Considered the greatest catcher of all-time by his peers and the media that covered his career, Johnny Bench stands alone as one of the most complete athletes to ever play Major League Baseball. Bench began his 17-year run as the Cincinnati Reds catcher in 1968 by earning a spot on the National League All-Star Team, then winning Rookie of the Year honors and a Gold Glove award.
Following his coming out party in 1968, Bench earned 13 more All-Star appearances, nine Gold Gloves, two N.L. Most Valuable Player awards and back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976 as leader of the vaunted Big Red Machine teams the Reds fielded before he hung up the tools of ignorance for good following the 1983 season.
Bench seemed destined for greatness from an early age, as he was named valedictorian of his graduating class at Binger High School in Binger, Oklahoma. By age 20 he had become the first catcher to win Rookie of the Year, and the first rookie catcher to win a Gold Glove. En route to being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989,
Bench led the N.L. in home runs twice (in his two MVP years), set an endurance record behind the plate by catching more than 100 games for 13 consecutive seasons and was also named the MVP of the 1976 World Series. At the time of his retirement Bench’s 389 career home runs were the gold standard for catchers, and his 10 career grand slams are still the most by any catcher in MLB history.
Following his retirement Bench remained in the public eye, appearing on television as both an endorser of brands like Stryker Corporation, Krylon, Senco, Blue Emu and Fifth Third Bank, and as a broadcaster and philanthropist. In 1998 Bench was named one of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players by The Sporting News and he was also the top vote-getting catcher on Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team.
As a testament to his impact on baseball, since 2000 the best collegiate catcher receives the Johnny Bench Award. Bench has also coauthored the book Catch Every Ball: How to Handle Life’s Pitches, and he is a sought-after business and motivational speaker. His keynote presentation, featuring The Vowels of Success, highlights simple motivational tips and symbolizes Bench’s achievements through hard work and teamwork.
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