- June 10, 1938
- 6' 4"
- 220 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 6-27-1961 with CIN
- Allstar Selections:
- 1963 GG, 1964 GG
Edwards was a durable, strong-armed, take-charge catcher whose intelligence matched his fine physical ability. A 6'4" 220-lb graduate of Ohio State, he set a ML season record for catcher's'Zh)''@@total chances (helped by a pitching staff of strikeout artists) with 1,221 in 1969, his first year with Houston. When he retired five years later, he held the NL career record for total chances by a catcher (9,745), since broken by Johnny Bench. Edwards won two Gold Gloves. As a rookie playing in the 1961 New York-Cincinnati World Series, he hit .364. He batted a career-high .281 for the 1964 Reds and had his best HR season in 1965 with 17.
Edwards graduated from Ohio State University where he led the team in hits (24) in 1958 and was initiated into the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Cincinnati Reds in 1959. In his rookie season, he backed up Jerry Zimmerman and helped the Reds win the 1961 National League pennant. In the 1961 World Series Edwards had 4 hits and 2 RBIs in a losing cause, as the New York Yankees defeated the Reds in 5 games.
While his subsequent offensive statistics diminished, he developed into one of the best defensive catchers in the National League. On June 14, 1965, Edwards was the Reds catcher when pitcher Jim Maloney went 10 innings against the New York Mets without allowing a hit. Edwards left the game in the 10th inning for a pinch runner with the game in a scoreless tie, as the Mets went on to break up the no hitter and score a run to win the game in the 11th inning. A little more than two months later, on August 19, 1965, Edwards was once again the catcher as Maloney threw another 10 innings without allowing a hit. This time the Reds scored a run, securing the victory and the no hitter for Maloney.
With the arrival of Johnny Bench, the Reds traded Edwards to the St. Louis Cardinals for Pat Corrales and Jimy Williams on February 8, 1968. With the Cardinals, he played backup catcher to Tim McCarver, helping them win the National League pennant, however, they would subsequently lose to the Detroit Tigers in the 1968 World Series. He caught another no hitter with the Cardinals on September 18, 1968 with Ray Washburn pitching. On October 11, 1968 Edwards was traded with minor league player Tommy Smith to the Houston Astros for Dave Giusti and Dave Adlesh. After playing his first season for the Houston Astros in 1969, he finished 36th in voting for the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
In 14 seasons Edwards played in 1,470 games, producing 1,106 hits in 4,577 at bats for a .242 batting average along with 81 home runs and 524 runs batted in. He was voted to three National League All-Star teams in 1963, 1964 and 1965. A solid defensive player, he won the National League Gold Glove Award for catchers in 1963 and 1964, and led National League catchers in fielding percentage four times in 1963, 1969, 1970 and 1971. He also led the league four times in assists and three times in putouts. In 1969, Edwards set single season records for catchers with 1135 putouts and 1221 total chances. Richard Kendall of the Society for American Baseball Research devised an unscientific study that ranked Edwards as the second most dominating fielding catcher in major league history. As of the end of the 2009 Major League Baseball season he ranked 79th on the All-Time Intentional Walks List.
During the off-season while with the Reds, Edwards worked as an engineer for General Electric in research and development for nuclear fuel elements. He was inducted into the Phi Kappa Tau Hall of Fame in August 2008. He was inducted into the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of Fame in September 2008.
The man who replaced him behind the plate with Cincinnati, Johnny Bench, said: "[He was]…a six-year man who wasn't a bad catcher. He was built like a bull, hit a steady .250 with some power, and wasn't ready to retire."
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- Johnny Edwards