Steve Swisher | Q&A with the Former Catcher [Bio & Interview!]

Pro Perspective: Steve Swisher

Steve Swisher of the Chicago Cubs

Pro Perspective: Steve Swisher


  • Chicago Cubs, 1974 - 1977; St. Louis Cardinals, 1978 - 1980; San Diego Padres, 1981 - 1982.

West Virginia Roots

Steve Swisher was born on August 9, 1951 in Parkersburg, West Virginia. 

He played High School ball at South High School in Parkersburg, and he remains the only person from South High School to make it to the major leagues.

After high school, Swisher went to nearby Athens, Ohio to play college ball for the Ohio University Bobcats.

Steve played all four years for the Bobcats, earning an all-conference selection three times. During his freshman year, he even helped the Bobcats earn a spot in the College World Series.

There is one other interesting thing to note about Steve during his time playing for the Bobcats. While Steve played in Athens, another future big leaguer was a teammate of his.

That teammate was none other than Mike Schmidt, who would go on to forge a Hall of Fame career with the Philadelphia Phillies

Steve Swisher while with Ohio University
Swisher played at Ohio University

After graduating, Steve was selected in the first round of the 1973 MLB draft (21st overall pick) by the Chicago White Sox. He went on to play 60 games in the minors that season for the Knoxville Sox and the Iowa Oaks. 

In December of '73, Steve was traded by the White Sox to the Chicago Cubs. He began the '74 season with the double-A (AA) Wichita Aeros before receiving his big league call-up in June.  

Making It In the Big Leagues

Roughly one year after being drafted, Steve made his MLB debut on June 14, 1974 at Wrigley Field. He went 1 for 4 and started behind the plate, ending in a 10 - 7 Cubs win against the Houston Astros.

Steve finished the '74 season having played in 90 games behind the plate, and in '75 he caught 93 games for the Cubs.

In the 1976 season, Steve appeared in a career high 107 games and he had 89 hits, 5 home runs and 42 RBIs for the Cubs. He was named to the National League All Star team that year in which would be one of the high points of his playing career.

With St. Louis and San Diego

Following the 1977 season, Steve was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals along with four other players.

In 1978 for the Cardinals, Steve ended the season with a career high .278 batting average and a career high .991 fielding percentage behind the plate.

Swisher's 0.3 fWAR in 1978 would also be a career best.

Although he had a solid season in '78, Swisher did not hit as well in '79 and as a result, saw limited playing time behind the dish in both 1979 and 1980. 

The Cardinals traded him to the San Diego Padres following the 1980 season. Steve would appear in just 42 games for the Padres between 1981 and 1982. 

After the 1982 season Steve was granted free agency, and he appeared in 41 games with the Atlanta Braves’ AAA club in 83. However, he never made it back to the majors and decided to retire after playing in '83. 

In total over nine big league seasons, Steve appeared in 509 games and collected 305 hits, 20 home runs, 124 RBIs, and a .216/.279/.303 slash line.

Defensively, Swisher maintained a .982 fielding percentage behind the plate, collected 2,274 putouts and 203 assists, and gunned down 132 would be base runners, good for a lifetime caught stealing percentage (CS%) of 32%.

Steve Swisher batting practice
Steve Swisher taking cuts during batting practice at Wrigley Field (source: Getty Images)

Steve’s Post-Playing Career

Not long after he hung up his catcher’s gear, Steve started coaching. His first managerial gig was in 1985 with the Waterloo Indians, Cleveland’s class A team. He eventually worked his way up to leading the Indians’ AAA team, before joining the New York Mets' farm system in 1989.

While with the Mets organization, Steve managed the Jackson Mets, the Binghamton Mets and the Tidewater Tides (now called the Norfolk Tides, the AAA team for the Orioles). He also went back to the big leagues as a member of the Mets coaching staff between 1993 - 1996. 

Steve Swisher Tidewater Tides Manager

In 1997 Steve moved to the Houston Astros' organization and managed their AAA team, the New Orleans Zephyrs.

His last managerial job came in 2005 when he led the Reading Phillies.  

In September of 2004, Steve Swisher’s son, Nick Swisher, made his major league debut with the Oakland A’s

Nick would go on to have a 12 year MLB career, winning the 2009 World Series with the Yankees and making the 2010 American League All Star team.

Nick now works as an analyst with Fox Sports and is regularly seen on TV talking baseball. 

Steve Swisher with his son Nick Swisher
Steve Swisher cutting Nick Swisher's hair for charity prior to a game against the San Francisco Giants (source: Brad Mangin Photography)

Q&A with Steve

Steve is a former big league catcher with over 3,600 innings spent behind the plate in MLB games. He is a former MLB all star, has played with Hall of Famers like Ted Simmons and Lou Brock, and has managed many years in the minors. 

I wrote to Steve a few months ago wanting his perspective on my questions for big league catchers. He autographed my 1983 Topps card (shown below), and he graciously replied to my questions.

Steve Swisher autographed card

Like others in this Pro Perspective series, I wanted to share Steve’s responses with readers in the hope that his feedback will help catchers who are interested in improving themselves.

Here are Steve’s responses to my questions, as you can also read in the image below.

Question 1: What is your favorite memory from playing in the major leagues?

Answer: 1st day in the Big Leagues! Going to the ‘76 All-Star game for Cubs!

Question 2: What do you think is the most important skill that a catcher should have?

Answer: Light on his feet! Communicating with Pitchers!

Question 3: If you could give one piece of advice to young catchers hoping to one day play at the next level, what would it be?

Answer: Outwork other catchers! Learn who you are and what it takes for you to be successful!

letter with former catcher Steve Swisher

Steve touches on the importance of both hard and soft skills for catchers. However, what stands out to me the most is his answer to the third question.

When asked what advice he would give to young catchers, his first response is to outwork everyone else. 

That says a lot right there! While some may have more talent than others, anyone can work hard. 

Do you really want to get better? Do you really want to start behind the plate at the next level? Then keep working, keep putting in your reps. Do everything you can to improve your game.

Thanks for Reading

We plan to share a few more Pro Perspectives soon, so stay tuned. 

We hope you enjoyed this post and learned something from it! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us. You can do so by simply sending an email to scott (at) catchershome (dot) com.

Thanks for stopping by Catchers Home.  

Scott Perry is the owner and lead author at Catchers Home. He's a former baseball player, a current coach, a husband and a Dad. He remains as passionate about baseball today as he was as a kid.