Hall of Fame Batteries

This article was written by J.P. Caillault

This article was published in 2003 Baseball Research Journal

Mike Piazza of the New York Mets and Ivan Rodriguez of the Florida Marlins, each selected to the All-Star Game ten times, are generally acknowledged to be today’s best catchers. Both of them seem to be on the road to baseball’s Hall of Fame.

One question we might ask about Piazza and Rodriguez is: Have either of these two been fortunate enough to catch pitchers who might join them in Cooperstown? Piazza has caught Pedro Martinez, Orel Hershiser, and Tom Glavine, all of whom have reasonably good chances to get inducted; back in the early 1990s Rodriguez caught Nolan Ryan, who already has a plaque in the Hall.

So it looks like Piazza and Rodriguez might very well find themselves in familiar company should they end up joining baseball’s immortals in Cooperstown. How common is the Hall of Fame battery, though? Do the Piazza and Rodriguez cases stand out as highly unusual or relatively common?

Baseball fans can readily dip into their knowledge of baseball history to name quickly some prominent catcher/pitcher pairs: Johnny Bench and Tom Seaver (Cincinnati); Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford (New York Yankees); Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove (Philadelphia Athletics); Bill Dickey and Lefty Gomez (New York Yankees). Those, of course, are the easy ones. But how many other batteries of Hall of Famers can you name?

The Cooperstown inductee who caught the most fellow Hall of Famers was a 19th-century standout, Jim “Orator” O’Rourke, who caught seven of them, despite the fact that O’Rourke caught only 209 games in his career (he was primarily an outfielder, playing on the grass in 1,377 games). The Hall of Famers who pitched to O’Rourke were Pud Galvin (Buffalo), Monte Ward (Providence), Tim Keefe, Amos Rusie, Mickey Welch (all three with New York), fellow New York Giants catcher Buck Ewing (for one game in 1885), and “Iron Man” Joe McGinnity, whom O’Rourke caught in the only Giants game of 1904 in which O’Rourke appeared-when he was almost 54 years old!

Three catchers were fortunate enough to be the receivers for five Hall of Fame pitchers. One of those three was Ewing, who, like O’Rourke, also caught Keefe and Ward (while with both Troy and New York) and Rusie and Welch (New York). The fifth Hall of Famer to pitch to Ewing was John Clarkson, for only one Cleveland game in 1893 (in that game, incidental­ly, Ewing moved to right field after the second inning; Cy Young came in to pitch in the third inning, so Ewing just missed having caught a sixth Hall of Famer!)

Another 19th-century receiver to have caught five Hall of Famers was Mike “King” Kelly, who, like Ewing, also caught Rusie (New York) and Clarkson (Chicago and Boston). The other immortals who pitched to Kelly were Kid Nichols and “Old Hoss” Radboum (both with Boston), and, amazingly, Hall of Fame first baseman Cap Anson for one game in 1884 while both played for Chicago. The third Hall of Fame catcher to handle five Cooperstown pitchers was Bill Dickey, who caught Lefty Gomez, Burleigh Grimes, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, and Red Ruffing, all the while with the Yankees.

There have been five Cooperstown catchers who caught four fellow Hall of Famers: Roger Bresnahan, Ray Schalk, Al Lopez, Ernie Lombardi, and Carlton Fisk. Bresnahan caught McGinnity (Baltimore and New York), Vic Willis (St. Louis), and the great Christy Mathewson (New York), as well as Rube Marquard for one game in the Giants’ memorable 1908 season (in which they lost the NL pennant to the Chicago Cubs on Fred Merkle’s ”boner”).

Schalk was behind the plate for White Sox teammates Red Faber, Ted Lyons, and Ed Walsh, and for Carl Hubbell for one game in 1929 when Schalk moved to the Giants for the final year of his career. Schalk just missed adding a fifth Hall of Fame pitcher to his list when he was removed from a game in 1925 before fellow Cooperstown enshrinee “Chief” Bender came in to pitch the ninth inning (it was Bender’s first and only appearance since 1917).

The Hall of Fame pitchers who pitched to Lopez were Hoyt and Dazzy Vance (when Lopez was with Brooklyn), and Bob Feller and Bob Lemon, who were Lopez’s team­mates with the Cleveland Indians in 1947.

Lombardi was on the receiving end of pitches from Hubbell (New York), Vance (Brooklyn), Eppa Rixey (Cincinnati), and Warren Spahn, but in Spahn’s case, it was for only one inning in a Boston Braves game against the Dodgers, during Spahn’s rookie year in 1942.

The last Hall of Fame catcher who caught four Hall of Fame pitchers was Fisk, who had the good fortune to catch Ferguson Jenkins and Juan Marichal while with the Red Sox, and Seaver and Carlton while with the White Sox.

One of the catchers who caught three Hall of Fame pitchers was 19th-century Chicago star Anson, normal­ly a first baseman, caught Al Spalding, John Clarkson, and Clark Griffith. Another catcher who made up the receiving half of a Hall of Fame battery for three pitch­ers was Wilbert Robinson, more famous as the Brooklyn Robins manager than as a turn-of-the-century catcher, but who caught Joe McGinnity (Baltimore), Cy Young (St. Louis), and young Roger Bresnahan, who, while with the Baltimore entry in the new American League of 1901, started out as a pitcher before himself mov­ing behind the plate.

Gabby Hartnett was another Cooperstown inductee who was lucky enough to catch three immortals: Grover Cleveland Alexander, Dizzy Dean, and Burleigh Grimes, all while with the Chicago Cubs. Hartnett missed an opportunity for a fourth, Carl Hubbell when the two played for the Giants in 1941. The two caught and pitched on the same day four times in ’41, but in each case, it was in different games of a doubleheader.

Rick Ferrell caught Lefty Grove and Herb Pennock while with the Red Sox and Early Wynn when Ferrell played for the Senators. The last of the five catchers who caught a trio of Hall of Fame pitchers were Brooklyn Dodger great Roy Campanella, who caught two star pitchers before they became stars (Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale), and one Hall of Famer who ended up in the Hall because of his mana­gerial skills, not his pitching (Tommy Lasorda).

Two catchers caught two fellow inductees: Chicago Cubs star Frank Chance, who began his career as a catcher before moving to first base, caught Clark Griffith and Rube Waddell, and Mickey Cochrane, who caught Lefty Grove and Waite Hoyt while playing for the Philadelphia Athletics. The four remaining Hall of Fame catchers who caught other Hall of Famers are Connie Mack, much more famous as a manager than as a catcher (he caught Pud Galvin while with Pittsburgh); Jimmie Foxx, who caught Lefty Grove with both the Athletics and the Red Sox; and the two mentioned at the beginning of the article, Yogi Berra of the Yankees (who caught Whitey Ford) and Johnny Bench of the Reds (who caught Tom Seaver).

The accompanying table lists all the batteries in baseball history that featured a Hall of Farner catching pitches thrown by another Hall of Famer, even if it was only for a single inning. The list contains a total of 20 different catchers and 45 different pitchers, who com­bined for a total of 65 Hall of Fame batteries.


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If things had turned out slightly differently, there would have been a few more batteries added to the list on the following page, but instead, these pairs will have to remain classified as near-misses. The close calls of Buck Ewing-Cy Young and Ray Schalk-Chief Bender were mentioned earlier, but there were three other such near-misses in baseball history.

In the last game of the 1898 season, Hall of Fame slugger Hugh Duffy went behind the plate for a few innings in the middle of the game, but returned to the outfield before another Cooperstown inductee, Kid Nichols, came on in relief in the seventh inning.

Hall of Fame shortstop and manager Lou Boudreau took over the catching duties of the Cleveland Indians for the final two innings of a game in the Indians’ championship season of 1948, right after pitcher Bob Lemon had been lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth inning.

The most remarkable near-miss occurred in a game in August 1940, when the “Splendid Splinter,” Ted Williams, pitched the final two innings of a game against Detroit, a game in which fellow Hall of Fame member of the 500-home run club, Jimmie Foxx, had earlier caught a few innings. A Foxx-Williams battery, now that would have been something!

JEAN-PIERRE CAILLAULT a Professor of Astronomy at the University of Georgia. He has published articles in Baseball Digest and the Baseball Research Journal and is the author of A Tale of Four Cities and the forthcoming New York Clipper Biographies: The Complete Collection.