Pro Perspective: George Mitterwald
An interview with the former big league catcher. Plus an update from 2023!
- Minnesota Twins, 1966 - 1973; Chicago Cubs, 1974 - 1977
George Mitterwald was born on June 7, 1945 in Berkeley, California. He played high school ball in Hayward, California then played for a nearby college named Chabot College.
Signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1965, George made his big league debut only one year later, in a 1966 game against the Detroit Tigers.
He became one of the Twins' mainstay catchers in the late 60s and early 70s, appearing in 514 total games for Minnesota. George was a member of two Twins teams that made it to the ALCS, both in 1969 and 1970.
He was traded to the Chicago Cubs for the 1974 season, and stayed with Chicago until the end of his playing career following the 1977 season.
George Mitterwald ended his MLB career having played in nearly 900 games, collecting 623 hits, 76 home runs, and gunning down 268 runners attempting to steal (40%). His career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) total was 6.1, with his best season (according to WAR) coming in 1970 with a 2.2 WAR.
Following the end of his playing career, George moved into coaching. He would go on to successfully coach at the big league level for both the Oakland A's and the New York Yankees, as well as at the minor league and independent league levels.
Q&A with George
George Mitterwald is a former big league catcher with over 6,200 innings of MLB playing time under his belt. He has played with many MLB all stars - names like Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, and Bruce Sutter.
I wrote to George a few months back hoping to get his perspective on my three questions for catchers. He kindly signed an index card for me and answered my questions, as you can read below.
Like the others in the Pro Perspective series, I wanted to share George's responses with the readers of Catchers Home with the hope that his input will help catchers interested in improving their game.
Here are his responses to my questions, as you will also see in the image below.
Question 1: What is your favorite memory from playing in the major leagues?
Answer: Too many to narrow it down to one. 3 HR, (sic) 8 RBI's vs Pittsburgh 4/17/74. 12 standing ovations at home. That was one. The other one was playing and starting, as a rookie, in the 1st playoffs ever for division winners vs Baltimore in 1969. Just playing in the Big Leagues was a thrill.
Question 2: What do you think is the most important skill that a catcher should have?
Answer: Again it's hard to narrow it down to one. Learning how to receive a pitch to present it in a favorable manner for the umpire to see it appear as a strike will help your pitcher a lot - this can happen at all levels of competition. Be a friend to your pitchers, some you have to treat like a small child and some you have to pump up.
Question 3: If you could give one piece of advice to a young catcher hoping to play at the next level, what would it be?
Answer: Work hard at all phases of your craft. Learn how to catch popups, block balls in the dirt, throw accurately to all bases. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat and when you get tired of repeating, do it some more. You can't practice enough. Back up first base when no one is on, hustle to get that wild throw and stop the runner from advancing. Be vocal and don't be afraid to call a base on a bunt. Be quick on all bunts. Communicate with your infielders at all time.
George's feedback speaks for itself. It's action packed and I encourage you to read it carefully and take his advice to heart.
His answers run the gamut from the importance of soft skills (encouraging and befriending your pitchers) to hard skills like blocking, receiving, throwing, etc. The underlying thread in it all is the importance of hard work and constant practice. Excellent stuff, George!
I reached back out to George Mitterwald in early 2023 and he signed his 1969 and 1970 Topps cards for me. I also asked him an additional question, this one more focused on his own career. You can read his response below.
Question: I have a question I was hoping you would answer: in your time as an MLB catcher, who was the best pitcher you ever caught? What made them the best?
Answer: Bert Blyleven had the best stuff of any pitcher I caught.
Thanks for Reading
We have additional Pro Perspectives ready to share with our readers, and they will continue to be posted in the coming weeks and months. Keep on the lookout for them!
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