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Many talented catchers have played for the Cardinals since the team got its start back in 1882.

This article focuses on these men, highlighting the best St. Louis Cardinals catchers in team history based on career and single-season WAR.

Keep scrolling to see more…

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A (Very) Brief Overview of St Louis Cardinals History

The Early Years Through the First Championship

The St. Louis Cardinals have a rich history that dates back to 1882. That was the season they began playing in the American Association, and at the time they were named the St. Louis Brown Stockings (later Browns).

The team joined the National League (NL) in 1892 and adopted the name “Cardinals” in 1900 after a solitary season known as the Perfectos.

They have been known as the Cardinals ever since the 1900 season.

Although there were periodic bright spots in the early 1900s, the Cardinals didn’t have much to write home about until 1926, when they won the franchise’s first World Series in the modern era.

babe ruth rogers hornsby shaking hands
Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby during the 1926 World Series.

Musial to McGwire

In the following twenty years, the Cardinals would appear in eight more World Series. It was in this period that the team established itself as one of the most successful franchises in the NL.

In the World War II period through the fifties, the legendary Stan Musial anchored the team.

young stan musial running the bases
Our favorite picture of Stan Musial, showing a young, joyful Stan The Man rounding the bases.

After Stan The Man came a new set of stars (Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ken Boyer, etc.) that led the Cards to more championships.

There were no pennant wins in the 70s, but a new crop of stars like Bruce Sutter, Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith and others powered many talented Cardinals teams of the 80s.

Hall of Fame Manager Tony La Russa (along with pitching coach Dave Duncan) took the reigns beginning in 1996, and they would go on to lead the club for 15 successful seasons.

In this time, slugger Mark McGwire exceeded Roger Maris’ single season home run record with 70 home runs in 1998. That year, it seemed like the whole world watched the Cardinals.

The Cards Since 2000

In the new millennium, the Cardinals were practically a fixture in the playoff scene each year. Guys like Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina powered the team to four World Series appearances (and two victories) between 2004 – 2013.

Following La Russa’s retirement, Mike Matheny took over as Cardinals Manager. After him, Mike Shildt led the charge for nearly four years.

Shildt departed St Louis after the 2021 season, and now Manager Oliver Marmol is leading the team into the future.

Some Quick Facts About the Cardinals

World Series Championships

cardinals celebrating 2011 world series
The Cards celebrating their 2011 World Series victory.

The St Louis Cardinals have the second highest number of World Series championships of any MLB franchise, after the Yankees. Through 2021, the Cardinals have 11 World Series titles.

The years that the Cardinals won the World Series are shown below.

Please note: we do not include the 1886 championship before the modern World Series era.

  • 1926, vs Yankees
  • 1931, vs Athletics
  • 1934, vs Tigers
  • 1942, vs Yankees
  • 1944, vs Browns
  • 1946, vs Red Sox
  • 1964, vs Yankees
  • 1967, vs Red Sox
  • 1982, vs Brewers
  • 2006, vs Tigers
  • 2011, vs Rangers

Top 5 Players

bob gibson throwing
One of the most fearsome pitchers of all-time, Bob Gibson.

It’s incredibly hard to narrow down just five all-time greats on a team that has a nearly 150 year history.

Nonetheless, we tried.

It’s a subjective list, as is any of this nature.

In short, when we looked across the landscape of baseball history and think of all-time greats that played for the Cardinals, the following five players came to mind.

  • Cy Young (511 career wins)
  • Rogers Hornsby (.358 lifetime batting average)
  • Dizzy Dean (over 100 wins in just four years)
  • Stan Musial (3,630 career hits)
  • Bob Gibson (1968 MVP and Cy Young winner)

Hall of Fame Managers

red schoendienst manager cardinals
Red Schoendienst managing the Cardinals in the 1960s.

The Cardinals have had their fair share of legendary Managers over the years. We thought it would be interesting to see Cardinals Managers that have been elected to the Hall of Fame.

We don’t make a distinction between those that were inducted as a player and those as a Manager. If you ever managed the Cardinals and you’re now in Cooperstown, then you’re in the list below.

  • Charlie Comiskey
  • Roger Connor
  • Kid Nichols
  • Roger Bresnahan
  • Miller Huggins
  • Branch Rickey
  • Rogers Hornsby
  • Bill McKechnie
  • Frankie Frisch
  • Billy Southworth
  • Red Schoendienst
  • Whitey Herzog
  • Joe Torre
  • Tony La Russa

Wins Above Replacement (WAR)

Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, is a baseball metric that was created to quantify an MLB player’s overall contribution to his team.

If you’re interested in learning more about WAR, we’d suggest reading this.

We think WAR is a great way to measure player value. For this article, we researched all Cardinal catchers since 1882 that played for the St. Louis Cardinals and ranked them by their career and single-season WAR (using the Frangraphs calculation, or fWAR).

The following is an overview of the top three St Louis Cardinals catchers based on a player’s career WAR, and the second part highlights the top three seasons by Cardinals catchers as measured by their single-season WAR.

Top 3 Cardinals Catchers by Career WAR

Please note: The player must have no less than 100 games played with the Cardinals to be eligible for this career WAR list.

#1. Joe Torre, 62.3 career WAR

joe torre with the cardinals
Joe Torre and his legendary sideburns.

One of the best catchers for the Cardinals of all-time is Joe Torre.

Joe Torre broke into the big leagues in 1960 at the tender age of 19. He debuted for the Milwaukee Braves, and went on to spend nine seasons as a Brave before being traded to St. Louis for Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda.

Torre played six productive years with the Cardinals before finishing his career with the New York Mets – which incidentally was where he began his famous managerial career.

Over the course of his career, Torre collected 2,342 hits, 252 home runs, and he hit .297/.365/.452. Defensively, Torre split his time behind the plate, at first base and at third base. As a catcher he had a lifetime fielding percentage of .990 and a caught stealing percentage (CS%) of 41%.

Among Torre’s many accolades as a player was winning the 1971 NL MVP award, capturing a batting title and a gold glove, and making nine all-star teams.

#2. Yadier Molina, 55.7 career WAR

yadi molina jordan catchers gear
Yadier Molina rocking his powder blue Jordan catcher’s gear.

A lifelong Cardinal, Yadier Molina is the player who most recently played in this article. He spent 19 seasons in the majors and in the process became one of the most popular players in Cardinals history. In our opinion, he belongs in Cooperstown one day.

Over the course of his career, Yadi accumulated over 2,100 hits, 176 home runs, 1,022 RBIs, a career slash line of .277/.327/.399, and one silver slugger award.

Yadi has consistently been one of the top defensive catchers in the game during his career. His lifetime fielding percentage behind the dish is .995 and he has gunned out a total of 368 runners attempting to steal, good for a 40% CS%.

Molina was an integral part of two Cardinals World Series championships (2006 and 2011), he has earned nine gold glove awards, a record (for catchers) four platinum gloves, and he has been named to 10 all-star teams.

#3. Ted Simmons, 54.2 career WAR

ted simmons catching with the cardinals
Former Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons.

Ted Simmons was drafted by the Cardinals in 1967 and made his major league debut just one year later. He ended up spending 21 years in the bigs playing for the Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves.

Simmons has the second most career hits among catchers in history with nearly 2,500 hits. A switch hitter, Simmons has a career slash line of .285/.348/.437 with 248 home runs.

Simmons caught in 1,771 MLB games, maintained a fielding percentage of .987, and gunned down 611 runners caught stealing (34%).

He was named to eight all-star games, won one silver slugger, and in 2020 he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Gene Tenace, 45.0 career WAR
  • Darrell Porter, 40.8 career WAR
  • Roger Bresnahan, 39.6 career WAR
  • Walker Cooper, 29.8 career WAR
  • Tim McCarver, 27.8 career WAR

Top 3 Seasons by Cardinals Catchers, Ranked by Single-Season WAR

Please note: The player must have a minimum of 60 games played as a Cardinals catcher in one season to be eligible for the single-season WAR list.

#1. 2013 – Yadier Molina (7.8 WAR)

yadier molina home run
Yadi after hitting a home run during a June 2013 game (Getty Images).

Yadi had an impressive 2013 season. The NL all-star helped the pennant winning Cards with his bat and his mitt in ’13.

In particular, Yadi did an excellent job hitting for average that season as he led the Cardinals with a .319 batting average – which was also a career high. He also hit 12 home runs, collected 80 RBIs and had a career best 68 runs.

In 1,115.1 innings catching, Yadi kept a .996 fielding percentage and threw out 43% of would-be base stealers. He led all NL catchers that year in defensive games (131), putouts (976), and total zone runs (13).

In recognition of his productive year, Yadi finished third in NL MVP voting, won his first silver slugger and his sixth gold glove award.

#2. 2012 – Yadier Molina (7.7 WAR)

yadier molina throwing to first
Yadi throwing to first during a September 2012 game at Wrigley Field (Getty Images).

Finishing a close second on our list is Yadi’s 2012 campaign. He was a rock behind the plate for Mike Matheny’s Cardinals that year.

Yadi had a near perfect .997 fielding percentage in 2012 and also a strong 48% CS%. He led league catchers in assists (88, career high), double plays turned (12), and finished second in CS%. His defensive play resulted in his fifth gold glove and second platinum glove award.

Offensively, Yadi hit .315/.373/.501 with 159 hits, 22 home runs and 76 RBIs in ’12. He had career highs in home runs, on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (.874), total bases (253), stolen bases (12), and more. His 2012 season earned Molina another all-star game appearance and a fourth place finish in league MVP voting.

#3. 1970 – Joe Torre (6.0 WAR)

joe torre cardinals catcher
Joe Torre catching during a game against the Cubs, circa 1970 (Getty Images).

Joe Torre’s second season in a St. Louis uniform was a doozy.

That year he eclipsed 200 hits for the first time in his career, reached triple digits in RBIs (100), smashed 21 home runs and slashed an impressive .325/.398/.498.

Torre spent a bit more than half his games behind the plate in 1970, sharing catching duties with an up and coming player named Ted Simmons. In Torre’s 784 innings caught that year, he had a .987 fielding percentage and a 31% CS%.

Torre had an even better season the next year – in which he won NL MVP – and finished with a 6.9 WAR. However, he played third base exclusively that season.

List of All St. Louis Cardinals Catchers With a 2.0+ WAR Season

Having a season with a WAR that is 2.0 or better typically indicates that a player had a productive season.

A very large number of St Louis Cardinals catchers have exceeded (or met) this mark since 1882, when the team first started playing in the big leagues.

Check out the below table which details every Cardinals catcher that has had a 2.0 WAR or better season.

SeasonNameWAR 2013Yadier Molina7.8 2012Yadier Molina7.7 1970Joe Torre6.0 2011Yadier Molina5.9 1967Tim McCarver5.9 1978Ted Simmons5.9 1973Ted Simmons5.8 1975Ted Simmons5.7 1977Ted Simmons5.7 1980Ted Simmons5.2 2009Yadier Molina5.1 2010Yadier Molina5.0 1972Ted Simmons4.9 2008Yadier Molina4.5 1983Darrell Porter4.2 1974Ted Simmons4.1 1979Ted Simmons3.9 1915Frank Snyder3.8 1971Ted Simmons3.8 1904Mike Grady3.8 1976Ted Simmons3.8 1944Walker Cooper3.7 1926Bob O’Farrell3.6 2016Yadier Molina3.5 2014Yadier Molina3.4 1943Walker Cooper3.4 1991Tom Pagnozzi3.4 1966Tim McCarver3.4 1889Jocko Milligan3.2 1934Bill DeLancey3.1 1905Mike Grady3.1 2002Eli Marrero2.9 1982Darrell Porter2.9 1891Jack Boyle2.9 1939Don Padgett2.8 1929Jimmie Wilson2.7 1885Doc Bushong2.6 1942Walker Cooper2.5 1910Roger Bresnahan2.5 1990Todd Zeile2.5 2018Yadier Molina2.5 1934Spud Davis2.5 1911Roger Bresnahan2.5 1952Del Rice2.5 1927Johnny Schulte2.4 1921Verne Clemons2.4 2015Yadier Molina2.4 1886Doc Bushong2.4 1988Tony Pena2.3 2000Mike Matheny2.3 2017Yadier Molina2.3 1964Tim McCarver2.3 1894Doggie Miller2.3 1996Tom Pagnozzi2.3 1918Mike Gonzalez2.2 1906Mike Grady2.2 1963Tim McCarver2.2 1935Spud Davis2.1 1968Tim McCarver2.1 1962Gene Oliver2.1 1985Darrell Porter2.1 1897Klondike Douglass2.1 1914Ivey Wingo2.1 1982Gene Tenace2.1 1954Bill Sarni2.1 1922Eddie Ainsmith2.1 1945Ken O’Dea2.0

Cardinals Catchers over the Last 10 Years

Please note: the following list of Cardinals catchers are shown based on the order of games caught per season for the Cardinals. Catchers with the most games caught per season start at the top.

2013 Cardinals Finished first in NL Central, lost World Series

  • Yadier Molina (primary)
  • Tony Cruz
  • Rob Johnson
  • Audry Perez

2014 Cardinals Finished first in NL Central, lost NLCS

  • Yadier Molina (primary)
  • Tony Cruz
  • A.J. Pierzynski
  • George Kottaras

2015 Cardinals Finished first in NL Central, lost NLDS

  • Yadier Molina (primary)
  • Tony Cruz
  • Ed Easley
  • Travis Tartamella
  • Cody Stanley

2016 Cardinals Finished second in NL Central

  • Yadier Molina (primary)
  • Eric Fryer
  • Alberto Rosario
  • Carson Kelly
  • Brayan Pena

2017 Cardinals Finished third in NL Central

  • Yadier Molina (primary)
  • Carson Kelly
  • Eric Fryer

2018 Cardinals Finished third in NL Central

  • Yadier Molina (primary)
  • Francisco Pena
  • Carson Kelly
  • Steven Baron

2019 Cardinals Finished first in NL Central, lost NLCS

  • Yadier Molina (primary)
  • Matt Wieters
  • Andrew Knizner

2020 Cardinals Finished second in NL Central, lost NL Wild Card Series

  • Yadier Molina (primary)
  • Matt Wieters
  • Andrew Knizner

2021 Cardinals Finished second in NL Central, lost NL Wild Card Game

  • Yadier Molina (primary)
  • Andrew Knizner
  • Ali Sanchez

2022 Cardinals Finished second in NL Central, lost NL Wild Card Game

  • Andrew Knizner (primary)
  • Yadier Molina
  • Ivan Herrera
  • Austin Romine

Complete List of All Cardinals Catchers Over the Last 10 Years

The below list shows every St. Louis Cardinals catcher who played in at least one defensive game as a catcher for the team since 2013.

Catchers are listed in alphabetical order by first name.

  • A.J. Pierzynski
  • Alberto Rosario
  • Ali Sanchez
  • Andrew Knizner
  • Audry Perez
  • Austin Romine
  • Brayan Pena
  • Carson Kelly
  • Cody Stanley
  • Ed Easley
  • Eric Fryer
  • Francisco Pena
  • George Kottaras
  • Ivan Herrera
  • Matt Wieters
  • Rob Johnson
  • Steven Baron
  • Tony Cruz
  • Travis Tartamella
  • Yadier Molina

Thank You for Reading

We hope you liked reading this article as much as we enjoyed putting it together! We learned a lot about the Cardinals in the process of our research and writing.

If you have any questions or comments, please reach out. You can contact us here or simply send an email to scott (at) catchersome (dot) com.

Thanks for coming to Catchers Home.

Sources for this Article

  • Baseball Almanac
  • Baseball Reference
  • Fangraphs
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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