
 

Note: Games Relieved is the number of games the catcher entered as a substitute. Games Caught = Games Started + Games Relieved.

 
 
 
1-10
SPAN
GC
GS
CG
GR
W
L
ND
 
 
 
 
Rodriguez, Ivan
1991-2011
2427
2346
2081
81
1197
1140
90
 
 
Fisk, Carlton
1969-1993
2226
2097
1867
129
1139
962
125
 
 
Boone, Bob
1972-1990
2225
2091
1793
134
1072
952
201
 
 
Carter, Gary
1974-1992
2056
1954
1736
102
1075
870
111
 
Kendall, Jason
1996-2010
2025
1990
1859
35
938
1045
42
 
 
Pena, Tony
1980-1997
1950
1779
1582
171
898
889
163
 
 
Ausmus, Brad
1993-2010
1938
1766
1605
172
908
874
156
 
 
Sundberg, Jim
1974-1989
1927
1775
1612
152
886
900
141
 
 
Lopez, Al
1928-1947
1919
1743
1436
176
870
865
184
 
 
Santiago, Benito
1986-2005
1917
1796
1653
121
895
900
122
 
 
 
 
11-21
SPAN
GC
GS
CG
GR
W
L
ND
 
 
 
 
Parrish, Lance
1977-1995
1820
1715
1541
105
891
841
88
 
 
Ferrell, Rick
1929-1947
1807
1721
1568
86
796
905
106
 
 
Hartnett, Gabby
1922-1941
1787
1714
1521
73
950
722
115
 
 
Simmons, Ted
1968-1987
1769
1687
1578
82
870
821
78
 
 
Bench, Johnny
1967-1983
1743
1627
1438
116
957
688
98
 
 
Schalk, Ray
1912-1929
1727
 
 
Dickey, Bill
1928-1946
1708
1627
1448
81
1021
581
106
 
 
Berra, Yogi
1946-1965
1696
1641
1499
55
1034
602
60
 
 
Dempsey, Rick
1969-1992
1634
1343
1151
291
755
614
265
 
 
Piazza, Mike
1992-2006
1629
1602
1205
27
820
705
104
 
 
Hegan, Jim
1941-1960
1629
1429
1154
200
832
596
201
 
 
 
 
22-30
SPAN
GC
GS
CG
GR
W
L
ND
 
 
 
 
McGuire, Deacon
1884-1912
1612
 
 
Freehan, Bill
1961-1976
1577
1506
1441
71
805
707
65
 
 
Posada, Jorge
1995-2011
1574
1450
1306
124
904
571
98
 
 
Lollar, Sherm
1946-1963
1573
1423
1248
150
754
680
139
 
 
Sewell, Luke
1921-1942
1559
1477
1306
82
755
689
115
 
 
Lombardi, Ernie
1931-1947
1544
1453
1216
91
690
706
148
 
 
O’Neill, Steve
1911-1928
1532
 
 
Porter, Darrell
1971-1987
1506
1430
1260
76
736
673
97
 
 
Varitek, Jason
1997-2011
1488
1372
1220
116
833
549
106
 
 
 
 
31-40
SPAN
GC
GS
CG
GR
W
L
ND
 
 
 
 
Hemsley, Rollie
1928-1947
1482
1344
1174
138
645
686
151
 
 
Crandall, Del
1949-1966
1479
1360
1229
119
764
596
119
 
 
Roseboro, John
1957-1970
1475
1349
1151
126
758
578
139
 
 
Cochrane, Mickey
1925-1937
1452
1395
1198
57
892
495
65
 
 
Schang, Wally
1913-1931
1435
 
 
Pierzynski, A.J.
1998-2011
1433
1357
1250
76
749
619
65
 
 
Ruel, Muddy
1915-1934
1409
1310
1163
99
681
628
100
 
 
Scioscia, Mike
1980-1992
1394
1278
1041
116
666
576
152
 
 
Edwards, Johnny
1961-1974
1394
1268
1131
126
667
577
150
 
 
Hernandez, Ramon
1999-2011
1390
1298
1122
92
682
596
112
 
 
 
 
41-50
SPAN
GC
GS
CG
GR
W
L
ND
 
 
 
 
McCarver, Tim
1959-1979
1386
1300
1170
86
715
574
97
 
 
Steinbach, Terry
1986-1999
1379
1296
1112
83
654
647
78
 
 
Kennedy, Terry
1978-1991
1378
1271
1070
107
588
656
134
 
 
Mancuso, Gus
1928-1945
1360
1264
1021
96
671
534
155
 
 
Wilson, Jimmie
1923-1940
1351
1248
1126
103
599
644
108
 
 
Lopez, Javy
1992-2006
1351
1251
1060
100
732
506
113
 
 
Grote, Jerry
1963-1981
1348
1234
1079
114
616
613
119
 
 
O’Farrell, Bob
1915-1935
1335
1110
998
225
587
563
185
 
 
Alomar, Sandy
1989-2007
1324
1203
1071
121
633
572
119
 
 
Robinson, Wilbert
1886-2002
1316
 
 
 
 
51-60
SPAN
GC
GS
CG
GR
W
L
ND
 
 
 
 
Hayes, Frank
1933-1947
1311
1238
1100
73
509
705
97
 
 
Ashby, Alan
1973-1989
1298
1191
1009
107
574
585
139
 
 
Matheny, Mike
1994-2006
1285
1142
915
143
578
550
157
 
 
Molina, Bengie
1998-2010
1285
1234
1065
51
611
588
86
 
 
Davis, Spud
1928-1945
1284
1119
870
165
515
581
188
 
 
Wilson, Dan
1992-2005
1281
1178
1029
103
615
550
116
 
 
Cerone, Rick
1975-1992
1278
1135
1001
143
546
591
141
 
 
Munson, Thurman
1969-1979
1278
1262
1182
16
686
564
28
 
 
Wynegar, Butch
1976-1988
1249
1164
1098
85
609
574
66
 
 
Rice, Del
1945-1961
1249
1119
870
165
515
581
188
 
 
 
 
61-70
SPAN
GC
GS
CG
GR
W
L
ND
 
 
 
 
Girardi, Joe
1989-2003
1247
1128
989
119
578
561
108
 
 
Snyder, Frank
1912-1927
1247
 
 
Whitt, Ernie
1976-1991
1247
1050
824
197
546
495
206
 
 
Zimmer, Chief
1884-1903
1239
 
 
Slaught, Don
1982-1997
1238
1083
956
155
554
555
129
 
 
Wingo, Ivey
1911-1929
1233
 
 
Yeager, Steve
1972-1986
1230
1051
848
179
583
470
177
 
 
Severeid, Hank
1911-1926
1225
 
 
Cooper, Walker
1940-1957
1225
1127
1010
98
606
516
103
 
 
Seminick, Andy
1943-1957
1213
1123
1013
90
540
569
104
 
 
 
 
71-81
SPAN
GC
GS
CG
GR
W
L
ND
 
 
 
 
Haller, Tom
1961-1972
1198
1080
949
118
593
496
109
 
 
Kittridge, Malachi
1890-1906
1197
 
 
Dooin, Red
1902-1916
1195
 
 
Gibson, George
1905-1918
1195
1145
1012
50
649
460
86
 
 
Campanella, Roy
1948-1957
1182
1127
1071
55
715
405
62
 
 
Owen, Mickey
1937-1954
1175
1013
870
162
546
473
156
 
 
Lieberthal, Mike
1994-2007
1170
1109
1036
61
534
579
57
 
 
Kling, Johnny
1900-1913
1169
 
 
Johnson, Charles
1994-2005
1160
1108
992
52
520
572
68
 
 
Fletcher, Darrin
1989-2002
1143
1028
732
115
523
453
167
 
 
Mayne, Brent
1990-2004
1143
996
833
147
499
495
149
 
 
 
 
82-90
SPAN
GC
GS
CG
GR
W
L
ND
 
 
 
 
Burgess. Smoky
1949-1966
1140
1050
909
90
539
491
110
 
 
Howard, Elston
1955-1968
1138
1066
989
72
604
447
87
 
 
Sullivan, Billy Sr
1899-1916
1122
 
 
Sanguillen, Manny
1967-1979
1114
1061
993
53
590
477
47
 
 
Perkins, Cy
1915-1931
1112
977
802
135
387
580
145
 
 
Masi, Phil
1939-1952
1101
865
804
236
450
476
175
 
 
Tebbetts, Birdie
1936-1952
1099
1035
898
64
580
430
89
 
Hundley, Todd
1990-2003
1096
973
836
123
466
503
127
 
 
Battey, Earl
1955-1967
1088
1016
821
72
531
447
110
 
 
 
 
91-101
SPAN
GC
GS
CG
GR
W
L
ND
 
 
 
 
Heath, Mike
1978-1991
1083
935
783
148
453
507
123
 
 
Clements, Jack
1884-1900
1076
 
 
Stanage, Oscar
1906-1925
1074
 
 
Reed, Jeff
1984-2000
1071
850
678
221
416
448
207
 
 
Zaun, Gregg
1995-2010
1067
910
833
157
456
472
139
 
 
Bailey, Ed
1953-1965
1064
985
883
79
504
469
91
 
 
Macfarlane, Mike
1987-1999
1058
932
835
126
478
468
112
 
 
Davis, Jody
1981-1990
1039
976
851
63
458
494
87
 
 
May, Milt
1971-1984
1035
967
828
68
474
463
98
 
 
Oliver, Joe
1989-2001
1033
934
768
99
461
445
127
 
 
Warner, John
1895-1908
1033
 
 
 
 
102-110
SPAN
GC
GS
CG
GR
W
L
ND
 
 
 
 
Flaherty, John
1992-2005
1032
920
819
112
405
497
130
 
 
White, Sammy
1951-1962
1027
961
838
66
475
463
89
 
 
Hundley, Randy
1964-1977
1026
951
871
75
480
478
68
 
 
Tresh, Mike
1938-1949
1019
963
841
56
491
454
74
 
 
Borders, Pat
1988-2005
1014
842
718
172
435
422
157
 
 
Martinez, Buck
1969-1986
1009
845
579
164
415
398
196
 
 
Killefer, Bill
1909-1921
1005
 
 
Farrell, Duke
1888-1905
1004
 
 
Dalrymple, Clay
1960-1971
1002
869
728
133
430
439
133
 

A tip of the hat to Firdaus Matri.

When in Port of Spain, stay at the Forty Winks Inn.

December 2011

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