- C, DH, LF, OF
- May 18, 1951
- 190 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-04-1974 with TEX
- Allstar Selections:
- 1976 GG, 1977 GG, 1978 GG, 1979 GG, 1980 GG, 1981 GG
James Howard Sundberg (born May 18, 1951 in Galesburg, Illinois) is a former professional baseball catcher known for being one of the best defensive catchers of his era. He played for a number of Major League teams, most significantly the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals, with whom we won a World Championship. He batted and threw right-handed.
Sundberg graduated from the University of Iowa. While attending the University of Iowa he joined The Delta Upsilon Fraternity. On January 10, 1973, he was selected by Texas Rangers in the 1st round of the secondary free agent draft. In 1974, he made the rare jump from Class A level baseball to the major leagues with the Rangers. As a rookie, Sundberg was selected to be a reserve in the 1974 All-Star Game and finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting (teammate Mike Hargrove won the award). Sundberg had 101 assists in 1975, becoming the first American League catcher to have more than 100 assists in a season since the end of the Second World War.
Sundberg established himself as one of the top defensive catchers in the American League by winning six consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 1976 to 1981. In December 1983, after ten years with the Rangers, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.After playing one season with the Brewers, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals. Sundberg's veteran experience helped bolster the Royals' young pitching staff, and the team's combined earned run average improved to second best in the American League. The Royals went on to win the 1985 world championship. In Game Six of that series, Sundberg scored the dramatic ninth inning winning run by sliding into home plate, skillfully avoiding the tag of St. Louis Cardinals catcher Darrell Porter. In 1986, Sundberg helped the Royals pitching staff lead the league in earned run average, however they fell to third place in the American League's Western Division.
Sundberg was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1987, before being traded back to Texas where he ended his career at the end of the 1989 season.
Sundberg ended his career with 1493 hits in 6021 at bats, for a .248 batting average along with 95 home runs and 624 RBIs in 1962 games. He had a .993 fielding average over his career. Sundberg led American League catchers six times in fielding percentage, putouts and assists. Sundberg was the first catcher to win 6 American League Gold Gloves, although Bob Boone won 5 in the American League and two more in the National League. His 1976 Gold Glove was the first by any Ranger player. ending his career with a .993 average. He completed 145 double plays in 1962 games in his career, and holds the major league record for the best ratio of double plays to errors of any catcher in major league history behind the plate for at least 1000 games. Sundberg caught 130 shutouts in his career, ranking him fifth all-time among catchers.
Sundberg played more games as a catcher than any other player in Rangers history (1512). At the time of his retirement, Sundberg had caught more major league games than any man in history except his contemporary Bob Boone. He still ranks fifth today. Richard Kendall of the Society for American Baseball Research devised an unscientific study that ranked Sundberg as the third most dominating fielding catcher in major league history.
Galesburg High School has named their main baseball field after Sundberg. As of October 2008 he is employed by the Texas Rangers as Senior Executive Vice-President of Public Relations.
* Spent his 1984 All-Star season playing for the Milwaukee Brewers when he was traded by the Rangers to Milwaukee for Ned Yost and Dan Scarpetta
* 3-time All-Star (1974, 1978, 1984)
* 6-time Gold Glove winner (1976-81)
* Top 10 in sacrifice hits, three times (1974, 1975, 1977)
* Caught Bert Blyleven's no-hitter on September 22, 1977