Catcher has never been the most talented position on the field, often times filled with a player who has a focus on working with pitchers and defense rather than offense. In Indians history, there have been many popular and long tenured catchers, including the position player with the most years in a Tribe uniform in Indians history.
10. Steve O’Neill – 1913-23
O’Neill had the longest non-injury marred career of any Indians catcher, but simply wasn’t very good. In a day of high batting averages and little power, he had neither, batting just .265 over his career with 11 home runs in more than 1,300 games played. O’Neill was a pitcher-first catcher, calling a great game for the first Indians team to win a World Series in 1920. O’Neill, Sewell and Myatt are all tied for tenth for longest career as an Indian.
9. Joe Azcue – 1964, 1965-67
Azcue was one of the shortest tenured catchers on the list, but hit a surprising amount of home runs compared to his longer termed counterparts. While he is the worst on the list at hitting doubles, Azcue hit so many home runs that he comes in fifth in slugging percent. His .266 average is average among Indians catchers while his counting stats are hard to compare due to his short career.
8. Frankie Pytlak – 1934, 1936-38
Pytlak took over for Sewell in 1934 and started on and off until he was ultimately replaced by Rollie Hemsley in 1940. His .286 batting average over that time is the second best as an Indians catcher in team history, but most of his hits were singles, hurting his power and production numbers. Pytlak played less than 700 games with the team, placing him seventh among catchers when considering time spent with the Tribe.
7. Luke Sewell - 1926-32
Sewell started the early 1920’s as the Indians back-up catcher, behind Glenn Myatt, but quickly passed him and was the starter for the rest of his time with the team. Sewell played a very long time with the Tribe, but was never that successful at making contact. His most impressive numbers are his high RBI and run totals for a catcher.
6. Johnny Romano – 1960-62, 1964
Romano was one of the Indians few power hitting catchers and, like many others, stuggled hitting for a high average. In 1962 Romano was the top offensive player on the team with 25 home runs and 81 RBI. Late in his career he was replaced as starter by Azcue, but he continued to produce as the back-up catcher.
5. Carlos Santana – 2010-Active
Santana is a new breed of catcher for the Indians, providing a combination of power and patience never before seen in an Indians back-stop. He is already within 60 walks of O’Neil’s catcher walk record of 491. Overall, he ranks behind only Jim Thome in walks/game in Indians history. In addition to that, he sits comfortably in second place all time in home runs among catchers. Lack of games to qualify his stats and a poor career batting average (even for a catcher) are the only thing keeping Santana this far down the list, so he has plenty of room for advancement as long as he stays with the team as catcher. This may be the hardest thing for him to do as he spent most of 2014 at first base and with a few more games there, he will be removed from this list in it’s entirely.
4. Ray Fosse – 1970-72, 1976-77
Fosse could have easily been number one on this list had it not been for the 1970 All-Star game. Pete Rose barrelled into Fosse, separating his shoulder, after which his numbers drastically dropped. Even still, Fosse hit 50 home runs as an Indian and won two Gold Gloves.
3. Jim Hegan – 1947-56
Hegan was the longest tenured batter in Indians history, playing in Cleveland for 14 seasons (like the longest tenured pitcher, Bob Feller, Hegan took three years off for military service). He is just one of four catchers to hit at least 90 home runs and leads all Indians catchers in career RBI. Hegan was most famous for working with pitchers during his time, like Feller, Bob Lemon and Mike Garcia.
2. Sandy Alomar, Jr. – 1990, 1992-98, 2000
Alomar was the star catcher for the powerful Indians teams of the 1990’s. As an Indian he won the Rookie of the Year, a Gold Glove and made six All-Star teams. He ranks second all time among catchers in home runs and doubles, despite playing in almost 600 less games than the longest tenured catcher. Like many others on this list, Alomar battled injuries his whole career, and only played in 100 or more games during four seasons of his entire career.
1. Victor Martinez – 2004-07, 2009
Martinez didn’t stick around as long as some of the other catchers on the list, but he still managed to become the first Indians catcher to break 100 home runs and holds the record for highest batting average by an Indians catcher. Martinez was so good offensively, that the team started using him at first base on his off days towards the end of his time in Cleveland to keep his bat in the lineup.
Borderline: Harry Bemis, Glenn Myatt, Ron Hassey, Duke Sims, Kelly Shoppach