Thursday, September 25, 2014

Johnny Edwards (#202)

Here is my 220th post on this blog - 5 years to the day after my first post. I first stumbled upon the Google blogging community a day earlier, when I found and commented on this post on the 1969 Topps blog, which was formerly owned by Pack Addict (now known as SociallyAwkwardJellyFish). 

I began this 1967 blog on 9/25/2009 with two posts. Three days later I published FIVE posts! Within that first week I also started the 1960s Baseball and 1968 Topps blogs, and a few weeks later, the 1966 Topps blog. The 1970 and 1963 Topps blogs came along about a year after that. In January 2012 I took over the 1969 Topps blog (from Pack Addict), which had been idle for almost 2 years. 

Along the way, I have learned something about a lot of these players (especially the pre-1967 players, which was before my card-collecting time as a kid), and also “met” a lot of interesting bloggers, starting with Jim @ The Phillies Room, Paul @ Wrigley Wax, Steve @ White Sox Cards, CommishBob @ 1959 Topps, and Matt @ 1976, 77, 78 Topps, to name but a few. 

Anyway, it’s been a great 5-year ride. 

Johnny Edwards had the distinction of keeping the Reds’ catching gear warm for another Johnny (Bench) from 1962 thru Bench’s debut in September 1967. Edwards had a 14-year major-league career: 7 seasons with the Reds, 1 with the Cardinals, and 6 with the Astros.

Edwards was signed by the Reds in 1959, and after 2 1/2 seasons as a starting catcher in the minors, he was promoted to the Reds in late-June 1961, and shared the staring assignments with incumbent Jerry Zimmerman (who was also in his rookie season). Johnny hit .364 with 2 doubles in the 1961 World Series.

Zimmerman was traded to the Twins after the season, paving the way for Johnny to become the full-time catcher in 1962. He started 124 games in ’62, his first of 6 consecutive seasons as the Reds’ #1 catcher. Edwards made the all-star team every season from 1963-65, and won 2 Gold Gloves during that span. The high point in playing time was his 141 starts in 1963, after which he shared the catching load with Don Pavletich (his minor-league teammate in 1961).

Always a top defensive catcher, Johnny put up good offensive numbers until breaking a finger during spring training 1966. Edwards started 84 games that season, with Pavletich starting 46 and Jimmie Coker 30. 1967 was Edwards’ last in Cincinnati. He and Pavletich both started 57 games, but Johnny Bench was called up in late August and started 26 of the final 32 games. The Bench Era had started.

Edwards was traded to the Cardinals after the 1967 season for backup catcher Pat Corrales and minor-league infielder (and future manager) Jimy Williams. After one season backing up Tim McCarver (and appearing in the 1968 World Series), Edwards was traded to the Astros (who had lost both their incumbent catchers (John Bateman and Ron Brand) to the Expos in the expansion draft) for pitcher Dave Giusti and catcher Dave Adlesh.

Johnny spent the next 4 seasons (1969-72) as the Astros’ #1 catcher. By 1972, ex-Reds teammates Lee May and Tommy Helms joined Edwards in Houston, via the Joe Morgan deal.

Edwards began the 1973 season as the #1 catcher, but by mid-June had given way to 2nd-year catcher Skip Jutze, who played the majority of games in the 2nd half. 1974 was Johnny’s final season, and he was relegated to the bench, in favor of ex-Pirates’ backstop Milt May.

One of the SABR gurus has rated Edwards as the 2nd-best defensive catcher in baseball history.

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