Thursday, January 21, 2010

Final Card: Johnny Blanchard

Yes folks, it's "Atlanta Braves Backup Catchers Week"!

John Blanchard (#268) was a Yankees backup catcher in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was signed by the Yankees in 1951, and spent the next 8 years either with a Yankees' farm team or in the military. Although he played in 1 game in 1955, his real major-league action began in 1959.

In his first 2 seasons, Blanchard was the 3rd-string catcher behind Yogi Berra and Elston Howard (which is to say, "minimal playing time"!)

From 1961 to 1963, Blanchard's playing time spiked. Why was that? In 1961, Berra became the regular left fielder (catching only 15 games), elevating Blanchard to 2nd-string catcher. In 1962, Mickey Mantle missed a lot of games, which moved Roger Maris to center field, and Blanchard to right. In 1963, Maris missed 72 games, while Mantle missed 97 games. Johnny was on-the-spot as a replacement outfielder.

In 1964, Blanchard returned to his 2nd-string catcher role, behind Elston Howard. In May 1965 he was traded to the Athletics. Later that season, the A's sold him to the Braves. His final game was on September 27, 1965.

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