The Milwaukee Brewers are celebrating their 50th year of baseball in Milwaukee this year. Even though it is unknown as to when the season will start, this is something worth highlighting and celebrating. Over the next few weeks, OTH Wisconsin will highlight the top players at each position throughout the Brewers’ 50 year history. Here, we take a look at the best catchers in the history the Milwaukee Brewers.
Note: As good as Yasmani Grandal was last season, setting the Brewers’ catcher record for home runs, he is being left off this list because he only played for one season in Milwaukee. Had he stayed, it is likely that he would have one day been included.
#5- Charlie Moore
Charlie Moore was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the fifth round of the 1971 amateur draft. He broke into the Big Leagues with the Brewers in 1973 and spent 14 of his 15 seasons with Milwaukee. While he did spend a few seasons in right field, Moore appeared in 894 games as a catcher (more than double his appearances as an outfielder).
In his 14 seasons as a Brewer, Moore hit ..262/.320/.355 with 35 home runs and 401 RBI’s. His 1,029 hits as a Brewer rank tenth in team history. His best full season, offensively, occurred in 1979 when he hit .300/.355/.404 with five home runs and 38 RBI’s. He temporarily moved to the outfield when Ted Simmons was traded to the Brewers. As an outfielder, his throwing strength was among the best in the league. In 1982, he led the American League in double plays turned as an outfielder and was third in outfield assists. He returned to the backstop following Simmons’ departure via trade to the Braves. In 1987, Moore played for the Toronto Blue Jays for one year before retiring.
#4- Dave Nilsson
Had Dave Nilsson not retired from Major League Baseball at the age of 29, he might have had a career that landed him higher on this list. Certainly underrated during his career, Nilsson is oftentimes overlooked when it comes to listing all-time great Brewers’ players.
Nilsson signed with the Brewers as an amateur free agent in 1987 and made his debut for the team in 1992. During his eight-year career, spent entirely with Milwaukee, Nilsson hit .284/.356/.461 with 105 home runs and 470 RBI’s. He remains in the top ten all-time in several Brewers’ offensive categories. His .461 slugging percentage is tied for tenth all-time; his .817 OPS is ninth; and his .284 batting average is tied for tenth.
Nilsson’s best offensive season came in 1996 when he hit .331/.407/.525 with 17 home runs and 84 RBI’s. In 1999, Nilsson hit .309/.400/.554 with 21 home runs and 62 RBI’s. He also made his only All-Star team that season. Nilsson seemed to be well on his way to a great MLB career, but decided to retire after the 1999 season. A native of Australia, Nilsson returned home to promote baseball and actually owned the International Baseball League of Australia.
#3- BJ Surhoff
BJ Surhoff was originally drafted by the Yankess in the fifth round of the 1982 draft. However, Surhoff decided not to sign. In 1985, the Brewers made Surhoff the number one overall pick in that year’s amateur draft. He would go on to spend nine seasons of his 18-year career with the Brewers.
Surhoff still ranks highly in several offensive categories in Brewers history. His 52 sacrifice hits are sixth all-time and his 59 sacrifice flies are good for fourth. In addition, his 1,064 hits rank ninth in the history of the franchise. In addition, he has the highest defensive WAR of any catcher in Brewers’ history with 6.2, which is also fifth overall for all Brewers’ position players.
While primarily a catcher for the Brewers, Surhoff did appear at all three outfield positions, as well as first and second base. His best offensive season came in 1995 when he hit .320/.378/.492 with 21 home runs and 82 RBI’s. He signed as a free agent with the Orioles following that season, and spent 11 more years in baseball. He played for the Orioles for eight combined seasons and with the Braves for three. However, when his tenure with the Brewers was over, so were his playing days as a catcher. He played outfield and first base for the remainder of his career.
#2- Ted Simmons
Ted “Simba” Simmons comes in second on this list even though his tenure in Milwaukee is the shortest of any of the other catchers. However, he ranks highly due to his clubhouse leadership and because of the high level of play he exhibited in his five seasons with the Brewers.
Simmons was acquired by the Brewers in the same trade that brought Pete Vukovich and Rollie Fingers to Milwaukee. In his five seasons with the Brewers, Simmons hit .262/.311/.399 with 66 home runs and 394 RBI’s. He made two All-Star teams with Milwaukee (1981 and 1983), making him one of two catchers to make more than one All-Star team with the Brewers.
His best season, offensively, was in 1983 when he hit .308/.351/.448 with 13 home runs and 108 RBI’s. The Brewers traded Simmons to Atlanta following the 1985 season. He played for the Braves for three more years before retiring. Simmons was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee and finally has a place in Cooperstown.
#1- Jonathan Lucroy
To appreciate the greatness of Jonathan Lucroy, one has to see him call a game. No catcher in Brewers’ history has ever been able to manage a pitching staff like Luc. A brilliant defensive catcher, his 4.5 defensive WAR rank tenth in team history, and second in team history for catchers. Had he been able to play in Milwaukee longer, that number undoubtedly would be higher. In addition, his .284 career batting average as a Brewer is tied for tenth in team history.
The Brewers made Lucroy their third round pick in the 2007 amateur draft. He made his first appearance for the Brewers in 2010 and took over full-time catcher duties in 2011. During his time with the Brewers, Lucroy made two All-Star Teams (2014 and 2016). His best season was in 2014 when he hit .301/.373/.465 with 13 home runs and 69 RBI’s. He also led the National League with 53 doubles that season, which tied a team record.
Lucroy’s tenure in Milwaukee ended when he was traded to the Rangers for prospect Luis Brinson. Brinson is best-known in Milwaukee for being the key player included in the trade that brought Christian Yelich to the Brewers. Lucroy has bounced around baseball since his trade, never really achieving the same offensive success he had with the Brewers. He is currently on the roster of the Boston Red Sox.
More Brewers’ Greats
For more in our series on the five best players at each position, follow the links below:
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