Pitchers and Catchers Report
March 4, 2011
Spring training began a couple of weeks ago when pitchers and catchers reported to camp before the other players. The idea of batterymates raised an issue in my mind. First, where does the term come from and second, when you think of great pitchers do you also think of who was their regular catcher?
It seems logical that the term would come from the military. Artillery batteries were used in the Civil war and other wars at the time baseball was just getting started, and the firepower of the pitcher is a good comparison to artillery fire. The fact that both the pitcher and catcher have to work together the term "mate" seems appropriate of the time.
In many cases when you think a great pitcher - a catcher's name will come to mind. In researching some Hall of Fame pitchers from the Golden Age we see that our assumptions are usually correct, but not always.
For instance, when we think of Sandy Koufax, the first catcher to come to mind is Johnny Roseboro. In fact Roseboro caught 208 games for Koufax,. The race for the distant second place catcher was close with 21 games going to Jeff Torborg, 20 to Doug Camilli, 19 to Norm Sherry and 18 to Roy Campanella and Joe Pignatano.
Don Drysdale side-armed to Johnny Roseboro for 283 games and Jeff Torborg was a distant second with 42.
Gaylord Perry fired to Dick Deitz in 113 games, Jim Sundburg for 97 and Tom Haller for 91.
Hoyt Wilhelm was primarily a relief pitcher, but in his starts for Baltimore in 1959 and 1960 he teamed up with Gus Triandos 32 times and Joe Ginsberg 6 times. Gus Triandos was involved in so many passed balls trying to stop Wilhelm's knuckler that an oversized catcher's mitt was devised to help. Wilhelm made most of his appearances for the White Sox in 1963 through 1968.
The first thing people who are not from Cleveland may say is "Who is Jim Hegan? You may have noticed that Jim Hegan is shown with three Hall of Famers from the Cleveland Indians, Feller, Lemon and Wynn. We must remember he also got to catch Mel Harder, Allie Reynolds, Mike Garcia, Herb Score and Satchell Paige. Pitching for Cleveland alone, these hurlers won 1,112 games while only losing 764 (.592). In seventeen seasons as a catcher Hegan averaged just .228, but handled some of the best of them. So, the next time you think of a great pitcher, think about who his catcher might have been. It's not always obvious.