Aug 8, 2012

Charlie OBrien´s Legacy

I´m sure growing up that Charlie O´Brien used to hear comparisons to Johnny Bench all the time.   It´s not that he could profess to be Johnny Bench, it´s that there were two very striking similarities.  They both were catchers from Oklahoma, and therein lies the comparison that could not be avoided.  He did 25 home runs in one season in high school.

O´Brien did get a late start, not getting his first minor league experience until the age of 22, and became one my favorite types of players, an almost perrenial back-up catcher skilled at throwing out basestealers.  He had a career caught stealing % of 37% and when he qualified, finished 1st or 2nd in the league three times over his 15 year career.  In 1997, he threw out an obscene 55% of runners attempting a steal, gunning down 31 basestealers in only 69 games.

Alas, the superstar heritage did not extend to O´Brien, though he did enjoy a long and fruitful 15 year career.  He backed up such luminaries Mike Heath, BJ Surhoff, Mackey Sasser, Rick Cerone, Javy Lopez, and Benito Santiago.  But his lasting legacy, the one which he will be remembered for, is showcased on the 1998 Collector´s Choice card above.

Do you see the helmet?  O´Brien was the catcher who came up with the idea and then helped to construct the first ones.  Now, getting hit on the side of the head by a foul tip were incidents of the past.  O´Brien, as a backup catcher and idea man, protected his team and all catchers to come.  If you ever wondered why, catcher masks look so much like hockey helmets, the catcher playing for Toronto in 1997 was the reason why.


Play at the Plate said...

What I wonder, is why Mike Napoli doesn't use one.

Brad's Blog said...

Hey Dan, officially started my blog tonight, gave you a shout out of course