Left Handed Catchers
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Being left-handed in baseball, except in rare cases, means exclusion from the position of catcher. This is due in large part to the game's counterclockwise flow. There have only been 30 left-handed throwing players who caught in at least 1 defensive inning. If you exclude the seven men who only caught in a single game, then you're talking about just 23 players. If you count only those guys who caught 100 or more games in a career, you're down to exactly five left-handed throwing catchers. However, if you're only counting career catchers (minimum of 800 games caught), then you have exactly one and that is Jack Clements.


Why left-handed throwers are effectively banned from catching is less obvious than why they can't play shortstop or third base. And perhaps completely wrong. The most common reason cited is that a left-handed catcher is at a disadvantage in making the throw to third base, especially with a right-handed hitter at the plate. While this may be true, the overall effect is debatable.

The average major league team attempted 14.6 steals of third base during the 2008 season - - one every 11 games. Success rate of throwing out runners at third by a catcher was around 21% (3.07 caught out of 14.6 attempts). The success rate in 2008 at first base Pickoffs by a catcher with a left-handed batter at the plate was around 40%. Right-handed catchers appeared to have little problem with the pickoffs at first base, the equivalent of a lefthander's throw to third with a right-handed batter at the plate.

The lack of left-handed catchers is more of a traditional thing than reality say most scouts. There are obstruction issues on some of the throws a catcher has to make, but there are some advantages to being left handed as well. One advantage is a left-handed catcher's ability to frame a right-handed pitcher's breaking balls. A right-handed catcher catches a right-hander's breaking ball across his body, with his glove moving out of the strike zone. A left-handed catcher would be able to catch the pitch moving into the strike zone and create a better target for the umpire.

However, consummate left-hander Bill Lee argues against the left-handed catcher. "Lefties can't play catcher because your head hangs over home plate when you make a tag." "You've got the ball in your right hand, you're blocking the plate with your left foot. When you go to make the tag, you're exposed. A lefty catcher would get killed."

Several left-handed throwing major leaguers has a stint at catching early in their careers. White Sox first baseman Mike Squires even caught 2 games in the majors. Randy Johnson (Diamondbacks ace pitcher) caught for a little while.

Another reason there are no left-handed catchers today may be simply because there are few, if any, left-handed catcher's mitts available to young players. Virtually all left-handed mitts have to be top-of-the-line gloves specially ordered.

Just add that to the list of obstacles that have gone up without apparent reason. But, left-handed catchers have played in the major leagues, although there have only been a few. The first left-handed throwing catcher was Fergy Malone (1871-1877) who caught 27 games in 1871. This is the very first year of major league baseball, although there is some dispute as to whether or not the 1871 National Association should be counted as major league. The Last left-handed throwing catcher to play the position was Benny Distefano who caught 3 games in 1989 for Pittsburgh.

Through the 2008 season there have been 236 catchers (primary career position) who batted left-handed (out of the 1,693 career catchers). Of the 236 bat left catchers 225 threw right-handed. There were 11 who batted and threw left-handed and 3 who batted right and threw with their left.

The strangest left-handed throwing player to be listed as the starting catcher in the major leagues was Phillies pitcher Christ Short. Short never actually went behind the plate; he was listed as the starting catcher for a game because the Giants wouldn't announce their starter, and was replaced by Jimmie Coker when the game started with the Giants starter, Billy O'Dell, on the mound.