When talking about the next big thing, such as Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, it’s always fun to look back at the team’s history at the position.
Last week, I wrote about Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and his season of highs and lows. The 26-year-old backstop was on the verge of another huge season when the wheels fell off in August and September. Since joining the team, he has struggled to develop pitch framing skills – a big knock against him. But there is little doubt in my mind that he could still be one of the great Cubs catchers. Today we look at a few Cubs catchers of the past.
Randy Hundley, 1966-1973; 1976-1977
Hundley was a part of the great Cubs teams from 1967 to 1972 that included Ernie Banks, Don Kessinger, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and many others. While they never made the postseason, they were consistently in contention and went 515-449 over those six seasons.
Hundley finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 1966, earned a Gold Glove in 1967 and was an All-Star in 1969. During that ’69 campaign, he put up a career-best .725 OPS. That being said, the backstop never carried a big stick, hitting just .240 over his Cubs career.
He posted a career 11.6 WAR, a .990 fielding percentage, averaged 13 home runs a year, and in 1968 and 1969 threw out 50 percent of the baserunners attempting to steal. He’s 76 and resides in Virginia these days.
Gabby Hartnett, 1922-1940
Hartnett played 20 seasons in the Show, appearing in six All-Star games from 1933 to 1938.
He was voted MVP in 1935, a year when he slashed .344/.404/.545. In his career, he hit .297/.370/.489, catching a staggering 15,044 innings. He threw out 60 percent or more of base stealers in a season eight times and amassed 53.4 WAR.
A bizarre arm ailment limited his time in 1929 but that was the only blemish in an otherwise great career. His most magical moment came on September 28, 1938, with the Cubs battling for the division, he hit an 0-2 pitch into the growing darkness at Wrigley Field for a game-winning home run. And thus, the “Homer in the Gloamin’” became a part of Cubs lore.
Jody Davis 1981-1988
The Cubs picked up Davis from the Cardinals in the 1980 Rule 5 draft. Davis didn’t hit for average but he sure could slug, averaging 21 homers per season.
With a career .253/.313/.423 slash, he hit some monster shots at Wrigley, including a bomb that nearly landed in WGN center field camera booth. A fan favorite every year, chants of “Jodeee, Jodeee” reverberated throughout Wrigley.
A two-time All-Star (1984, 1986), Davis won a Gold Glove in 1986.
Joe Girardi, 1989-1992; 2000 – 2002
Girardi gets a mention here because his name pops up as a potential Cubs skipper. In his two stints with the Cubs as a player, Girardi slashed .262/.306/.323 from 1989 to 1992 and .257/.315/.343 from 2000 to 2002. It was during his later time with Cubs that he earned a trip to the All-Star Game in 2000.
Other mentions include Michael Barrett, 2004 to 2007. Barrett slashed a .280/.335/.468 in his time with the Cubs, including three career-best 16 homer seasons with the Cubs from ’04 to ’06. But the hit most remember him for had nothing to do with a bat. Barrett could slug, as A.J. Pierzynski found out on May 20, 2006.
And of course, who could forget…Barry Foote. The portly backstop played for the Cubs in the lost years from 1979 to 1981. A fairly unremarkable player he did, however, slug 16 homers in 1979. The Cubs traded Foote to the Yankees for Tom Filer.
That wraps up the rundown of some notable Cubs catchers. I’m sure you have your favorites and feel free to pass those along in the comments or on social media.