Roger Philip Bresnahan
Born: June 11, 1879 - Toledo, OH
Died: December 4, 1944 - Toledo, OH
Career BA: .279
Managerial Record: 328–432
Washington Senators NL (1897)
Chicago Orphans/Cubs NL (1900, 1913–1914; player-manager: 1915)
Baltimore Orioles AL (1901–1902)
New York Giants NL (1902–1908)
St. Louis Cardinals NL (player-manager: 1909–1912)
Not just the first great catcher in baseball history, Roger Bresnahan, the “Duke of Tralee,” is also known for his innovations in protective gear. After injuries due to home plate collisions and beanings, he developed shin guards for catchers, experimented with batting helmets, and added leather strips to wire catchers masks to make them more comfortable. As a player, Bresnahan was very good. He began his MLB career as an outfielder and later switched to the catcher position. A solid hitter, Bresnahan batted a lofty .350 working centerfield for the Giants in 1903. He was moved to the position of starting catcher in 1905 and became part of one of the most famous pitcher-catcher teams of all time with batterymate Christy Mathewson.
Defensively, he was the best in the business at the time. Some could argue that Ray Schalk should be our starting catcher, but although similar defensively, Bresnahan was more skilled offensively. Bresnahan was dubbed the “Duke of Tralee” in the early days of his career when the public mistakenly thought he was born in Tralee, Ireland. Although of Irish descent, he was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, and started his career in the Ohio State League. After he made his mark in New York, Bresnahan was recruited by St. Louis as player-manager. He didn’t see eye-to-eye with the new Cards management in 1912 and took advantage of a hefty signing bonus to move to the Cubs, where he finished out his Major League career as manager in 1915.
Bresnahan later purchased the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association and helped many MLB players on the downside of their careers by bringing them aboard. He coached for the Giants from 1925 to 1928 and for the Tigers in the early 1930s. Financially devastated in 1929 by the stock market crash, Bresnahan worked as a security guard and later as a laborer during the Depression. He got back on his feet by landing a sales job for a brewing company. The “Duke of Tralee” died in 1944 at the age of 65 and was elected to the Hall the following year. Roger Bresnahan was truly one of baseball’s pioneers and is worthy as the All-Star catcher on our Cracker Jack Dream Team.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html