The Elias Analyst

April 26, 1992

A New Wrinkle

Craig Biggio, 26, once the Astros' catcher of the future, is now Houston's second baseman. Todd Zeile, 26, who was going to be a star catcher for the Cardinals, is now playing third base in St. Louis. And someday soon, B.J. Surhoff, 27, may move from behind the plate to play third for the Brewers.

But wait. Before the Rangers get any ideas about switching the major leagues' youngest player, 20-year-old Ivan Rodriguez, from behind the plate, they should take a look around the major leagues. Carlton Fisk still reigns as the catcher of choice for the White Sox even though he's 44 and currently on the disabled list. Lance Parrish of the Angels and Tony Pena of the Red Sox will turn 36 and 35, respectively, this June. Even a couple of supposed backups, Montreal's Gary Carter, 38, and Oakland's Jamie Quirk, 37, have received considerable early-season playing time. More than ever before, catchers in their mid-30's can be found behind home plate rather than in retirement.

As the chart below shows, there have been 23 occasions in the last 10 years in which a player who finished the season at age 35 or older caught 100 or more games. In the previous 10-year period (1972-81) there were none. Perhaps the tools of ignorance are not the burden they're made out to be.

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CHARTJOHN GRIMWADE ILLUSTRATION

1902 to 1911

0

1912 to 1921

2

1922 to 1931

1

1932 to 1941

9

1942 to 1951

7

1952 to 1961

6

1962 to 1971

5

1972 to 1981

0

1982 to 1991

23

NUMBER OF 100-GAME SEASONS BY CATCHERS AGE 35 OR OLDER

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)