Recently, I covered the 300-300 club and the 50-20 club, each of which has at least one unusual member. The former, for example, featured Steve Finley and Reggie Sanders, who hit over 300 home runs and stole at least 300 bases each.
The 50-20 club, likewise, is laced with legends like Willie Mays—and also includes Brady Anderson among its number.
But here’s one collection of milestones that has only ever been achieved by the best of the best, the most elite catchers of all-time:
2,000 hits, 300 home runs, 1,000 RBI.
Only six backstops have reached all three and there is no questioning their greatness:
Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter and Ivan Rodriguez.
Piazza leads the pack with 427 homers and added 2,127 hits and 1,335 RBI for good measure. Rodriguez managed the most hits at 2,844, and had 311 home runs and 1,332 RBI to boot.
The RBI champ was Yogi Berra, who finished with 1,430—which makes sense. He played on Yankees teams that featured names like Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Hank Bauer. With all that star power getting on base around him, he had ample opportunity to drive guys in.
Carter had 324 home runs, 2,092 hits and 1,225 RBI. Fisk, 376, 2,356 and 1,330, respectively. Bench clobbered 389 homers with 2,048 knocks and 1,376 RBI.
They’re the only catchers who reached the hit and home run milestones and scored 1,000 runs, as well.
What if we eliminate one of those markers, say RBI. Is the club any less illustrious without ribbies?
No. No outliers to complicate things yet.
How about 2,000 hits and 1,000 RBI, minus the home runs? Still no.
Phew, this really is an elite club, no need to ask any further—
What about 300 home runs and 1,000 RBI, who cares about the hits?
Well, hold onto your seats: Outlier alert.
In fact, the 300 HR/1,000 RBI catcher cabal does have one unexpected member. See if you can guess who it is:
From 1977 to 1995, this backstop played 1,988 games, hitting .252 with 324 home runs and 1,070 RBI. He had just 1,782 hits, but made 8 All-Star teams, won 6 Silver Sluggers and 3 Gold Gloves, and owns a World Series ring. He spent most of his career with the Tigers.
Got it yet?
It’s Lance Parrish.
And while all those other guys were elected to the Hall of Fame in their first few tries (Carter took the longest, appearing on the ballot six times before he made it), Parrish received a resounding 1.7 percent of the vote in 2001 and dropped off the ballot.
I’ve said in the past that being a member of elite clubs does not necessarily make a player elite, or a Hall of Famer.
But with Parrish right up there with the absolute greatest catchers of all-time, well …
Maybe we need to make an exception.
The 2000/300/1000 club contains only two second baseman, Robinson Cano and Jeff Kent, and, incredibly, there’s a strong possibility neither will be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Two shortstops reached those marks as well: Cal Ripken, Jr. and Miguel Tejada. Tejada is not a Hall of Famer and likely will never be one, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him get in.
Among third basemen, the club has a few more members. The Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers: Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Adrian Beltre, Chipper Jones, Ron Santo and Scott Rolen. The unexpected: Graig Nettles, Aramis Ramirez and Gary Gaetti.