Most Stolen Bases By a Catcher [Learn More Here!]

Do the names Jack O'Connor or John Wathan mean anything to you?

If you're a baseball fan, then they probably should.

Read on to learn more about these catchers and their place in the stolen base record books.

most stolen bases as a catcher

Most Career Stolen Bases by a Catcher 

When it comes to baseball statistics there's often a bunch of different ways you can slice and dice the data.

For catchers with the most stolen bases in a career, we base it on this: a player who played the majority of their major league career games (e.g., 51% or more) as a catcher.

When we look across baseball history, the player with the most stolen bases by a catcher in a career (based on the criteria above) is Jack O'Connor with 219 lifetime stolen bases.

jack o'connor catcher stolen bases
Jack O'Connor later in his career while playing for the St. Louis Browns

O'Connor broke into the big leagues in 1887 with the Cincinnati Red Stockings and spent 21 seasons in the league, retiring after the 1910 season.

He was a consistent base stealer (especially during the first half of his career) and was also a pretty good defensive catcher, leading league catchers in a few defensive categories over multiple seasons.

Second on the career stolen bases list is Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan. Over his 17 year playing career Bresnahan swiped 212 bags.

He even stole a base during the famous 1905 World Series, which John McGraw's New York Giants won.

Third on our list is Wilbert Robinson with 196 career stolen bases. The 18th century catcher had a good playing career but an even better tenure as a manager, making the Hall of Fame as a manager after a long career leading the Brooklyn Robins.  

The catcher with the most career steals in the modern era also happens to be fourth on the all-time list. That former catcher is Jason Kendall, who ended his 15 years in the MLB with 189 stolen bases.

Jason Kendall pirates at bat
Jason Kendall at bat

In Summary - Top 3 Catchers With the Most Career Steals:

1. Jack O'Connor - 219 stolen bases

2. Roger Bresnahan - 212 stolen bases

3. Wilbert Robinson - 196 stolen bases

Most Stolen Bases by a Catcher in a Single Season

The criteria we use for ranking the catcher with the most steals in a season is a player with 100 or more games in a season played behind the plate.

The player with the most stolen bases by a catcher in a single season is John Wathan, who collected a record 36 steals in 1982.

The former Kansas City Royals catcher was 32 years old during his record-setting season. He also had an impressive 28 steals the following season, but after that Wathan never again got close to the record.

john wathan stolen bases
John Wathan taking a big lead (source: Getty Images)

Second on the list of single-season leaders for stolen bases among catchers is former Chicago White Sox backstop Ray Schalk. In 1916, Schalk swiped 30 bags and helped power the Sox to a second place finish in the American League (AL).

The third place finisher on the single-season list is none other than Jack O'Connor. He stole 29 bases in 1890 for the Columbus Salons of the American Association. That season O'Connor also played in a career high 106 games behind the plate.

Interestingly, O'Connor also stole 29 bases in 1893. However, he only played in 56 games as a catcher that season.

In Summary - Top 3 Catchers With The Most Single-Season Steals:

1. John Wathan - 36 stolen bases in 1982

2. Ray Schalk - 30 stolen bases in 1916

3. Jack O'Connor - 29 stolen bases in 1890

Thanks for Reading!

We hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us.

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  • Baseball Reference
  • National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
  • Retrosheet