All-Time Indians: Frankie Pytlak

Name: Frank Anthony Pytlak Position: Catcher
  Number: 11 & 8
Tribe Time: 1932-1940 DOB: 07/30/1908
Best Season (1937) 125 397 60 125 15 6 1 44 155 52 15 16 5 76% .404 .390 .315 .794
Career 676 2032 278 582 77 35 5 232 744 216 78 51 22 70% .356 .366 .286 .722

Through the 1920’s and early 1930’s, Glenn Myatt and Luke Sewell caught almost every single game for the Tribe. Sewell was generally the starter, but was traded in 1933 to make room for Pytlak, who had come up for 12 games in 1932. Myatt also took a back seat and played just 40 games that season before ultimately being released after the 1935 season. The Indians had moved on and Frankie Pytlak was to become the star.

Like many Indians catchers to come after him, Pytlak was a defensive specialist, focusing on game calling much more than hitting. Because of this, he was never as full time as a regular starting catcher. Pytlak caught more games than any other Indians player from 1933 through 1936, but averaged only 75 games per season. The Indians carried multiple catchers on the 25 man roster and would often pinch hit for the catcher as well to strengthen the offense in late innings.

In 1937, Pytlak broke games played for the first time and set career highs in runs, hits, doubles, RBI and walks. His .315 average was lower than the season before (.321), but was much more significant with 170 more at bats. Pytlak hit his prime at 28 years old, but it was to be short lived. After one more season in 1938 with another 100 games played and an average above .300, Pytlak became a full time reserve. He had been the primary catcher for both Bob Feller and Johnny Allen, but in both 1939 and 1940, Pytlak played just 60 games each season and his average plummeted.

The transition had come again and the young catcher turned old was replaced by another young catcher, this time by the name of Rollie Hemsley. After being replaced by as starter, Pytlak was traded to the Red Sox along with starting second baseman Odell Hale in exchange for the younger Jim Bagby, Jim Desautels and Gee Walker. This would start off almost a decade without a steady presence behind the plate. This turbulence wouldn’t end until Jim Hegan was finally named starter in 1947.

Pytlak wasn’t ever quite a starter with just two years where he played over 100 games, but he spent a very long time with the Tribe, catching more than all but seven catchers in Indians history. His 51 steals are the most ever by an Indians catcher and his .991 fielding percentage trails only Victor Martinez and Joe Azcue. To further cement his position as one of the greatest Indians catchers, he allowed a fewer amount of passed balls than any catcher with at least 500 games played.

Pytlak came back with the Red Sox for three more seasons, ultimately retiring in 1946. He stayed in the Red Sox organization for a season, coaching with Providence before leaving the professional ranks for good. He died in 1977 at the age of 68.

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of and has been since its inception in 2011. He also writes for The Outside Corner and the Comeback and hosts the Tribe Time Now podcast. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians. Follow on twitter @BurningRiverBB