‘Hall Of Fame Debate’ – Yogi Berra VS Johnny Bench
When the conversation of the greatest catchers of all-time is brought up, there is a very small list of names that get mentioned.
But, two names appear in most conversations – Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench. Sure, the names Mike Piazza, Roy Campanella, Thurman Munson, and even Ted Simmons get mentioned, but it is the names of Berra & Bench that get mentioned the most.
So, let’s get right into it as we debate about the two players with the goal of selecting the best ever.
On to the debate!!!
Here is a look at the players’ career resumes:
|Yogi Berra||Johnny Bench|
|200 Hit Seasons||0||0|
|150-199 Hit Seasons||4||5|
|30-39 HR Seasons||2||2|
|40+ HR Seasons||0||2|
Pretty close numbers in quite a few categories.
The standout numbers for me:
- Berra has 102 more hits in 38 less games
- Berra’s (4) .300 seasons to Bench’s (1)
- Bench drew 187 more walks than Berra
- Bench struck out 864 more times than Berra in 38 less games
- On-Base % is eerily close
- 60 more doubles for Bench
- 31 more home runs for Bench
- Berra has 54 more RBI
- Postseason appearances and WS wins heavily favors Bench
Wow, talk about two very accomplished players! Both of these guys are elite, and not just at catcher…
But, who is the more accomplished player? Who is the greatest catcher of all-time??
Before I give you my vote, it is important to say that the Gold Glove Award did not exist during Berra’s career. He was a solid defender, and more than likely would have won a few GG Awards. Would he top Bench’s 10? We’ll never know.
And now for my vote….
It goes to Yogi Berra. This guy does not get anywhere close to the respect that he deserves as a former elite player. Sure, he played on some mighty teams, but so did Bench. And for Berra to capture MVP Awards on teams that boasted DiMaggio and Mantle and Maris on their squads, it says a ton about the player that he was. He was a skilled hitter with a very disciplined approach at the plate. And when he did connect, he drove in runs at a pretty solid rate.
And then you have the postseason. While no single player is solely responsible for their team’s winning ways, Yogi Berra was the foundation of the Yankee’s defense while also being a strong contributor on offense. Bench did all of this as well – but his team made it to a lot less postseasons (Yes, I know that he played in a time when there were more teams in the league). But, for me, I cannot escape the fact that Berra played in the postseason in 14 of his 19 years in the major leagues – ultimately winning the World Series an astonishing ten times.
He’s got my vote for the greatest catcher of all-time!!!!
And now it is your turn. Give me your votes now!!!
You just keep making these tougher….I have to go with Berra by a tiny margin. He just had a slight edge…also he had some pretty nice quotes.
Zebulon- Thanks for the vote!
Berra 2, Bench 0
Bench gets my vote. Yes, Berra was a great catcher, but he was not the most feared hitter in baseball. Nor was he an innovator of the position. Bench forever changed the position, all the while, being a fantastic hitter batting in the middle of the lineup.
Berra was a very consistent catcher who was part of one of the greatest dynasties in the history of baseball. Bench, on the other hand, was the anchor on The Big Red Machine.
Jared- It is hard to not agree with you, but I still give the edge to Berra by a slim margin. Thanks for the contribution.
Berra 2, Bench 1
Yogi not a feared hitter? But Bench was? That’s why Yogi has a better hitting average, drove in more runs, had more hits, and wasn’t that far behind on Home Runs. Casey Stangel said Yogi was the manager on the field and he made things go. Yogi by a New York mile.
Just to be contrary because those two are both great, Mickey Cochrane (the guy Mantle was named for) and Bill Dickey from the era before Berra should be in the conversation.
Hackenbush- I will agree that the conversation could be expanded to include more players, but for me it is all about the head-to-head battles…
Bench and Berra are both elite players, but I’ll take Berra everyday over Bench.
Another catcher that doesn’t get the respect that he should is Josh Gibson. If Gibson was allowed to play in the majors he would have been the best catcher in MLB period.
Matt- Thanks for the vote!
Berra 3, Bench 1
I vote for Bench, although it may just be because Berra was before my time. Bench is definitely the best all-around catcher since I started watching baseball.
DJ- I’m with you, both careers ended before I got into baseball. Just hard to ignore what both of these elite catchers accomplished.
Thanks for the vote!!
Berra 3, Bench 2
Both guys played in very productive line-ups, so this is a great offensive comparison. But, I’m actually going to base my decision on something outside of that.
I’m going to say Berra. We don’t know how many gold gloves he would win, but I think the MVPs were quite telling. We know he wasn’t probably the best hitter in the league and not even on his own team. So I’m going to say the MVPs were an indication of how he impacted the game from a defensive and handling a pitching staff perspective, a la the Yadi Molina discussion of today.
When MVP discussion happens in the NL today, Yadi’s name has come up for the past two-three years and it’s not because he’s improved as a hitter and hits over .300. Everyone attributes it to his keeping base stealers at bay and calling a great game for his pitchers.
Look at how much Baseball Reference thinks of him… #44. Joe DiMaggio… #45. Eddie Murray… #46. YOGI BERRA… #47. Pee Wee Reese… #48. Willie McCovey, about 20 spots higher than Bench. Smack in the middle of Mr. 56 and two 500 HR hitters.
Charley- Another fantastic write-up!! And I could not agree more about the MVP portion – for Berra to stand out that way, it says a lot about the respect he earned even while not the most productive offensive player for his team.
Thanks for the vote.
Berra 4, Bench 2
I have had this discussion many times. Glad to have you back me up it’s Yogi! You fail to mention Yogi caught (called) three no hitters Including a perfect game in the world series. Bench had one no hitter.
There’s one glaring stat.
How do you measure the impact of that? Things happen when you put the ball in play (guys move up a base, errors are made, guys in the field have to make plays which can weAr them out, etc).
When you strike out, nada! (Ok, maybe the pitcher throws a few more pitches).
In five of his seasons yogi hit more home runs than he struck out!
Yogi by a mile.
On his ability to hit bad pitches “if I can hit it, it ain’t a bad pitch
Yogi. He had a cartoon character named after him! Don’t forget Bill Dickey…He was pretty good too. Yogi’s 10 rings are most ever! And he made a nice jump into Don Larson’s arms!
BTW, I assume it’s a “typo” when you say post-season and WS wins heavily favors BENCH….you mean Yogi, right? Can you correct that?
um is it me or was EVERY category offensive? Where were steals verse thrown outs?
now how you blend defensive stat with your offensive stats is of course extremely subjective
I didn’t realize that the numbers were this close and that Berra’s numbers were that good. Good research. I still have to go with Bench. That arm…that arm. But dang if it ain’t close for me now after seeing this. Thanks.
Both were bloody good. I give my vote to Yogi. May he rest in peace.
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Yogi by a long shot. Three mvps, ten ws rings more rbis higher batting avg, more doubles more triples than bench. one third less strike outs. Bench had a better arm. Big deal. Yogi was in 14 post season years. Please dont give me any of that big red machine nonsense. They were only good 1975 and 76. And in 75 it went to seven games vs sox. The big red machine didnt dominate anything. The 1990s yankees were way more dominant and a dynasty . Big red was never a dynasty