Best Catchers in New York Yankees History

The New York Yankees are an incredibly historic ball club that has fielded a number of legendary catchers over the decades.

This post reviews the top Yankees catchers since 1913, ranked by career and single-season Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Keep reading to learn more!

best new york yankees catchers of all time ranked by war

Best Catchers in New York Yankees History

A Quick History of the New York Yankees

The New York Yankees are the most famous team in Baseball, and one of the most famous teams in all of sports. 

No other MLB team even comes close to the Yankees' 27 World Series championships. And some of the biggest names in Baseball history - Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra - all wore Yankees uniforms. 



The Early 20th Century

The New York Highlanders ballclub changed their name to the “Yankees” in 1913. During this time the team played at the Polo Grounds, sharing the stadium with the New York Giants.

The Yankees played sub-.500 baseball in much of the 1910s. Then in 1919, they went 80 - 59, finishing 3rd in the major leagues. 

1919 began a streak of winning seasons for the Yankees, whose lineup was bolstered by the addition of Babe Ruth in 1920. In 1923 the original Yankee Stadium was opened, and that same year the Yankees won their first World Series.

The great Babe Ruth.

In 1927, the Yankees had one of the best seasons in MLB history, going 110 - 44 and sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. Additionally, Babe Ruth set a single-season record of 60 home runs that season.

The Yankees would go on to win 7 World Series between 1928 and 1941. Also in 1941, the great Joe DiMaggio had a mind blowing 56 game hitting streak, a record that still stands today.

As World War II dawned, the New York Yankees stood as the most successful franchise in Baseball to-date.

Post-World War II

The years between the end of World War II (1946) and the beginning of Joe Torre’s managerial tenure (1996) were incredibly productive for the Yankees. In this span of time, New York won approximately 12 World Series championships.

The 1950s saw the emergence of a new generation of Yankees superstars, such as Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. They absolutely dominated the decade; for example, there were only two seasons where the Yankees did not make the World Series in the 1950s. 

Yogi Berra with Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Ralph Houk.

1961 was another phenomenal season for New York, highlighted by their 109 - 53 record, World Series victory against Cincinnati - and perhaps most significantly - a home run race between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. 

Maris would go on to break Ruth's single season home run record by hitting home run number 61 on the final game of the regular season.

Roger Maris during his famous '61 campaign.

In 1973, George Steinbrenner bought the team, marking a major milestone in Yankees history. Three years later, the Bronx Bombers began playing in a newly remodeled Yankee Stadium after spending two seasons playing at nearby Shea Stadium.

Both the 1977 and 1978 seasons ended in World Series championships, with the team led by stars such as Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Ron Guidry and Thurmon Munson.

The 1980s was not a particularly notable decade for New York, as it was the first decade since the 1910s that the Yankees did not win a World Series. The early 90s were also not very successful, although the 1994 team did finish first in the AL East during the strike shortened season.

The Torre Years to Present Day

Former catcher and NL MVP Joe Torre took the helm in 1996, and thus began the next span of Yankees championship runs. During Torre’s tenure, the Yankees appeared in six World Series, winning four of them. 

Torre’s Yankees were led by superstars Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and multi-year all stars like Bernie Williams, Andy Pettite, Paul O'Neill and Jorge Posada. Torre’s most successful team was the 1998 Yankees, which won an astounding 114 regular season games that year.

Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada.

Former catcher Joe Girardi took over for Torre starting in 2008. The following season, the Yankees won another World Series by defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.

The Yankees continued playing solid, above .500 Baseball in the 2010s under Girardi’s leadership. During his ten years at the helm, Girardi's Yankees made the playoffs six times. 

In 2018, a new skipper was brought on board - former Yankee Aaron Boone. In his now three years as Manager, Boone has earned a 236 - 148 (.615%) record overseeing a New York team that has featured studs like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu (to name just a few).


Wins Above Replacement (WAR)

Commonly known as WAR, Wins Above Replacement was created to measure an individual player’s overall contributions to his team. 

Its definition per the MLB is as follows:

“WAR measures a player's value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at his same position (e.g., a Minor League replacement or a readily available fill-in free agent).”

Keep in mind that there is a different formula used for pitchers and for position players, and WAR calculations can vary slightly by media outlet (such as Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference). 

Still, it’s an incredibly useful (and popular) metric, since it captures the holistic value that a player provides to his team.

For this post, I researched every catcher that has ever worn a Yankees jersey and ranked them by career and single season WAR, using Baseball Reference as the source. Thus, I scanned player metrics going back to 1913 - the season that the Highlanders officially became the Yankees.

The following list highlights the top five Yankees catchers ranked by career WAR, while the second list showcases the top five best seasons by a Yankees catcher, ranked by WAR.

Top 5 Yankees Catchers by Career WAR

#1. Yogi Berra, 59.5 career WAR

hall of fame catcher yogi berra posing for a photograph

Yogi Berra, Yankee - and Baseball - legend.

Arguably the most famous catcher in Yankees history, Yogi is an 18-time all star and a three-time AL MVP who spent 18 years in the Bronx (19 overall in the MLB). As his Hall of Fame plaque states, he holds a record for playing "on more pennant-winners (14) and world champions (10) than any player in history." A lifetime .285 hitter, Yogi smashed 358 career home runs and finished his career with a .830 OPS. 

Defensively, Yogi maintained a .989 fielding percentage as a catcher and gunned down 403 would-be base runners, good for a 49% Caught Stealing percentage. He ranked first in the AL for many seasons in categories like Putouts, Assists, Caught Stealing and Range Factor/Game.

Yogi was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. 

#2. Bill Dickey, 57.3 career WAR

Yankees great Bill Dickey, hall of fame catcher

Hall of Famer Bill Dickey.

Bill Dickey spent his entire 17 year MLB career with the Yankees. He appeared in 11 all star games and won 7 World Series championships. He was a career .313 hitter with 202 home runs, nearly 2,000 hits, and a .868 OPS.

Dickey ended his career with a .988 Fielding Percentage behind the dish, and caught runners attempting to steal 465 times (47%). Similar to Yogi, he led AL catchers multiple seasons in Assists, Putouts, Fielding Percentage and Range Factor/Game (among others).

Dickey was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1954.

#3. Thurman Munson, 46.0 career WAR

thurman munson former legendary catcher of the new york yankees

Two-time World Series champ, Thurman Munson.

Thurman Munson spent 11 years in the big leagues with the Yankees before he died tragically in a plane crash in 1979. His career highlights include 7 all star games, two World Series championships, three Gold Gloves, winning the 1970 AL Rookie of the Year and the 1976 AL MVP award.

Munson was a lifetime .292 hitter with a .756 OPS. He collected 113 career home runs and 1,558 hits.

Munson threw out 427 would be base runners (44%) and had a lifetime .982 Fielding Percentage as a catcher. He led AL catchers three times in Defensive Games and in Assists, and twice in Caught Stealing percentage.

#4. Jorge Posada, 42.7 career WAR

jorge posada former new york yankees catcher in 2009

Yankees catcher Jorge Posada warming up before a game.

Jorge Posada is a five-time AL all star who spent his entire 17 year MLB career in the Bronx. A four-time World Series winner, Posada collected 1,664 hits and 275 home runs, good for a .273 average and .848 OPS.

He led AL catchers multiple times in Defensive Games, Putouts, Assists, and Range Factor/Game. Posada also collected 5 Silver Slugger awards during his career.

#5. Elston Howard, 27.1 career WAR

elston howard legendary catcher with the new york yankees

The trailblazing and talented Elston Howard.

The first African American to play for the Yankees, Elston Howard joined New York in 1955 and spent 12+ seasons in the Bronx. (He also played in the Negro Leagues and spent part of 1967 and 1968 in Boston).

Howard was selected to 12 all star teams, and he won four World Series, two Gold Gloves, and the 1963 AL MVP award. 

Howard collected 1,471 hits and 167 home runs over the course of his MLB career, good for a .274 average and .749 OPS. He was a great defensive catcher, gunning down 223 would be base runners (44%) and finishing his career with a strong .993 Fielding Percentage as a catcher.

Top 5 Seasons by Yankees Catchers, Ranked by WAR

#1. 1973 - Thurman Munson (7.2 WAR)

thurman munson catching in 1973

Thurman Munson during the 1973 season.

The highest single season WAR by a Yankees catcher belongs to Thurman Munson, who had a 7.2 WAR in 1973.

The Yankees as a team did not have a notable year in '73, finishing fourth in the AL East. However, Munson was a bright spot in the lineup. 

He hit .301 in 1973, and set career highs in home runs (20), doubles (29), OPS (.849), and Slugging Percentage (.487). Behind the plate, Munson had a 48% Caught Stealing percentage that year and he led AL catchers in Defensive Games, Assists, and Double Plays Turned.

#2. 1937 - Bill Dickey (6.7 WAR)

bill dickey with other all stars at 1937 all star game

Bill Dickey, third from the left, with fellow (future) Hall of Famers during the 1937 All Star game.

Bill Dickey was a member of a star-studded 1937 Yankees team that went on to win the World Series in five games against the Giants. His incredible 6.7 WAR that year was fourth on the team, behind fellow Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez (9.0), Joe DiMaggio (8.3) and Lou Gehrig (8.3).

In 1937 Dickey hit .332 and had career highs in hits (176), home runs (29), RBIs (133), doubles (35), and Total Bases (302). Defensively, Dickey maintained a .991 Fielding Percentage, and led AL catchers in Defensive Games, Putouts, Assists, and Caught Stealing Percentage.

#3. 1975 - Thurman Munson (6.6 WAR)

thurman munson hitting for the yankees in 1975

Thurman Munson during the 1975 season.

Thurman Munson had an incredibly productive 1975 campaign, serving again as a bright spot on a Yankees team that didn't make the playoffs that year.

In '75, Munson had career highs in games (157), singles (151), hits (190), and batting average (.318). 

Munson gunned down a career high 60 would be base runners, leading the league with a 50% Caught Stealing percentage. He also finished first among AL catchers that year for Double Plays Turned and Range Factor/Game.

#4. 1956 - Yogi Berra (6.2 WAR)

Yogi Berra with the New York Yankees in 1956

Yogi Berra during the 1956 season.

Yogi Berra was a major part of the famed 1956 Yankees team that beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series. This was the same World Series where Yogi caught Don Larsen's perfect game!

In 1956, Yogi hit .298 with 30 home runs and 105 RBIs (.911 OPS). In the World Series that year, Yogi hit .360 with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs. 

From a defensive perspective, Yogi's 1956 campaign resulted in a .986 Fielding Percentage and a 48% Caught Stealing percentage. That year, he led AL catchers in Defensive Games, Putouts, Double Plays Turned, and Range Factor/Game.

#5. 1950 - Yogi Berra (6.1 WAR)

Yogi Berra Joe Dimaggio New York Yankees home run in 1950

Yogi Berra during the 1950 World Series.

In 1950, Yogi Berra had career highs in runs (116), hits (192), doubles (30), batting average (.322), On-Base Percentage (.383) and Total Bases (318). He gunned down 34 base runners, good for a career high 58% Caught Stealing percentage. 

Yogi’s 1950 season concluded with his third World Series championship, a 4 game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.

List of All Yankees Catchers With a 4.0+ WAR Season

Earning a 4.0 + WAR in a single season in the majors is an accomplishment in and of itself. Various Yankees catchers have met or exceeded this milestone, many on multiple occasions. 

Check out the list below showing every New York Yankees catcher had a 4.0 WAR or better in a season.

YearNameWAR
1973Thurman Munson7.2
1937Bill Dickey6.7
1975Thurman Munson6.6
1956Yogi Berra6.2
1950Yogi Berra6.1
1936Bill Dickey5.9
2003Jorge Posada5.9
1952Yogi Berra5.8
1939Bill Dickey5.5
1964Elston Howard5.5
1970Thurman Munson5.5
2000Jorge Posada5.5
1961Elston Howard5.4
2007Jorge Posada5.4
1951Yogi Berra5.3
1954Yogi Berra5.3
1976Thurman Munson5.3
1938Bill Dickey5.2
1963Elston Howard5.2
1953Yogi Berra4.9
1977Thurman Munson4.9
1993Mike Stanley4.8
1933Bill Dickey4.5
1955Yogi Berra4.5
2005Jorge Posada4.4
1922Wally Schang4.2
1980Rick Cerone4.2
1931Bill Dickey4.1
1946Aaron Robinson4.1
1971Thurman Munson4.1
1921Wally Schang4
1943Bill Dickey4

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