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In my mind the most important position on the team. The Catcher has to be the field general, the one who directs the pulse of the game. No one was better at this than Johnny Bench. He knew what pitches to call and when to call them. He knew how to work with the Pitchers to keep them from getting frustrated. He knew how to set up the field defensively for each pitch, and would move players around accordingly. He directed the game from behind the plate with confidence and ease. He set the standard for Catchers in his day.
Blessed with a rocket of an arm, base runners would be well advised to think twice before attempting to swipe a base against Bench. He could rifle a ball faster and straighter from his knees better than most could do standing up. You also would not want to venture too far off your base, for he could throw behind a careless base runner better than any catcher I ever saw. He would give careless base runners a trip straight back to the dugout, with heads hanging low.
The two positions on a baseball team considered to be defensive positions are catcher and short stop. That is, a manager would sacrifice offensive output from these two positions to ensure he had the best defensive players at these two key spots. No doubt Johnny Bench was the best defensive catcher around, but as an added bonus his offensive output matched evenly with his defensive abilities. Criticized by some for never breaking the .300 mark for a season Bench drove in runs, and hit with power during his entire career, which is much more important than hitting for average.
When I played this game as a young man, I was a catcher. He was my mentor for the game, as I am sure he was for a lot of young aspiring catchers playing in their little league parks, proudly wearing the number 5 on their jersey's, and trying to copy everything Bench did.
Take a look at Bench's stats and see why I have him batting 7th in my lineup. Let me know what your all time Dream Team is, and who you have behind the plate.
last updated 09/20/02