What’s the Catch?

 

The Glove Club: Del Crandall

If you were going to “build” the catcher you needed in the 1950s, you couldn’t have worked from a better prototype than Del Crandall.

His defense was superb. He was mostly head-and-shoulders above his National League counterparts during the 1950s and into the 1960s.

An eight-time All-Star, Del Crandall in his prime was the best defensive catcher in the National League – and won four of the league’s first five Gold Gloves to prove it.

Crandall’s bat had enough sting to make him dangerous, especially in the clutch, and especially surrounded by the lethal sticks – think Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Joe Adcock, Wes Covington – that populated the Milwaukee Braves’ everyday lineup in the 1950s and early 1960s.

An excellent handler of pitchers, Crandall was a leader on the Braves team for more than a decade. As a catcher, he was a leader in the league in multiple statistical categories for that same decade. He won the National League’s first Gold Glove in 1958.

(The Gold Glove was established as a major league award in 1957 and awarded on a per-league basis starting in 1958. Sherm Lollar of the Chicago White Sox claimed the first Gold Glove.)

Crandall won the Gold Glove again in each of the next two seasons, and took his fourth Gold Glove in 1962.

Here’s why: Crandall led the National League’s catchers a record six times in assists. He led the league in fielding percentage four times, and in putouts three times.

For his career, he threw out better than 44 percent of runners attempting to steal. He led the league in runners caught stealing five times, and in double plays twice.

On Braves’ teams that featured three Hall of Famers, Crandall was the Braves’ too-often unsung hero whose defense and game management helped keep opponents in check.

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