fast catchers

Okay… as a rule catchers are usually one of the slowest runners on the team. So, who holds the career/single season records for stolen bases by a catcher?
From a limited search, I came up with…
Career: Roger Bresnahan 211
Season: John Wathan 36 (1982)
Is this right?
As a further degree of difficulty; who of the live ball era (this would exclude Bresnahan, if in fact he IS the guy), would be the leader?

Wathan looks like a good bet. The most stolen bases in a season by someone who played catcher during a season is 129 by Arlie Latham, but he only caught two games that year, so I doubt he managed to pass Wathan. :slight_smile: The Lahman Database (usually a great resource – all the statistics in Access format) doesn’t differentiate by position other than by indicating what position they played during the year.

The catcher with the most stolen bases in a season and who didn’t play any other position that season was Ray Schalk with 22 (Wathan played two games at first base in 1982). Schalk has a lifetime total of 176; he played until 1929.

It’s possible Jason Kendall of the Pirates is the current leader for catchers. He had 100 lifetime through yesterday. Wathan had 105 lifetime, though some of these may have come from other positions.


That can’t be right. Rickey Henderson in his record-breaking year of 1982 is the only one to get that many in a major league season.

According to, Latham’s career high was 71; he did play a little at catcher that year.

But that was in 1891. IIRC, for a time “stolen bases” included extra bses taken on hits. Maybe Latham had 129 under that definition and it was later changed to 71 to match today’s definition?

RickJay is correct in his assesment of the stolen base situation. Way back when, a player was credited with a SB if he went from first to third on a single. However, when that rule was dropped, they didn’t edit the old totals, but rather left them alone and “disregarded” them. Billy Hamilton and Arlie Latham are a good examples of this. Billy Hamilton had 937 stolen bases (912 according to baseball-reference). Yet, for many years, Ty Cobb was considered the all-time leader with 896, since all of his were stolen under the modern definition of a stolen base. Likewise, Cobb was long recognized as the single-season leader despite Latham’s totals and Hamilton’s three seasons of 111, 102 and 111 SB in 1889-91

In any event, RickJay, I think you should look at Latham’s totals again on at Arlie Latham’s Page at It clearly shows him with 129 SB in 1887.

Zev Steinhardt

If both definitions of a stolen base are included, then Henderson doesn’t hold the single season record either. That crown belongs to a guy named Hugh Nicol, who had 138 in 1887 (but only ended up with 383 in a 10-year career. Go figure). The top-10 single season base stealers (according to are:

1.  Hugh Nicol 		138 1887
2.  Rickey Henderson 	130 1982
3.  Arlie Latham 	129 1887
4.  Lou Brock 		118 1974
5.  Charlie Comiskey 	117 1887
6.  John Ward 		111 1887
    Billy Hamilton 	111 1891
    Billy Hamilton 	111 1889
9.  Vince Coleman 	110 1985
10. Vince Coleman 	109 1987
    Arlie Latham 	109 1888

Zev Steinhardt

Why? Is it because the muscles developed in maintaining the catcher’s stance (or quickly popping out of it) are not conducive to running speed? Is it because their legs fall asleep in crouching the way they do? Have I just not noticed that players are required to wear all of their equipment while batting? Have they developed such a rapport with the umpires that they can never run without stopping to chat? Union rules?


Bingo. Someone who’s a good runner isn’t going to squander those good, stretched-out leg muscles by crouching half the game.

Chaim Mattis Keller

Furthermore, since running isn’t valued at the catcher position, slower athletes are encouraged to play that position.

A catcher doesn’t need to run 50-60 feet and make diving catches as an outfielder does.

More to the point, it kills your knees.

Very few catchers last longer than 1200-1500 games at catcher. Most Hall of Fame catchers burned out after that many games; only Carlton Fisk. Gary Carter and Bob Boone caught more than 2,000 games, IIRC, whereas other positions have lots of guys who played 2000 games or more (well, not pitchers.) It is probably not a coincidence that the catchers in baseball history who have caught a lot of games are disproportionately made up of guys who played in the last thirty years, when sports medicine has advanced quite a bit. The main difficulty is the crouching. I think it’s reasonable to conclude that if the physical pressures of catching end your career early, they’ll slow you down, too.