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Yankees' Top 5 catchers: Hoch's take

@BryanHoch
March 23, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only -- here's what fans had to say:

And here is Bryan Hoch’s ranking of the top five catchers in Yankees history. Next week: the first basemen.

1. Yogi Berra, 1946-63
Key fact: 1,430 RBIs, most among Major League catchers

Though recent generations likely remember Berra as a grandfatherly legend who exchanged hugs behind the batting cage with Derek Jeter and appeared on television screens pitching insurance with a duck, it is important not to allow the Hall of Famer’s many accidental quips and catchphrases overshadow his impressive accomplishments on the playing field.

A foundational piece of the dominant Yankees clubs in the 1940s and 1950s, Berra, who tallied 358 homers, is one of just 10 players to win three Most Valuable Player Awards. The St. Louis product and D-Day veteran was selected to play in the All-Star Game in 15 successive seasons from 1948-62, and appeared on 14 pennant winners and an all-time record 10 World Series championship clubs.

Berra, who passed away at age 90 in September 2015, frequently delighted in teasing his buddy Jeter about that accomplishment. After Jeter finally scored his fifth ring in 2009, Berra greeted the shortstop in the clubhouse by presenting his 10 fingers to the captain, indicating that Jeter still had another five rings to win.

"What an honor it was to have rubbed shoulders with Yogi," Andy Pettitte said. "He embraced me from the first day I met him. Heck, he embraced everyone he met. Yogi loved talking baseball and sharing stories, and I was always excited to hear them. He was a special man who brought smiles to the faces of an awful lot of people. He served our country with honor, and I can't think of a better ambassador to have represent this game.”

2. Bill Dickey, 1928-46
Key fact: Only American Leaguer to catch more than 100 games in 13 consecutive seasons (1929-41)

Regarded as one of the finest catchers in history, Dickey was a durable and tireless workhorse. In 1931, he did not allow a single passed ball in 125 games behind the plate, another AL record. Dickey also excelled as a hitter, batting over .300 in 10 of his first 11 full seasons while slugging 202 home runs during his career.

Inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1954, Dickey handled Yankees pitching staffs on eight World Series teams, celebrating seven championships. Part of Dickey’s legacy includes his tutelage of Berra, a hand-off that helped set the franchise on course for decades of further success.

“Bill is the best [catcher] I ever saw,” Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller once said. “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.”

3. Thurman Munson, 1969-79
Key fact: Only catcher in postseason history to record at least a .300 batting average (.357), 20 RBIs (22) and 20 caught stealings (24)

Munson was the undisputed leader and most respected man on the Yankees teams that won three consecutive AL pennants from 1976-78 and two World Series championships. A tremendous defensive catcher, Munson won three straight Gold Glove Awards (1973-75) and the AL MVP in 1976, when he compiled a .302/.337/.432 slash line with 17 homers and 105 RBIs.

The 1970 AL Rookie of the Year, Munson was named as the Yankees’ captain in 1976. In each season from 1975-77, Munson drove in more than 100 runs and batted above .300. He was a seven-time AL All-Star. There is no more tragic date in franchise history than Aug. 2, 1979, when Munson passed away at age 32 in a plane crash.

4. Jorge Posada, 1995-2011
Key fact: 240 homers and 920 RBIs from 2000-11, more than any MLB catcher

One of the best-hitting catchers of his era, the switch-hitting Posada spent each of his 17 seasons with the Yankees, batting .273 with 379 doubles, 275 homers, 1,065 RBIs, a .374 on-base percentage and an .848 OPS in 1,829 games. An owner of four World Series rings, Posada was a five-time All-Star and a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner, including a renaissance 2007 campaign in which he posted a .970 OPS. Posada is just one of seven catchers all-time to have at least 11 seasons of 17 or more homers.

5. Elston Howard, 1955-67
Key fact: Lifetime fielding percentage of .993 was an MLB record until 1973

The first African-American player in Yankees history, Howard won two Gold Glove Awards behind the plate and contributed to nine AL pennant-winning seasons in his first decade with the club. Named AL MVP in 1963, when he batted .287 with 28 homers and 85 RBIs, Howard was selected to the All-Star Game in nine different seasons (1957-65). A clubhouse leader as a player and as a Yankees coach (1969-79), Howard’s dignified manner and competitive spirit set a powerful example. He is also credited with the invention of the batting "doughnut."

Honorable mentions Mike Stanley won a Silver Slugger Award in 1993, when he batted .305/.389/.534 with 26 homers and 84 RBIs in 130 games. Stanley was a 1995 AL All-Star. … Gary Sánchez is one of four catchers with multiple 30-homer seasons prior to his age-27 season, joining Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza and Rudy York. … Wally Schang, who played for the Yanks from 1921-25, helped secure three AL pennants and inaugurated Yankee Stadium with the ’23 championship.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.