These five catchers were the best to ever don the tools of ignorance for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Catcher is one of the most unique positions in baseball given how it's been judged throughout history. It has historically been the weakest position offensively outside of pitcher, but as the game has shifted away from stolen bases and toward analytics, catchers' defensive evaluations have become less focused on their arms and more on their ability to call games and make pitches appear to be strikes to the umpires. Thus, the idea of what makes a player a good catcher has changed over the decades.
Although the St. Louis Cardinals have only had one catcher make it to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in a Cardinals cap, the team has still drafted and developed its share of stars who played the game's most grueling position. These five catchers, along with a few who didn't make the cut, are essential patches woven into the rich fabric of the Cardinals' history.
This is the first in a series of Redbird Rants ranking the top 5 Cardinals at every position group. Come back each week to see the rest of our rankings.
Del Rice was a strong defensive catcher who got the most out of his pitchers, directing his pitching staff to the lowest National League ERA in 1947 and 1949. He was less potent with the bat, although he hit .259 in 1952 while leading the National League in runners caught stealing.
Mike Grady spent the last three years of his career with the Cardinals, and they were some of his best seasons, as Grady led the National League in OPS for a catcher in 1904 and 1905. His defense behind the plate improved as his career progressed, even though he gradually spent more time at first base in his seasons with St. Louis.
An eight-time All-Star who won two World Series titles with the Cardinals, Walker Cooper hit .296 in eight seasons with the Cardinals. He led the National League in range factor per game in 1942 and 1943 and finished in the top 10 in caught stealing percentage eight times.
Darrell Porter's best seasons were with the Kansas City Royals, but he was named the MVP of the NLCS and World Series with the Cardinals in 1982. He was an All-Star four times thanks to his defensive ability, power, and batting eye.