|Birth||December 7 1947, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|Debut||August 28 1967, Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies, Crosley Field|
|Team(s)|| Cincinnati Reds (1967 - 1983)|
is a member of
Hall of Fame
John Lee Bench (born December 7, 1947 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is a former baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds from 1967 to 1983, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in Major League Baseball history. He was a key member of the Reds' 1975 and 1976 World Series championship teams known as "The Big Red Machine"'.
Bench was a standout basketball player for Binger High School in addition to his baseball talents. His father advised him that the fastest route to the majors was being a catcher. He was drafted in the second round of the 1965 amateur draft and was called up in August, 1967 where he hit just .163, but impressed many with his defensive prowess and strong throwing arm. Among those he impressed during his first taste of Major League ball was Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who signed a baseball for him: "A Hall of Famer for sure!" Bench caught 100 or more games for 12 consecutive years - a National League record.
In addition to being an outstanding fielder, Bench was also a great hitter, batting .267 with 389 home runs with 1,376 runs-batted-in during his 17-year Major League career, all spent with the Reds. His career home run by a catcher record stood until surpassed by the Chicago White Sox's Carlton Fisk. The New York Mets' Mike Piazza subsequently broke the record.
He won the 1968 National League Rookie of the Year, batting .275 with 15 home runs and 82 RBI's, and the honors and accomplishments only continued to pile up. In his career, Bench earned 10 Gold Gloves, was the 1970 and 1972 Most Valuable Player and was named to the National League All-Star team 14 times. He also won such awards as the Lou Gehrig Award (1975), the Babe Ruth Award (1976), and the Hutch Award (1981.) He was never Chosen Baseball Digest Major League Player of the Year, being edged out by Billy Williams in 1970 and Richie Allen in 1972.
Although baseball history is filled with many outstanding catchers, such as Yogi Berra and Mickey Cochrane, arguably, no player revolutionized the position like Johnny Bench. The catcher's equipment was traditionally called "the tools of ignorance" as many catchers were converted from other positions or lacked the fielding skills to play elsewhere. But Bench inspired many young ballplayers to become catchers. His use of the hinged catcher's mitt, which many thought was a gimmick when he first used one (after injuring his throwing hand, Bench had a custom hinged mitt made to replace the traditional rigid trapper-style mitt, which allowed him to tuck his throwing arm safely to the side), became standard equipment within a few years.
However, by 1978, the years behind the plate began taking their toll on Bench's knees, a common ailment for catchers. Don Werner caught "Tom Seaver]]'s no-hitter in 1978 when Bench was sidelines with a back injury. For the last three years of his career, he played mostly third base or first base with the occasional start in the outfield while catching in only 13 games. During his final game on September 29, 1983, proclaimed "Johnny Bench Night" at Riverfront Stadium, he hit his 389th and final home run.
Starting with the 2000 college baseball season, the best collegiate catcher annually receives the Johnny Bench Award.
- Valedictorian of Binger High School.
- His autobiography is called "Catch You Later"
- Starred, with Tommy Lasorda and the San Diego Chicken on a syndicated baseball show called "The Baseball Bunch" in the early-1980s. A new version of the show is set to debut on ESPN in 2006.
- When the Reds retired Bench's uniform number 5, it was the second time the number had been retired. In 1940, the Reds retired number 5 in honor of catcher Willard Hershberger who had committed suicide during that season. They reactivated it in 1942.
- Has the unique ability amongst baseball players to hold SEVEN baseballs in one hand simultaneously.
- Johnny Bench's career statistics at Baseball-Reference.com
- Johnny Bench at the Baseball Hall of Fame
|National League Rookie of the Year|
|National League Most Valuable Player|
|National League Most Valuable Player|
|World Series MVP|