Best Catchers in Red Sox History
This article covers the five greatest catchers in Red Sox history. With the Red Sox all-time pitching staff completed, it is time to move on to the positional players. Quite frankly, there is a steep drop-off after the first few, so there could be some debate as to who makes the top five. There is no debate on the top two.
Carlton Fisk is the greatest catcher in Red Sox history. His Red Sox career was shorter than it should have been, the Red Sox missed the deadline to tender him a contract in 1980. Nonetheless, Fisk spent over 9 seasons in Boston, and was their most productive catcher to date. In addition to his well known postseason heroics, Fisk batted .284 and hit 162 home runs, while with the Red Sox.
Fisk battled injuries, between 1974 and 1975, he had about one full season worth of at bats (2 excellent seasons I might add). He easily has the highest slugging percentage and OPS (on-base + slugging) of anyone on this list. For those new age stat lovers, his 39.5 WAR with the Sox also easily tops the list.
When it comes to awards, Fisk started his career with an all-star appearance, a Rookie of the Year Award, a Gold Glove and a top 5 MVP finish during the 1972 season. He made six more all-star teams, before heading to Chicago.
Varitek holds the franchise record for many statistics at the catching position, spending 14+ seasons with the team. He collected 1307 base hits, while hitting .256, with 193 home runs during his career. His triple slash was a very solid .341/.435/.776, and he averaged 20 home runs per 162 games played. There is little doubt a 25 man all-time roster would include his name.
Just talking about numbers does Varitek’s career no justice. This is a man who was a leader on the Red Sox for years, and on two separate World Series winning teams. The 2004 season can never be topped, and Tek was an essential core piece of that team. There’s a reason why he was given the big “C” on his chest, the first Red Sox player since Jim Rice in 1989 to receive the honor. Varitek is one of the most beloved Red Sox in franchise history, and rightfully so.
Varitek made 3 all-star teams during his career, which was spent entirely in Boston. He won a Silver Slugger Award and a Gold Glove. I’m not sure how he only was given one Gold Glove, but then again, Derek Jeter won five, so don’t read too much into it. Tek was a master behind the dish, catching a record 4 no-hitters.
Ferrell spent parts of five seasons with the Sox, equating to roughly four full years. His brother Wes pitched for them as well, sharing the field with him from 1934-37. Rick had less power than his brother, despite being the position player of the two. He was a fine contact hitter though, who drew a lot of walks. Rick Ferrell batted .302 during his time in Boston, while posting an impressive .394 on base percentage. His best offensive season came in 1936, when he batted .312, with 8 home runs and an .867 OPS.
Ferrell was also regarded as a strong defender. If Gold Gloves had been invented, he may have won a couple. He threw out a league high 60% of runners in 1935, with the Red Sox. Ferrell also made the All-Star Game in each season he spent with the Red Sox.
White spent the first 8+ seasons of his career catching for the Boston Red Sox. From 1952-55, he was one of the better catchers in the league. During that time, he batted .273, and received MVP votes in two different seasons. This was the 1950s, catchers weren’t expected to hit much. White accumulated 881 hits during his time in Boston, third most among catchers in team history. White made one all-star team.
Gedman had an uneven career. After a few years of performing well in a part-time role, Gedman got his chance to start in 1984, and bashed 24 homers. He made back-to-back All-Star Games the following two seasons. Feeling underpaid, Gedman held out in 1987, and seemingly forgot to hit. He batted .205, with a measly .528 OPS that season. He never regained his form, hitting .231 in 1988, and .212 in 1989, before being shipped out the following season.
In total, Gedman’s 83 home runs place third amongst Red Sox catchers, and his 741 base hits place fourth. He did have that three year peak when he averaged a season of .275, with 19 home runs and 72 RBI during the mid-80s. All of this is enough to place him among the top five catchers in Red Sox history.
I received quite a few comments after my last article saying certain players deserved to be mentioned. I hadn’t planned on doing honorable mentions, out of fear of rambling, but since I received so many comments about it, I have decided to add a spot. The pitching articles would have had some very worthy players listed under honorable mention. Unfortunately, the catcher position has been a little thin in the history of the Red Sox,
Honorable Mentions: Birdie Tebbetts, Bill Carrigan, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Scott Hatteberg.