Year Inducted: 1986 (Veterans Committee)
Sometimes, it can be fun (despite how trivial it all is), to see how all the players in the Hall of Fame rank in certain stats. Some are easy to think of-who has the most [wins, home runs, RBIs, etc]. The harder part is to find out who has the least of certain stats. Unsurprisingly, since catchers tend to be as slow as snails, the player with the fewest steals in a career was a catcher. In fact, he is the only player in the Hall of Fame to have less than 10 steals in his career. That player, of course, is Ernie Lombardi.
Lombardi played 17 seasons, mostly in Cincinnati, and hit .306/.358/.460 with a wRC+ of 125. He was able to crank out nearly 200 home runs, along with only 277 doubles and a mere 27 triples. Lombardi’s speed was something that hampered him both in the field and at the plate. Fielders would play back on him (and he did have a decent amount of power) since they would have more time to throw him out, even if he bunted. Amazingly, his hard contact was still able to produce a batting average above .300 in his career, an impressive feat for any catcher (just imagine the wear and tear that’s on their bodies compared to other positions).
Of course, his base-running was poor as well. Despite the nearly 200 home runs he hit, he only scored 601 runs and of course only stole 8 bases. To put that in perspective, the current winner of the “Slowest Runner in the Game” award is probably Yadier Molina, and in his career he has stolen 47 bases, 3 times stealing as many as Lombardi did in his entire career in one season. Molina hasn’t scored as many runs (525 versus 601) but has also has 300 fewer plate appearances than Lombardi.
In the field, Lombardi was worth about 27 runs above average defensively as a catcher. It certainly was a solid amount, but upon his retirement he ranked only 69th all-time defensively, and has been blown by other more modern catchers (i.e., the aforementioned Molina, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Pudge Rodriguez, etc.) as time has gone on.
Now, having said all that, he certainly has a solid Hall of Fame resume. He was an above average catcher and 25% better than league average offensively. A much better resume than all the previously covered catchers on this list, but just a little shy of being an all-time great player. He either needed to be better defensively or hit for more power to have a good case. Not a great selection, but certainly not the worst one in the Hall of Fame.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 8/17/16
This Hall of Fame pitcher from baseball’s early years threw nearly 3000 innings in his career and won almost 200 games, including an AL-record win season in 1904.