So, who was the Greatest Tiger "Behind the Mask?"

Through the years our boys have been gifted with some outstanding catchers, some who are in the Hall of Fame, some who might be elected there some day.

Remember, we're not voting on an entire career, just one year with the Tigers.

None of us remember Mickey Cochrane but he had a tremendous influence on the game in the 1930's, not just with the Tigers, but with the feared Philadelphia Athletics, one of the greatest teams of all time.

He hit .354 with the A's in 1930. But he led the Tigers to a pennant as player/manager in 1934, with a .320 average, a slugging average of .412, and tremendous fielding skills, tied him for the American league fewest errors for a backstop, with seven for the entire year. He was known for his leadership and his fiery temper, earning him the nickname "Black Mike." (A close personal friend of Ty Cobb.)

Just like "Black Mike" not many of us recall Rudy York, but in in 1937 he had a fine season, hitting .307. He must have been a great asset to the team with 35 HR's, and more than 100 RBI's, but in this league of all-stars, it's tough to stand out.

Bill Freehan turned in a fine .300 average in 1964, one of the hit-starved early 1960's years. He dropped in 18 HRs, and was an outstanding fielder, leading the league in put-outs by a catcher.

A few guys who were fine ball players, but just not of the caliber of some of these others are Matt Nokes (1987)Lance Parrish (1983) and Mickey Tettleton (1991.) I leave it to you to make the argument for them if you'd like.

Without doubt, one of the finest seasons behind the plate Tiger fans have ever seen was Pudge Rodriguez in 2004. Even the casual Tiger fan smiles when we think about that cannon that hangs off his right shoulder. He can throw out any runner, any day, anytime, no matter if the pitch is in the dirt, off speed or hard to handle. Second factor Pudge has going for him is the amazing ability to calm a pitcher and focus him. But just as awesome as his fielding skills is Pudge's work at the plate. In 2004 he hit .334, 19 HR's, 86 RBI's,

In my book, it's a close call; Black Mike in 1934 and Pudge, 70 years later: now you make the call.

4 comments:

  1. Bruke Kimm -- Mark Fidrych's catcher in 1976.

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  2. My vote with Mickey Cochrane. And I owe it alol to my dad. As a kid, my dad always raved about Cochrane and Gehringer as the two finest baseball players ever. So Hank's word is good enough for me. He passed away 14 years ago, but is smiling now to see that I remembered Cochrane.

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