Here’s a look some of the longest runs by batterymates.
There’s a term you don’t hear too much anymore, but it hasn’t disappeared totally from the baseball landscape—the battery. It simply means who’s on the mound and who’s behind the plate at the start of a game. The pitcher-catcher starters are sometimes called batterymates, but when’s the last time you heard your announcer say that?
Well, you’re about to hear that term more and more this season, because two current players are making MLB history in the middle of this 2022 season.
Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals have started 316 games as a battery and just tied Warren Spahn and Del Crandall to move into a tie for second place all time!
Waino and Yadi—316 and counting!
On June 11, Wainwright went seven innings and struck out seven but didn’t get a decision in a game the Cards won in a walk-off. That appearance, with Yadi behind the plate, not only tied Spahn and Crandall of the Braves, but it was the 203rd time the Cardinals had won a game in which the battery started—that was a new MLB record too. The duo of Wainwright and Molina passed Spahn/Crandall once again. If all continues as planned, they should break the record of 324 starts by a battery this season.
UPDATE! Just days after Wainwright and Molina tied for second place all time, Molina went on the injured list with a sore knee and has missed Wainwright’s subsequent starts. Molina wants to return and break the record, but time will tell. There is no timetable for his return.
So…who are they chasing down? Think you know?
Who’s on first?
The number one all-time starting battery is Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan of the Detroit Tigers, who played together for 12 years in the 1960s and ’70s—they were together in the 1968 World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Lolich-Freehan duo ended after the ’76 season when Lolich moved on to another team.
This is Yadier Molina’s final season, and Wainwright hasn’t decided on his future plans yet. Wainwright is 40 years old; Molina is 39. Molina’s career with St. Louis started in 2004, and Wainwright became a Cardinal in 2005 but didn’t pitch much till the 2007 season. Who knew that 15 years later they’d be chasing history.
Here’s a look at the top 10 all-time battery leaders (at least 200 starts with a batterymate):
1) 324 Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan 1963–1975 Detroit Tigers
2) 316 Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina 2007–present St. Louis Cardinals
3) 316 Warren Spahn and Del Crandall 1949–1963 Boston/Milwaukee Braves
4) 306 Red Faber and Ray Schalk 1914–1926 Chicago White Sox
5) 283 Don Drysdale and John Roseboro 1957–1967 Los Angeles Dodgers
6) 282 Red Ruffing and Bill Dickey 1930–1946 New York Yankees
7) 270 Steve Rogers and Gary Carter 1975–1984 Montreal Expos
8) 264 Bob Lemon and Jim Hegan 1946–1957 Cleveland Indians
9) 250 Early Wynn and Jem Hegan 1949–1957 Cleveland Indians
10) 248 Tom Glavine and Javy Lopez 1994–2002 Atlanta Braves
THE REST OF THE LIST (11–23) CONTINUES BELOW.
Here are some observations on the entire list of batterymates with more than 200 starts, and some observations on the players and their achievements.
Hall of Fame pitchers on the list.
Of the 27 pitchers on the list, 16 are in the Hall of Fame. Of the 22 catchers on the list, six are in the Hall.
Don’t go anywhere!
It takes about 10 seasons for a battery to reach more than 200 starts together, which means both pitcher and catcher have to be good enough to stay in the Majors and not have a career shortened due to injury. Lastly, both pitcher and catcher have to be on the same team for most of their careers. (It’s amazing that both Wainwright and Molina have been with just one team for their careers in this free-agency era.)
Let’s hear it for Jim Hegan! (Jim who?)
Check this out: Hegan’s name appears three different times, with three different Hall of Fame pitchers on the list—numbers 8, 9 and 12! A stalwart behind the plate, between 1941 and 1957 Hegan was part of three of the all-time longest-lasting batteries. Bob Lemon, 264 games; Early Wynn, 260; and Bob Feller, 240. Jim Hegan played 17 seasons in the Majors (mostly in the ’40s and ’50s with Cleveland) and had a lifetime batting average of .209. However, he was a solid catcher and a five-time All-Star.
Seeing double behind the plate.
Jim Hegan isn’t the only one whose name appears more than once:
- Mickey Cochrane must have been behind the plate a lot with the Philadelphia Athletics because he caught 224 games with Hall of Famer Lefty Grove from 1925–1933 (#18) and 203 games for Rube Walberg (#25) over that same time span. (He might have caught even more, but he was forced to retire in 1927 after being beaned by a pitched ball.)
- John Roseboro of the Dodgers caught two famous hurlers and Hall of Famers for the Dodgers from the mid-fifties through the mid-sixties—283 with Don Drysdale (#5) and 208 with Koufax (#21). Of course, Koufax retired suddenly after the ’66 season, shortening their run.
- Previously mentioned Del Crandall, who caught 316 games with Warren Spahn (now #3), also caught 230 games from Braves’ teammate Lew Burdette in that same era (#16).
Same battery. Different teams.
One of the most interesting batteries on the list is Hall of Fame left-hander Steve Carlton and catcher Tim McCarver, with a total of 228 starts (#17). They initially were batterymates on the St. Louis Cardinals for five seasons, from 1965 through 1969, before McCarver went to Philadelphia. In 1972, Carlton went to Philly and pitched there through part of the ’86 season. McCarver bounced around the League during the ’70s but was on the Phillies between ’72 and ’80 to be a formidable batterymate with Carlton.
The longest-lasting battery...with non-starters.
If you don’t look at starting batteries and wonder what pitcher-catcher duo appeared in the most games together, the answer is quite amazing and understandable. Yankees’ reliever Mariano Rivera and his teammate Jorge Posada appeared in 598 games together between 1995 and 2011.
Finally, where did the term “battery” originate?
The term is attributed to Henry Chadwick, probably in the mid-1800s. He was one of the first baseball statisticians and historians. He saw pitcher-catcher duos as a powerful force, like the firepower of Civil War–era cannons ready for battle…which was called the battery.
As mentioned earlier, the term is a bit outdated.
Here are the remaining batteries that reached 200 games:
11) 247 Lefty Gomez and Bill Dickey 1931–1942 New York Yankees
12) 240 Bob Feller and Jim Hegan 1941–1956 Cleveland Indians
13) 239 Fernando Valenzuela and Mike Scioscia 1981–1990 Los Angeles Dodgers
14) 237 Stan Coveleski and Steve O’Neil 1916–1923 Cleveland Indians
15) 237 Tom Seaver and Jerry Grote 1967–1977 New York Mets
16) 230 Lew Burdette and Del Crandall 1953–1963 Milwaukee Braves
17) 228 Steve Carlton and Tim McCarver 1965–1969 St. Louis Cardinals
1972–1979 Philadelphia Phillies
18) 224 Lefty Grove and Mickey Cochrane 1925–1933 Philadelphia Athletics
19) 221 Paul Derringer and Ernie Lombardi 1933–1941 Cincinnati Reds
20) 212 Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra 1950–1963 New York Yankees
21) 208 Sandy Koufax and John Roseboro 1957–1966 Los Angeles Dodgers
22) 208 Mike Flanagan and Rick Dempsey 1976–1986 Baltimore Orioles
23) 207 Jack Morris and Lance Parrish 1978–1986 Detroit Tigers
24) 207 Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz 2006–2015 Philadelphia Phillies
25) 203 Rube Walberg and Mickey Cochrane 1925–1933 Philadelphia Athletics
26) 203 Billy Pierce and Sherm Lollar 1952–1961 Chicago White Sox
27) 202 Dave Stieb and Ernie Witt 1980–1989 Toronto Blue Jays
Resources: ksdk.com/article/adam-wainwright-yadier-molina-battery; mlb.com/newswainwright-molina-set-battery-wins-record; wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery; twinspires.com/mlb/best-batteries-in-baseball; baseballegg.com/greatest-batteries-in-baseball-history