No. 45: Yogi Berra

I really can’t say much more about Yogi Berra than I did here. But I did want to throw out a few numbers to demonstrate the wonder of Yogi’s life:

One. Where Bill James ranks him on the all-time list of catchers.

Two. Number of tries to get elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The first year, 1971, Berra got just 67.2% of the vote. For me, this remains one of the strangest Hall of Fame votes in the history of the museum. I cannot quite figure out how it happened. There were 14 players on the ballot who were eventually inducted into the Hall; none were elected that year.

Three. Number of MVP awards Yogi won. Did he deserve them? There has long been debate about that; there’s a pretty strong argument for Ted Williams in 1951, for Minnie Minoso or Williams in 1954 and for Mickey Mantle or Al Kaline in 1955. This is what makes the Hall of Fame voting so strange. The writers LOVED Yogi, sometimes to the exclusion of all else.

Four. The number of slices Yogi had a pizza cut into because he wasn’t hungry enough for six.

Eight. Yogi’s uniform number. But the number eight also belonged to Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey. The Yankees retired the number in both men’s name.

Ten. Number of World Series Yogi Berra won as a player.

Eleven. Number of times Yogi Berra hit 20-plus homers in a season. Also number of grandchildren he has.

Twelve. Number of times Yogi Berra struck out in 656 plate appearances during the 1950 season. “It ain’t a bad ball if you can hit it,” Berra would say of his reputation as a bad-ball hitter.

Thirteen. Here’s something that will blow your mind: From 1957 through 1981, New York teams — Yankees and Mets — appeared in 13 World Series. Yogi Berra was a player, coach or manager on every single one of them.

Twenty one. Number of World Series Yogi appeared in as a coach or manager or player.

Seventy three. The year Yogi said some approximation of “It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over” referring to the 1973 Mets.

Ninety. Percent of the game that is mental. The other half is physical.

Two hundred. The number used when Jimmy Piersall barked that if the pitcher threw at him, he would beat said pitcher into submission. “We don’t throw at .200 hitters,” Yogi said.

85 thoughts on “No. 45: Yogi Berra

  1. Jake Bucsko

    Yogi once met the Queen of England on a hot and humid day in New York. “You look cool,” the Queen said. “Thanks, you don’t look so hot yourself,” was the response. My favorite Yogi-ism.

    Reply
  2. Tom

    Billy Martin told a story about how the time that Yogi insisted they drive half an hour to an ice cream shop because it had 39 flavors to choose from.

    When they got there, Yogi ordered vanilla.

    Reply
  3. murr2825

    Always thought it was amazing that, whenever you see any all-time World Series highlights, whether it’s Jackie Robinson stealing home, Don Larson’s perfect game, or Bill Mazeroski’s home run, there is only one player who’s in the middle of the frame.

    Reply
    1. booley

      I’ve always agreed with Yogi that Robinson was out.
      (But I guess that’s part of the legend, isn’t it? Even if the throw beat him, Jackie was able to sell it.)

      Reply
  4. Kuz

    I closed the welcoming toast at our daughter’s wedding reception with the Yogi-ism, “I’d like to thank you for making this day necessary.” (PS: It was not a shotgun wedding).

    Ten World Series Championships as a player, ’nuff said.

    Reply
  5. CT Bold

    Larger point taken, but Berra was in LF for Game 7 in 1960, Johnny Blanchard caught. Chances to see players live back then were few and far between, but he appeared a liability in left. Of course, his 3-run homer in that game explained why he was in the lineup.

    His very low number of strikeouts suggest that his rep for swinging at bad pitches was highly exaggerated.

    Reply
  6. Steve

    People may not realize that Yogi had a few plate appearances with the Mets in 1965. Doing that reduced his lifetime batting average from .286 to .285. Not sure why he bothered.

    Reply
    1. John Doe (@jpgrfourever)

      Yes, that’s weird. Also, that is part of a great baseball trivia question:

      The two HOFers who played on the 65 Mets are….? Yogi’s one. Who is the other? (The other one is easier, and more well known, because he played a lot more.)

      Reply
      1. otistaylor89

        Too bad they both could have played on the 1966 Mets with a 19 year Nolan Ryan.
        BTW, what is the record for combined seasons played for two teammates who played on the same team? I don’t know the answer, Warren Spahn and Ryan would have made it 47.

        Reply
          1. otistaylor89

            I was actually thinking consecutive years – an older player who played for many seasons plays on the same team as a younger player who goes onto playing for many seasons.

        1. Anon

          I used to waste too much time at B-Ref’s Oracle where you can see how many links between players. Here are a couple candidates for what you are talking about:
          - Phil Niekro (1964-1987) and Tom Glavine (1987-2008) were teammates for the 1 ceremonial start Niekro made with the 1987 Braves so that’s 45 years. (BTW, Graig Nettles was on that team but he “only” goes back to 1967)
          - Niekro and Warren Spahn (1942, 1946-1966) were teammates in 1964 so that’s 42 years continuous, however Spahn missed 43-45 for the war so it easily could have been (& in all likelihood, would have been) 46 years.
          Glavine, Niekro, SPahn is one of the great nexuses to players of the past. Spahn was teammates with Johnny Cooney who goes back to 1921 but has a 4 year gap in his career in the 30′s.

          Although the totals won’t quite match the above, another good one is Pete Rose who was teammates with Joe Nuxhall early in his career and Julio franco late in his career but each of Nuxhall and Franco have gaps in their career,

          Reply
          1. KHAZAD

            Pete Rose and Barry Larkin combine for 42, 37 of them with the same team, and are both HOF caliber players.

          2. Anon

            Good call on RIckey. The 30 year old is Edwin Jackson and you never know with pitchers. They can go until they’re 45 so that combo could top out at 50.

        2. Cliff Blau

          Early Wynn and Tommy John both played for Cleveland in 1963. Together their careers lasted from 1939-1989.

          Reply
          1. otistaylor89

            Wow, it would be tough to top 50 seasons. I thought Ron Cey (1971) and Jamie Moyer (2012) of the 1986 Cubs was a long time and it’s 9 seasons short.

          2. Ian R.

            To be fair, Wynn didn’t actually play in 1940 (he didn’t really become established until ’42) or 1945 (military service), and Tommy John missed the entire 1975 season while recovering from (of course) Tommy John surgery. Still, that’s an impressive stretch.

          3. Anon

            Both John and Wynn have interruptions to their careers – Wynn 1 year for WWII and John 1 year for the surgery that was not yet known as TJ surgery. So for consecutive years they fall well short, but yeah, the overall 50 years would be pretty tough to top for 2 teammates.

          1. KHAZAD

            Too Bad Darren Oliver missed the 2005 season. Nolan and Darren would have 46 if not for that.

          2. nightfly

            Not going to be the record, but Jerry Reuss (1969) and Gary Sheffield (2009) played together on the Brewers exactly halfway through, 1989.

          3. Ciderbeck

            Montreal brought a 43 year Greg Nettles in to the fold the same year the debuted a 24 year old Randy Johnson, for a 43 year combined run.

      2. Rick Rodstrom

        Another great Yogi-ism. When asked whether he and Spahn were the oldest battery mates of all time, Yogi said “I don’t know if we’re the oldest, but we’re sure the ugliest.” Like other Yogi-isms, it may actually have been said by somebody else, in this case Warren Spahn.

        Reply
  7. Sid

    I was fortunate enough to have met Yogi at a game back in like 1989. Mets/Astros at Shea, and the game was in a lengthy rain delay. My boss was friends with John McMullen (the Astros owner) and as the delay prolonged we retired to a private area is the bowels of the stadium for snacks and drinks to wait out the rain. Eventually the Astros manager and coaches wandered in — Art Howe, Phil Garner and Yogi Berra among them.

    As we all sat around in a circle and chatted about the team and baseball over drinks for an hour or two, I swear Yogi said three or four of the most unintentionally funny things I had ever heard. I wish I’d have written them down so that could become part of the canon.

    What a wonderful guy, however…

    Reply
  8. Mikey

    “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

    I live in the same New Jersey town as Mr. Berra. The Berra house is at the top of a hill. The road that goes up the hill does indeed fork near the top, but oddly, rather than going off in different directions the two forks simply reconnect about twenty yards further up the hill, and the point at which they reconnect is right in front of the Berra house.

    I get an inordinate kick out of the fact that Yogi’s quote makes complete sense in the context of the actual fork he was referring to, and like the best Yogisms it has kind of an unintentionally profound undercurrent.

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  9. wilbur

    As Bill James pointed out, Berra had three seasons better than the seasons for which he won the MVP.
    Stengel never played a big game without “his man”.

    Reply
  10. F. Lack

    Mikey, I hate to say this but Yogi didn’t live there when he said the “fork” quote. He lived down the street from me in a large house with no forks whatsoever near it; this would be at least through the 70′s until they moved in the early 80′s (maybe they moved in ’79). In any event I think that quote is earlier than that.

    Reply
  11. DM

    Just looking at Berra’s bb-ref page….wondering if he’s the best MLB player to have a score of zero on the “black ink” test? He did pretty well on gray ink……just never in the cards for him to lead the league. Of course, I suspect catchers fare relatively poorly compared to other positions when it comes to leading the league in any major offensive category.

    No doubt, a great player. Guessing that this will put Berra @ #3 catcher. The prediction here is for Gibson #1, Bench #2. Campanella , listed a while back, @#4. That’s probably going to be it for the catchers.

    Reply
    1. Evan

      I was sort of expecting Piazza to make this list, but at this point, we’re probably too high up for that to happen.

      Reply
    2. Patrick Bohn

      Though not as good as Berra, Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell, and Scott Rolen were also a 0 on the black ink test, with WARs in the 70s. (By the way, is Scott Rolen the most underrated player in the last 20 years?) Lou Whitaker finished with a 1, leading the league in games played in the strike-shortened 1981

      Reply
      1. DM

        Patrick,

        Agree on Rolen. It may take some time for him to get his due credit for his career. I think he ‘s a definite candidate to be in the top 10 3B of all time. I look at his stat line. and how he played, and I can’t help but think “Ron Santo”. I think they’re very similar players. Perhaps now that Santo has received his HOF recognition, maybe that will help Rolen.

        Reply
      2. Chad

        Rolen is better than I usually give him credit for, but personally, I think Adrian Beltre or Jim Edmonds are overlooked even more than Rolen was. But, again, that’s just me.

        Reply
        1. DM

          Hi Chad,

          Beltre’s an interesting choice too. He and Rolen seem to possess similar career value at this point, fairly equal offensively (although Beltre’s shown more home run power while Rolen’s been better at getting on base) and both with pretty decent defensive stats and reputations. I guess the main difference at this point is that Beltre is one of those guys that (with the exception of 48 HR season when he was 25) appears to be playing better in his 30′s than he did in his 20′s, and Beltre could still get in enough playing time before he’s through to put a little distance between himself and Rolen.

          Speaking of Beltre and Rolen……Here’s one man’s thoughts on the top 10 all-time 3B (definitely a position that, historically speaking, took a long time to generate some “legends”):

          Rank – Name
          1 – Mike Schmidt
          2 – George Brett
          3 – Eddie Mathews
          4 – Wade Boggs
          5 – Chipper Jones
          6 – Ron Santo
          7 – Brooks Robinson
          8 – Adrian Beltre
          9 – Scott Rolen
          10 – Home Run Baker

          This goes on the assumption that Miguel Cabrera, Paul Molitor, Edgar Martinez, Harmon Killebrew, Pete Rose, Alex Rodriguez, and Dick Allen are not considered 3B, although one could make cases for them.

          Cabrera, Molitor, and Martinez all played more 3B than anywhere else (obviously Cabrera still active), but I think Cabrera will most likely end up with more games at 1B than 3B, and Molitor and Martinez to me are more DH than anything. Obviously, if you had to put them somewhere in the field, it would be 3B. Killebrew and Allen I consider more 1B, and Rose more OF. Alex Rodriguez might be the toughest call, because he’s winding up with almost as many games at 3B than SS, but to me he’s a SS.

          3B is a weird, hybrid position that ends up chopping up a lot of players’ careers. I went with the guys that were clearly true 3B.

          Second 10 for me would be (no particular order): Ken Boyer, Graig Nettles, Darrell Evans, Ron Cey, Stan Hack, Ray Dandridge, Judy Johnson, Buddy Bell, Sal Bando, and David Wright, with Wright being a decent candidate to move up several spots before he’s done. If we kept it to just Major League players, I’d put Robin Ventura and Bob Elliott in for Dandridge and Johnson.

          Reply
          1. Mike

            Also interesting to note that you — and anyone else who knows what he’s talking about — DON’T include the guy who was always talked up as the best 3B ever: Pie Traynor.

            I started following baseball in the early 70s and got into the history in the mid-to-late-80s, and Traynor was THE man at 3B.

            Yet, with advanced analysis, he’s out of the debate, for reasons I don’t need to enumerate here. Is he the most overrated player ever? I suspect not; he no longer is. 25 years ago? Perhaps.

          2. DM

            Hi Mike,

            I had Clift a little below the players I mentioned….probably top 25 or 30. He was rolling along with a pretty nice career generating power and possessing a strong ability to get on base, though about age 28 until he sort of fell of a…..what, a clift? OK…I admit that was pretty lame. If he had managed any kind of success in his 30′s, he certainly could have been much higher up.

            Regarding Traynor…..yeah, I sure do remember those days. As a youth, he was considered the best 3B ever, back when all you needed was a good batting average and a reputation as an outstanding defensive player. But looking back now….no power, no plate discipline, not much defensive value. He’s probably had the biggest tumble in stature over the years (or if not, certainly one of the biggest).

            Traynor is still listed with the 3rd highest batting average (behind McGraw and Boggs) among 3B. Many years ago, that fact alone probably would have been enough to keep him high up on the position rankings.

            Now, however…..although I know that WAR and JAWS are certainly not the definitive sources for ranking, it’s interesting to note that he’s 48th in WAR and 58th in JAWS among 3B listed. His defensive stats do not support his reputation. How the “mighty” have fallen, indeed.

          3. Patrick Bohn

            To me, Beltre’s and Rolen are not comparable, at least if we think like the voting body—which is important. Defensively, they both look great by advanced and traditional metrics, so it’s probably wash. But look at the offensive totals

            Beltre: 2,434 H, 376 HR, 1,311 RBI
            Rolen: 2,077 H, 316 HR, 1,287 RBI

            Now, I know I’m cherry picking, but I’m thinking like a voter. Say this injury doesn’t make Beltre drop off a cliff. He probably finishes his career with 800 more hits, 100 more home runs, and 300 more RBI than Rolen. Heck, if he comes back and is even decent, I don’t think 3,000 hits and 450 HR are out of the question. He’ll be a slam dunk HOFer.

          4. DM

            Patrick,

            As far as Rolen and Beltre go, I get your point that perhaps Rolen and Beltre ultimately may not be comparable players in the eyes of the HOF voters when Beltre’s career is done. I would agree with that But, at this point in time, their careers are comparable in value, and in making that observation, I wasn’t really thinking of how HOF voters might evaluate them. I was thinking more about how most of us would evaluate them.

            By WAR, they’re very similar. In looking at the “similarity score” players on bb-ref for Betre, most of those players (Carlos Lee, Gary Gaetti, Torii Hunter, etc.) are superficially “similar” due to the stats that are use for comparisons. However, the only players on that list that are truly comparable are Rolen and Santo, although you could argue that Aramis Ramirez is similar as a hitter.

            As players, the key differences to me is that Rolen was better at getting on base and Beltre has more home run power. Well, that and the fact that Beltre has managed to stay pretty durable and avoid the injuries that plagued Rolen. For people that like OPS+, Rolen’s is a fair amount better.

            Now, the point is well taken that Beltre isn’t done, and that is really another key difference. He has been a better player in his 30′s than 20′s. But projecting what a player might do past 35 can get pretty dicey. Careers can end suddenly.

            It’s funny, but until 2010 (his age 31 season), I’d say the thing you heard most about Beltre was how much of a disappointment he was. He was a much-heralded prospect with the Dodgers, debuted at 19, and generally struggled aside from that big year he had in 2004. His Seattle years were generally seen as disappointing. Before 2010, his career OPS+ was a pretty mediocre 105. I don’t ever recall hearing his name mentioned as a potential Hall of Famer at that time.

            That big year in 2010 for Boston, though, started him on a really nice 4 year run, and now he’s a solid candidate who, like you said, has an opportunity to significantly add to his case. At this exact point in time, though, I think he’s pretty even with Rolen…….with a very good chance to move ahead. I’ll stick with the observation that they’re both top 10 third basemen.

          5. Patrick Bohn

            DM- I get your point on Rolen/Beltre, I just think that, if we’re talking about a player’s Hall chances, it’s important to think like a voter.

            Mike Mussina and Tom Glavine are the perfect example. This year, Mussina got 20% of the vote, Glavine 92%. Which makes no sense considering:

            Mussina: 82.7 rWAR, 82.5 fWAR, 3,500 IP
            Glavine: 74.0 rWAR, 64.3 fWAR, 4,400 IP

            It’s not even close. Mussina, by WAR, is not only better…he’s a LOT better.But what if we interpret their careers this way?

            Glavine: 305 wins, five 20-win seasons, two Cy Youngs, one World Series ring, one World Series MVP

            Mussina: 270 wins, one 20-win season, zero Cy Youngs, zero World Series rings

          6. DM

            Patrick,

            Fair enough, but I also think we’re talking about several different things at the same time. My original observation was in response to your thought about Rolen being underrated (which I agreed with), and I mentioned that I thought that Santo’s recent election to the HOF might (emphasis on “might”) help Rolen eventually gain some HOF support. I do think that he could have a fairly long wait on his hands. After all, it took nearly 40 years for Santo to get elected. However, when Rolen does come up on the ballot, I’m sure his supporters will point out the similarities to Santo.

            Interestingly enough, the first two players on Santo’s bb-ref comp list are Beltre and Rolen. You mentioned Hits, HR’s, and RBI’s, but here are some other data points that voters may consider

            Player – WAR – OPS+ – BA – OBP – SLG – GG’s
            Santo – 70.4 – 125 – 0.277 – 0.362 – 0.464 – 5
            Beltre – 71.0 – 114 – 0.282 – 0.334 – 0.478 – 4
            Rolen – 70.0 – 122 – 0.281 – 0.364 – 0.490 – 8

            If their careers ended today, I think the voters would consider these three to be very similar. I think the further we go along, the more voters will look at things like WAR and OPS+. Not saying they’re there yet, as you pointed out in Glavine/Mussina, but over time, it will gravitate that way as. WAR will gain more and more acceptance as a tool (not the ultimate tool, of course, but one piece of evidence). The group of voters will continue to evolve, new members will enter, and new ways of evaluating players will take hold.

            As it stands now, I don’t see either Rolen or Beltre making the Hall when they’re first eligible, with Beltre’s case probably dependent on how much more he can add to his resume. If his career ended today, I think he’d come up short and require a pretty decent wait. People would probably still think of him as more of a disappointment than a clear-cut HOF’er. I do think Rolen will have a pretty healthy wait. But, in my opinion, the similarity to Santo can only help his case.

        2. BobDD

          About 1953 the new debate was who would be the greatest 3B ever, Al Rosen or Eddie Mathews? Mathews went on for long solid career; Rosen’s was short. But in 1953 they were the first 3B other than a year out of Mel Ott’s OF career to have over 1000 OPS at 3B.

          * Both Ott and Foxx had a season’s worth of games at 3B, and Foxx had 108 games at catcher! Oh, what might have been.

          Reply
    3. Ian R.

      Berra’s zero is particularly noteworthy because the “black ink” test tends to favor old-time players – it’s easier to lead the league when there’s only eight teams in the league. There are some more recent players with very low black ink scores who are nevertheless all-time greats, but hardly any from Yogi’s era.

      Reply
  12. Mikey

    Get outta here! Really? Are you in Montclair? Wow, I always thought they had been in that same house for years and years. I’ve only been here for eight years so I wouldn’t really know. That’s amazing. Now I want to look into that quote and see if I can find how far back it dates.

    Reply
  13. DS

    “Thirteen. Here’s something that will blow your mind: From 1957 through 1981, New York teams — Yankees and Mets — appeared in 13 World Series. Yogi Berra was a player, coach or manager on every single one of them.”

    Why not 15 – and include 1955 and 1956? Giants in 1954 would have been the NY team without him.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Because that would actually be 17, not 15. He’s not saying that Berra merely appeared in every World Series with a New York team in it – he’s saying that Berra was present on every New York World Series team. 1955 and 1956 were all-New York World Series, making it impossible for the statement to hold true (unless Berra was traded midseason between the Dodgers and Yankees a couple of times, which he obviously wasn’t).

      Reply
  14. F. Lack

    Mikey,

    I now live a good distance from there, but I did live there for 17 years or so. The Berras lived on Stonebridge Rd. where it met Wayside Pl. (or, on Wayside where it met Stonebridge if you prefer). Very nice people, there was a small open cabinet hanging on the wall in the foyer next to the front door which was kept full of small (printed) autographed photos. Occasionally Yogi himself would open the door and give them out. “Here kid, you want a picture?” “Sure, thanks Yogi!” “Don’t mention it.”

    Good memories; no in depth conversations, but he (or whoever answered the door) was always friendly.

    Reply
  15. Cliff Blau

    Seventy-Three should read ’74, since that’s when he said, “You ain’t out of it until you’re out of it.”

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  16. Mike Schilling

    > There were 14 players on the ballot who were eventually inducted into the Hall; none were elected that year.

    Which helps explain why none were elected that year. The votes were split too many ways.

    Reply
  17. Herb Smith

    So, we’re down to the Final 44. Poz’s list should be interesting for the next 4-5 choices, because there are about 46 or 47 legitimate choices for those 44 spots. I’m starting to wonder if Negro League superstars like Mule Suttles and Pop Lloyd have been eliminated, despite Poz’s great love and support for the stars of that era.

    It would be especially surprising if neither made even the top-100, yet if the DO make it, that means someone like Pete Rose or Jackie Robinson wouldn’t make thew top-100…and I just can’t fathom that happening. (I chose the names of Jackie and Rose because one could at least present a (far-fetched) case that their fame overshadowed their actual skills. And because there are another 40+ players who absolutely HAVE to be on the list. A Greatest 100 Players List without Cal Ripken or Jimmie Foxx or Tris Speaker would become something of a farce.)

    Thoughts?

    Reply
    1. DM

      Hi Herb,

      I feel pretty comfortable in predicting that both Jackie Robinson and Pete Rose will make it. In addition to the extreme fame, they were both great baseball players. In doing this list, I also think Joe is trying to tell the stories of the most significant players in history. Leaving off either Robinson or Rose would be a pretty big exclusion, if you ask me.

      Also keep in mind that Joe has mentioned that there is one more tie still to come, so I think Lloyd still has a decent shot. However, I think Suttles won’t be included.

      Reply
    2. Patrick Bohn

      Robinson’s fame overshadowed his skill? If you mean it made people think he was better than he was, that’s pretty far off-base. (If you mean it made people forget how fantastic he was, you’re right.)

      Robinson put up a rWAR of 61.5 in just 5,800 plate appearances, and led all NL position players in it three times. It’s tough to know where he would have finished had he started his career at 22 or 23, but a WAR of 80-90 wouldn’t be out of the question. Great hitter (.311/.409/.474), and very good fielder and baserunner by the advanced metrics.

      IMO, you could make a case for Robinson being the 5th best second baseman ever

      Reply
      1. DM

        Patrick,

        I’m right there with you on Robinson. When I ranked the 2B myself, I went Collins 1, Hornsby 2, Morgan 3, Lajoie 4, Gehringer 5, and Robinson 6. But, honestly, 1/2/3 are pretty close for me, and 4/5/6 are a tight bunch for me too. At this point, since Lajoie and Gehringer have been listed already, my guess is that Robinson will be Joe’s #4 2B. I think that’s perfectly reasonable. Robinson’s career, though short, was excellent. He was a great player.

        Reply
        1. Patrick Bohn

          Right, except we know from Joe’s piece on Bob Feller that he’d take that into account, so it wouldn’t hurt him—though it would make my 80-90 WAR probably a longshot

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  18. Glenn N.

    Listen up because I’ve got nothing to say and I’m only going to say it once. I’m wondering if Charles “Gabby” Hartnett should be the number one catcher. And speaking of “Campy,” I am also wondering whether Stan Musial in 1951; Eddie Mathews in 1953; and “Duke” Snider in 1955 were better candidates for the MVP award than Campanella, or maybe Roy was a bigger “fave” with the New York writers…

    Reply
    1. otistaylor89

      There is no other position like catcher and when a catcher puts up seasons like Yogi and Campy did in the 1950′s on teams that won the pennant (or, in the case of the 1951 NL season, came as close as you could get to winning the pennant), I believe they should get the benefit of the doubt, regardless of what WAR says. Musial’s Cards finished 15 games back in 1951 and Mathews Braves finished 13 games back in 1953 – you who have to be nuts to believe either should have won the MVP in those years.

      Reply
        1. BobDD

          agree with the 2nd guy here – you’d have to be nuts to rate a player lower just because he was on a less talented team; it’s a player award, not a team standings award

          Reply
          1. otistaylor89

            Fair enough about the teammates, but you both forgot to include how much a LF or 3B (a vastly overrated fielding position IMHO) makes his teammates sooo much better..You think the Cards would have won a few more games with Campy behind the plate instead of Del Rice in 1951? How about the Braves in 1953 instead of Del Crandell?

  19. Dave

    When Casey Stengel was asked the secret to his success with the Yankees, he said “I always find a way to get my guy in there” meaning Yogi.

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  20. Herb Smith

    To be clear, in no way did I say that Jackie Robinson or Pete Rose were not worthy of their many accolades. I personally picked both of them on my list of the Top-50 players of all-time.

    And I agree with something Poz once said, that Jackie may have been the most IMPORTANT baseball player who ever lived. So, in one player, you have a guy with legitimate superstar performances (he won the 1949 MVP, deservedly, and led all MLB with 9.7 WAR in 1951), a guy who radically changed the course of baseball, and a man who changed the course of society at large.

    So, yeah.

    I was just pointing out that we have reached the point of musical chairs…44 seats left, 46 or 47 guys that almost EVERYONE would insist is a TOP-50 player.

    Reply
    1. BobDD

      Agreeing with Herb that there will be at least a couple of shockers left off here. If Joe hadn’t already done 50-100 that would be different, so some of these choices that I would put before 100 but not 50 are knocking a couple of my guys entirely out of the top 100. I’m especially talking about LLoyd and Piazza. I was already shocked that they were not consensus by the group of voters, so maybe by the time it is definite they will not be on this list I will have my game face back on and can try to make their case.

      Only four catchers total? Only two of which have full careers in MLB? Are players like Feller, Koufax, and probably Yaz and Rose bigger than all but two and a half MLB catchers? I think four out of top 100 for such a key and difficult position that garners an oversized amount of MVP hardware is an unforced error.

      Reply
      1. DM

        Hi Bob,

        I agree that catchers certainly feel under-represented. I would have anticipated Piazza in the top 100, with Carter, both Pudges (Fisk and Rodriguez) as reasonable candidates as well.

        One of my personal favorites is Mickey Cochrane. I’m not necessarily pitching for him as a top 100 player, but it’s funny that when I was growing up, he always seemed to be in the discussion of best catcher ever. The ones you always heard about were Bench, Dickey, Campanella, and Cochrane. Of course, Cochrane’s career was fairly short, so that knocks him down in most people’s opinions. The one thing I love about him, though, is that, aside from Joe Mauer, he’s the only catcher with more than 10 years and a .400+ OBP (and Mauer’s figure is obviously tentative and will probably end up dropping below .400 before he’s done). Cochrane’s .419 is top 20 all-time, squeezed in a group with Mantle, Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, Stan Musial, and Shoeless Joe Jackson. Pretty nice company. Of course, he wasn’t the overall threat any of them were, but, hey, he was a catcher.

        Anyway, I guess I’ll have to settle for having him as (probably) a top 10 catcher, considering the other catchers we’ve mentioned.

        Reply
        1. Mike

          DM – Agree with you. And also with your ranking (above) of Collins as No. 1 2B. With Cochrane, it’s the tremendous OBP ability at a position that usually (even with Yogi and Bench) generated its fair share of outs. With Collins, it’s the same, but over a LONG career. A career that thrived in deadball and post-1920.

          As to the Collins point, I have 25+ years since i read the Morgan entry in the Bill James Historical Abstract. And I have a lifetime of Baseball Encyclopedia+BR.com to “stat porn” Hornsby’s numbers. And, yet, Collins is my number one guy. Add the glove and the wheels to the fabulous OBP, and that’s my guy.

          Reply
        2. BobDD

          yes DM, I started fandom in the 50′s and Berra/Campanella were kind of an asterisk in the conversation because they weren’t retired plus 5 yrs yet, so catchers were always Cochrane, Hartnett, Dickey with sometimes Lombardi and Walker thrown in and maybe even King Kelly, but in my memory (faulty tho it often is) it was usually said that Yogi and Campy might be even better, and Josh Gibson was even the best of them.

          Well, Bench threw that thinking into chaos be being declaimed the best ever while still in his 20′s – something I sure believed (short of Gibson), and still do. If we judge by comparison to era, then Cochran, Hartnett and Dickey are still definite top 10. But catchers play longer careers now and any standard way of counting across era’s puts those three at a disadvantage – unless you count differently for catchers.

          Piazza has swooshed well past them, and the very good and very long careers of Carter, Fisk, and Rodriquez leave them in the dust. Dig deeper into Campy’s numbers, especially career marks, and all four of these newer guys have better than him. Though we generally allow a certain amount of credit for wartime and segregation loss, which brings him back up a ways.

          Joe has often said something along the lines of (or was it Bill James) that if your all-time lists lean too heavily to one era, then you are most likely not doing it right. Hey, the next lists we can do are the top ten (or 25?) by position. Then the debate is over more than just one name at a time. I’d love that. So, since I have the pre-war era heavily underrepresented I know that I am probably doing something wrong, but here is my top ten for catchers.

          1. Gibson
          2. Bench
          3. Piazza
          4. Berra
          5. Carter
          6. Campanella
          7. Rodriquez
          8. Cochrane
          9. Fisk
          10. Hartnett
          11. Dickey
          12. King Kelly (gotta put him somewhere)

          Reply
          1. DM

            Bob,

            That’s a decent list. Here’s my top 20…..the top 12 are not dramatically different from yours, except that I didn’t have Kelly, whom I would consider OF more than C, but I understand and respect why you would include him. I have my own homage to the pre-1900 era in Buck Ewing.

            With any luck, Yadier Molina might crack this list in a few years. He’s certainly elevated his game lately…..

            Rank-Name
            1-Johnny Bench
            2-Josh Gibson
            3-Yogi Berra
            4-Gary Carter
            5-Ivan Rodriguez
            6-Roy Campanella
            7-Mike Piazza
            8-Mickey Cochrane
            9-Carlton Fisk
            10-Bill Dickey
            11-Gabby Hartnett
            12-Ted Simmons
            13-Joe Mauer
            14-Bill Freehan
            15-Thurman Munson
            16-Joe Torre
            17-Jorge Posada
            18-Buck Ewing
            19-Lance Parrish
            20-Ernie Lombardi

          2. BobDD

            Nice list: I see places where we can get the debate rolling along just fine. Judging from what I’ve already heard you say, it also looks like you could have some debate with yourself yet.

            MLB is still moving many of the best young studs who start out at catcher to other positions – sometimes because they are not good enough defensively, but also just because they want their best hitters where they can do more offensive damage (Wil Myers most recent example?)

            Do you think there is a chance that catchers deserve to be just a bit less represented based on having so many of the best hitters in their ranks being purposely drained away? hmmm

  21. bepd50

    DM, et al.,

    following on my comment from earlier about blogging poz100 analytics, I figured out how to set up a blog and let multiple people contribute; the address is this,
    https://poz100analytics.wordpress.com

    if anyone wants to contribute to this crowd-sourced project by posting their analysis and ideas, please shoot me an email at bepd50 at gmail dot com, and I will set up a login for you!

    the main reason I want to do this is because I’m really interested in the statistical analysis people have done, and I think we can do a better job of keeping a discussion going than just using the commenting features here…

    Reply
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