- C, LF, OF, 1B, DH
- March 9, 1965
- 6' 1"
- 180 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-14-1986 with SDN
- Allstar Selections:
- 1987 ROOK, 1987 SS, 1988 GG, 1988 SS, 1989 GG, 1990 GG, 1990 SS, 1991 SS, 2002 NLCS
Benito Santiago Rivera
Santiago was signed as an amateur free agent by the San Diego Padres on September 1, 1982. He made his Major League debut on September 14, 1986. The next year, he established a Major League record for a rookie by hitting safely in 34 straight games. This also stands today as the longest hitting streak ever by a catcher. He won the National League's Rookie of the Year Award unanimously that year. In his third year, he led all National League catchers in passed balls, led the major league catchers with the most errors, yet won a Gold Glove Award. Santiago was known for his ability to throw out would be base stealers from his knees with great efficiency. He remained with the Padres for seven seasons before being granted free agency in 1992.
Decline and trades
On December 16, 1992, Santiago signed with the newly established franchise Florida Marlins and hit the first home run in team history. However, Florida released him after two seasons. On April 17, 1995, the Cincinnati Reds signed him and he briefly recovered his form batting .286. On January 30, 1996, he joined the Philadelphia Phillies|Phillies, where he became the first player to hit a grand slam off Greg Maddux in the regular season after Maddux had been pitching for nearly ten years. Maddux had previously surrendered one to Will Clark in the 1989 National League Championship Series, and has only allowed two since Santiago took him deep. Santiago also hit a home run in four consecutive at bats in the same season. He then went to the Toronto Blue Jays where he lost almost the entire 1998 season to a serious injury sustained in a car crash in Florida. A free agent again, he played 89 games for the Chicago Cubs in and played for the Cincinnati Reds.
Resurgence with the Giants
He arrived in San Francisco Giants on March 17, 2001. He shared the 2001 Willie Mac Award with Mark Gardner, which recognized the spirit and leadership of each. He helped lead the Giants to the world series in 2002. His good hitting continued in the playoffs, where he was named 2002 National League Championship Series MVP.
On December 11, 2003, Santiago, again a free agent, signed with the Kansas City Royals. By June 18, he was hitting .274 with six home runs and 23 RBI when he was hit by a pitch from Geoff Geary that broke his hand. After the season, the Royals traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Leo Nunez, a minor league pitcher. The Pirates let Santiago go after a mere 23 at bats in favor of giving playing time to young David Ross. Santiago signed with the New York Mets to a minor-league contract, but he appeared in only a handful of games. He opted out of his Triple-A contract, but did not play in the major leagues in .
With his career over, discussions arose about where he ranks among the game's all-time catchers. His main claim to fame was his excellent durability, which allowed him to post productive numbers late in his career, at an age when most catchers are already retired.
As 2010 began, Santiago was tied for eighth on the all-time list of games caught with Brad Ausmus, with 1,917.
In 2003, Santiago was named by FBI investigators as one of the athletes alleged to have received anabolic steroids. He was linked to performance enhancers in the book Game of Shadows.
On December 13, 2007, Santiago was written about in the Mitchell Report on page 134. "At the end of the 2003 season, Mike Murphy, a Giants clubhouse attendant, was cleaning out Santiago’s locker when he found a sealed package of syringes. Murphy brought the syringes to the training room, handed them to Conte, and told Conte that he had found them in Santiago’s locker. Conte responded that he “would take care of it.” Murphy recalled that the Giants’ assistant athletic trainer Dave Groeschner also was present in the training room during this conversation."
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