Gabby Hartnett

Gabby HartnettGabby Hartnett

Born: December 20, 1900

Died: December 20, 1972

Chicago Cubs (1922-1940)

Chicago Cubs Manager (1938-1940)

6-time NL All-Star (1933-1938)

National League MVP (1935)

20-HR Seasons (3) (1925, 1930, 1934)

30-HR Season in 1930

100-RBI Season in 1930

Participated in 4 World Series with the Cubs (1929, 1932, 935, 1938).  In 16 games, he had 2 doubles, a triple, 2 home runs

and drove in 3 runs and scored 3 runs.

NL Top 10

  5-time WAR (1928, 1930, 1934, 1935, 1937)

  2-time Batting Average (1935, 1937)

  3-time On-base % (1928, 1935, 1937)

  7-time Slugging % (1924, 1925, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1935, 1937)

For the length of service with the Cubs, Hartnett ranks very high in many offensive categories on the Cubs all-time list

Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955


Gabby Hartnett

Best Cubs Catcher in Team History

There is really no debate regarding the best catcher in Cubs history.  It is Gabby Hartnett. Looking at the career numbers, Gabby Hartnett is well above any and all Cubs catchers in their team history.  His 52.7 WAR with the Cubs is well ahead of 2nd place, King Kelly (24.5).  His 231 career home runs as a Cub is not only by far the highest for a Cubs catcher (Jody Davis is 2nd with 122), is also 7th best for any Cubs hitter (after the 2017 season). 

How does Gabby Hartnett all-time to other MLB catchers?

Going to Fangraphs and selecting all catchers from 1871 to 2017, Gabby Hartnett's WAR of 53.7 10th best catcher in MLB all-time.  Here is the top 10 list providing HR, batting average, WRC+ and WAR to give a better overall comparison of each player.  Hartnett is certainly in the conversation of one of the best catchers in MLB history.  

Name                              HR        Avg      WRC+      WAR (Career)

Johnny Bench         389       .267          125                 74.8

Gary Carter             324       .262           116                 69.4

Ivan Rodriguez      341       .296           104                 68.9

Carlton Fisk            376       .269            117                68.3

Yogi Berra                358       .285           124                 63.7

Mike Piazza            427       .308             140                 63.7

Joe Torre                 252       .297             129                 62.3

Bill Dickey              202       .313            126                  56.1

Ted Simmons        248      .285             116                  54.2

Gabby Hartnett  236     .297             127                   53.7

Overall, Hartnett compares very favorably, especially as an offensive catcher with the greatest catchers in MLB history.  Only Mike Piazza & Joe Torre have a higher WRC+ than Hartnett's 127 which is the best measure of overall offensive performance relative to players of someone's respective era.  

Hartnett does not seem to be as good defensively as other players on this list as their WAR figures are increased more than Hartnett's.  Hartnett is also at a disadvantage in total WAR since he did not play as long as many other catchers on this list and WAR is a cumulative statistic so more plate appearances are an advantage.  

Another factor to consider is that many of these catchers played games at other positions.  These statistics are not entirely as a catcher.   I'm sure many players on this list have offensive contribution from other positions that are much higher than Hartnett.   Hartnett rarely played other positions in his career.  He played prior to the DH and of his 1826 total major league games, only 33 were played at other positions other than catcher (33 at first base).  Gabby Hartnett is a well deserved Hall of Fame catcher.  

Willson Contreras is a great catcher for the Cubs today, but he'll have to continue great performance to ever be compared to Gabby Hartnett.

Hartnett played in 4 World Series with the Cubs (1929, 1932, 1935, 1938).  In 1932,   he batted .313 with a home run and in 1935, he batted .291 with a home run.  

Hartnett hit one of the most dramatic home runs in Cubs history, when his "Homer in the Gloamin" walk-off home run against the Pirates as darkness was setting in at Wrigley Field, put the Cubs in first place in the division and the Cubs made it to the World Series in 1938.  The home run was hit against one of the best pitchers in the league, Mace Brown.