Q&A with Former MLB Catcher Bart Zeller [Bio & Interview]

Bart Zeller

An interview in 2022 with the former catcher

bart zeller with cardinals

Team:

  • St. Louis Cardinals, 1970

Career Prior to 1970

Bart Zeller was born in Chicago Heights, IL on July 22, 1941. 

After graduating from Rich High School in Illinois, Zeller went to the University of Arizona where he played baseball and basketball for the Wildcats.

He then transferred to Eastern Illinois University, and while there he played both football and baseball 

After graduation in 1963, Zeller was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals.

He then began a long and productive minor league career in the Cardinals' system.

While in the minors, Zeller played for such teams as the Winnipeg Goldeyes, the Raleigh Cardinals and the Lewiston Broncs.

To St. Louis, and Beyond

By 1970, Zeller was 28 years old with six years of minor league playing experience under his belt.

That May, he finally got the call he'd been waiting for and went to the big leagues. 

On May 21 against the Philadelphia Phillies, Zeller made his major league debut when he entered the game in the ninth inning of a tie game as a defensive replacement for Joe Torre.

He caught three Cardinals pitchers that inning and played flawlessly behind the plate.

Unfortunately, the Phillies walked it off in the bottom of the ninth, which meant that Zeller never got a chance to bat.

A few weeks later, the Cardinals released Zeller, though he stayed on the rest of the season as a coach.

The following year, he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers and played with their AAA club in '71, but he never made it back to the majors. 

bart zeller with brewers in 1971 spring training

Zeller (middle) during spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1971

Like Moonlight Graham from the movie Field of Dreams, Zeller became one of the rare players to appear in an MLB game defensively but never see an at bat.

After playing a few more minor league games in the New York Yankees system in '71, Zeller ended his playing career.

After he hung up his spikes, Zeller made a career in the business world. 

Eventually, he found his way back to baseball and got into coaching.

Zeller became a well known manager in the Independent Leagues, and he remains involved in independent baseball to this day.

bart zeller independent league coach

Manager Bart Zeller (source: The Southern file photo)

Q&A with Bart Zeller

Bart Zeller is a former professional catcher, coach and manager with decades of experience in the game. 

He played in a fascinating era in baseball and has been teammates with guys like Joe Torre, Lou Brock and Ted Simmons.  

I wrote Mr. Zeller a letter recently with a few questions about his career. 

Not only did he take the time to answer my questions (which you can read below) he also signed a photo and two index cards for me.

bart zeller signed index card

Below are his responses to my questions.

Question 1: I'm curious to know/learn about your favorite memory from your playing career. Can you tell me about that?

Answer: 1. Beating the White Sox in Spring Training in Florida with a base hit. 2. Being told by MGR (manager) that I was going North with the club in 1970.

Question 2: As a catcher in the 60's and 70's, what was the hardest thing about being a catcher during this time period? What was the most enjoyable?

Answer: 1. Most difficult - catching young pitchers who threw hard but had little idea of where it was going. Catcher's job is to "catch" or "block" every pitch. 2. Most enjoyable - being on the same page with the pitcher regarding pitch selection and location... and then having him throw it to the right spot.

Question 3: Who was the best pitcher you ever had the opportunity to catch, and why

Answer: Steve Carlton - Rawleigh (sic) NC - once I caught Steve it was easy to determine he was special. He had command of his pitches and had a slider that was "filthy". Needless to say, my thoughts proved correct.

bart zeller Q&A interview

That's A Wrap!

We love learning about the game and its history. In particular, we enjoy hearing personal stories from men that played a long time ago, such as Bart Zeller. (Thanks for your feedback Mr. Zeller!)

These men more often than not have great wisdom to share and very interesting perspectives as well. 

It's our hope that you found this article to be interesting or helpful.

Please feel free to reach out and contact us if you have questions or comments.

Thanks for stopping by Catchers Home.