Sometime in the (hopefully) near future, Major League Baseball will resume. Once it does, the Yankees will find themselves potentially deciding who will play catcher in the 2021 season.
Last year’s starter, Gary Sanchez has done little to lock down the position. His backup, Kyle Higashioka, hit a measly .181/.246/.389. Finally, the free agent market at catcher is underwhelming at best.
While the Yankees have been in a bit of a slump behind the plate, that wasn’t always the case. The Bronx Bombers have had a history of talented catchers including former captain Thurman Munson, the energetic Jorge Posada, and Hall of Famer Yogi Berra.
While so many teams historically struggled to find good catchers, Yankees fans have been treated to some of the best in the game, and it is largely because of Bill Dickey.
The First Great Behind the Plate
Dickey’s New York career started with a limited appearance in 1928 and by the following season, Dickey found himself behind the plate for one of the most talented rosters of all time. Dickey’s bat became a steady presence in the lineup and he would hit over .300 in 10 of his first 11 full seasons.
While Dickey was a very consistent and high-performing hitter, it was his abilities behind the plate that made him critical to the team’s success. Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller is quoted saying, “He was the best all-around catcher…I could have won 35 games with him behind the plate.”
Not only could Dickey call a good game, but he was also considered to be one of the better defenders at the position.
As a Yankee, Dickey made 11 All-Star games, won 7 World Series, had his number 8 retired and made the MLB Hall of Fame.
While Dickey was an all-around great backstop. His greatest contribution to the Yankees might have been his commitment to helping future generations of Yankees catchers.
As Dickey’s career came to a close, he became a mentor for his eventual replacement, Yogi Berra. While Berra’s bat made him an exciting prospect, his glove was holding him back. Under Dickey’s guidance, Berra improved behind the plate and said, “I owe everything I did in baseball to Bill Dickey.”
But Dickey’s mentorship wouldn’t end with just Berra. Instead, he also trained Berra’s eventual replacement, future-MVP Elston Howard. In fact, Howard was so impressed with Dickey that he stated, “Without Bill, I’m nobody. He made me a catcher.”
While Dickey didn’t help the development of Munsan and Posada, he set the high expectation of what it means to be a catcher for the New York Yankees.