This Date In Baseball History: December 19, 1945- Who was the worst hitter in baseball history? Catcher Bill Bergen played 11 seasons as a back-up catcher with the Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Dodgers- he was an excellent defensive catcher- which is the only reason he kept a job for 11 seasons. Bergen holds the record for having the lowest battling average for a player with at least 1000 at bats in his career. Bergen came to bat 3028 times and had a career average of .170. He had only one season where he hit above .200- in 1903 he hit .227. On this date in 1945 Bill Bergen died at the age of 45.
At that time, teams generally figured that if you had a good defensive catcher, anything you got offense-wise was a plus.
I recall in the late 60’s when I began following the game- there were a lot of no-hit- good glove type catchers around–the Johnny Bench types who did both were a rarity.
A lot of times, they moved the guy from behind the plate to the field, like Joe Torre or even Yogi Berra, who they played in left field for a time. The White Sox tried to convert Carlton Fisk into an outfielder, and he was furious. Paul Konerko was originally a catcher in the Dodgers organization until they moved him to first base.
I remember after Roberto Clemente was killed the Pirates tried to move Manny Sangiullen to right field- it was a big failure- they had a young Milt May also behind the plate and thought they could get both in the line up.. part of the problem was Manny had been close to Clemente- and replacing him in right field–was difficult mentally for him.
Sanguillen was an incredible catcher, the way he’d be practically sitting on the ground and could still throw to second accurately. More important, he looked like he was having fun back there.
he was always smiling.
Oat teams today have one catcher that can hit and a backup who cannot. So you would think there would be plenty of catchers in the modern era who hit below .200.