The National League had quite a few very good catchers in the 1970’s, especially in terms of their ability to play defense and to call a good game from behind the plate. While the overwhelming majority of these players were only average at bat, the position of catcher is historically a defensive position and any catcher that produces offensively over an extended period is usually an automatic all-star. During the 1970’s in the National League there were several outstanding catchers that received little credit for their play due to the mere presence of Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds. The all around offensive and defensive ability of Bench made all other catchers seem inadequate by comparison, as Bench was not only the best catcher in the National League but arguably the best player in baseball as well.
Here is a look at a few of the best catchers in the National League during the 1970’s:
Johnny Bench – Bench was the 1970 and 1972 National league Most Valuable Player and an all-star every season in the 1970’s. Bench had incredible power at the plate, hitting 20 or more home runs nine times, more than 30 homers four times and twice hit 40 home runs in a season during the decade. To top these stats off, Bench also had 6 seasons with over 100 runs batted in and won eight Gold Gloves. Hands down, Bench was simply the best catcher in the National league during the 1970’s.
MannySanguillen – Sanguillen was a fan favorite in Pittsburgh – it’s very rare that you see a baseball player that is always smiling, but Sanguillen was. MannySanguillen played the game like a big kid, always enthusiastic while going all out. In seven years in the National League during the 1970’s Sanguillen was a three-time all-star and hit for over a .300 batting average three times. An excellent defensive catcher, Sanguillen was easily the most athletic catcher in the National League and probably would have won quite a few Gold Gloves if were not for Johnny Bench.
Ted Simmons – A great catcher that was tough as nails, many baseball fans feel that Simmons belongs beside Bench in the Hall of Fame, and rightfully so. A six-time all-star during the 1970’s, Simmons had four seasons of over 20 home runs, twice had 100 runs batted in and had over a .300 batting average five times. In his long and distinguished career Simmons had over 2,400 hits with 1,389 runs batted in. His best season came in 1975 when he hit for a .332 batting average to go along with 18 home runs and 100 runs batted in.
Other National League catchers that are deserving of inclusion in the discussion: Bob Boone, Dick Dietz, John Sterns, Tim McCarver and Randy Hundley.