Bruce Benedict on getting his start in baseball

Bill Shanks

The Atlanta Braves drafted catcher Bruce Benedict out of the University of Nebraska in the fifth round of the 1976 June Amateur Draft.

Benedict had grown up around baseball, as his dad played the sport. Bruce was born in Birmingham, Alabama, as his dad was there playing baseball at the time.

When Bruce entered the Atlanta organization, Biff Pocoroba was the new starting catcher. Dale Murphy, a top pick in the 1974 draft, was also a top prospect. But Pocoroba got hurt in 1978 with a bad shoulder injury, and Murphy proved over time he was best suited for another position.

Benedict hit .274 in 1976 in the minor leagues, then .273 in 1977 and .279 in 1978. So, when Pocoroba was hurt in 1978, Benedict got the call to the big leagues. He hit .250 in 22 games and showed he could play defensively in the big leagues.

In 1979, Benedict split the position with left-handed hitting Joe Nolan, with Murphy still playing in 27 games behind the plate. Murphy mainly played first base, and when Chris Chambliss was acquired for the 1980 season, Murphy moved to the outfield and Pocoroba’s shoulder issue became a serious problem.

That opened the door for Benedict, who took over as the starting catcher in 1980. The next season, Benedict was an All-Star, and then again in 1983.

Benedict was great behind the plate defensively, but his offense was occasionally a problem. He hit just .259 in his five years as the main starting catcher, with only 16 home runs and 181 RBI – an average of three home runs and 36 RBI over those five seasons.

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