The catching Bench-mark

Wednesday, December 07 2011 @ 05:13 PM EST

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

Today, legendary Cinicinnati Red backstop Johnny Lee Bench is 64 years old. In celebration of this day, here is a challenge I put down to all Bauxites ...

Johnny Bench is the greatest catcher in major league history. In fact, he is the only player at any position where there is no question this is true. For instance, at short you might promote a Wagner, a Ripken, a Banks -- all these and others are defensible nominees. This is true at every position -- except behind the plate. Sure, there are greats -- Berra, Campanella, Piazza, Rodriguez, Hartnett and more. But for the perfect combination of defense (one of the top five defensive catchers of all time), arm strength (perhaps the very best) and bat (a cleanup-type power threat for a team that won five division titles and two World Series in a seven-year span), not to mention intangibles like leadership and charisma ... Bench is, without question, the greatest catcher ever to play the game. (Sorry, Yogi! Especially sorry, Josh Gibson!)

The gauntlet is thrown. Magpie, others? Whatchagot?