Monday, January 20, 2014

TOPPS 1976 "ALL-TIME ALL-STARS"- AN EXPANDED VIEW #5: CATCHERS

Next position up on my "All-Time All-Stars" thread is catcher, and today we look at who the Sporting News picked for their all-time team in 1976, Mickey Cochrane, and who I figure would have been the National League pick had they chosen an A.L. and N.L. back then, Roy Campanella.
First off, let's take a look at the original Cochrane card as issued by Topps, as well as my design for the "Campy" card:

The Sporting News pick back in 1976.

My National League pick.

Ironically enough, both catchers ended up having somewhat tragically short careers, as Cochrane's playing days were cut short because of a beanball in 1937, while Campanella's career was cut short because of a traffic accident during the off-season in 1957-58.
Mickey Cochrane was an easy choice at the time as the All-Time catcher for the American League (I'm still torn as to whether Campanella would have been a better choice outright).
A two-time Most Valuable Player, once for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1928 and then for the Detroit Tigers in 1934, he was the first catcher to ever score and drive in 100 runs in the same season in 1932, and was the lynch-pin for two powerhouse "mini-dynasties" in the Athletics of the late-20's/early-30's and Tigers of the mid-30's.
In 1930 he batted .357, followed by .349 in 1931, and he finished his career with a .320 lifetime average.
But as stated before, his career was cut short, and life almost ended, by a pitched ball on May 25th, 1937 when New York Yankees pitcher Bump Hadley hit him in the head, which hospitalized Cochrane for seven days.
His lifetime .419 on-base percentage is still the all-tme best among catchers, and his .320 average is only behind current catcher Joe Mauer.
Roy Campanella, who is MY personal pick for all-time catcher (as of 1976), was simply a powerhouse of a player throughout the 1950's for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Three times he was M.V.P. (1951, 1953, 1955) and an important part of the strong Dodger teams of the decade along with Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, and Gil Hodges.
Though unable to play Major League ball until the age of 26 because of segregation, he still managed to hit 242 lifetime homers, with a high of 41 in 1953, as well as drive in 856 runs in his short ten-year career.
During his second M.V.P. season, Campy lead the Brooklyn offense by driving in a league-leading 142 runs while hitting .312 and scoring 103 runs. One of the top-offensive catcher seasons in baseball history.
Tragically, as he was getting prepared to move to Los Angeles with the rest of the Dodgers over the Winter of 1957-58, Campanella was driving home to Long Island and hit a patch of ice near his home, flipping his car over and breaking his neck in the process, rendering him paralyzed from the shoulders down.
The L.A. Fans would never get to see the future Hall of Famer play in Chavez Ravine.
Who do YOU think should have been named "all-time all-star" at catcher back in 1976? Anyone have a pick OTHER than the two here?
A close friend of mine strongly feels that Yogi Berra should have been picked over Cochrane to begin with. 
However, he's about as rabid a Yankee fan as there is, so I take his argument with a grain of salt.
Next up on this thread, we move on to he outfield, where the American League had a clean sweep by the Sporting News picks in 1976.
But my National League picks are no joke either!
So we'll start with Babe Ruth and the N.L. superstar next week.
Stay tuned here for that one…

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