As it turns out, Geovany Soto would not be the first rookie to be the primary starting catcher on a World Series winner — even if the Cubs manage to pull it off. Thanks and a tip of the cap to Ajax, who pointed out in responding to a previous post that Andy Etchebarren was the rookie catcher on the 1966 world-champion Baltimore Orioles. Etchebarren made his big-league debut in 1962, when he was the youngest player in the American League at 19, and had another brief cup of coffee with the team in 1965, when he became one of many players whose every hit was a homer for a full season (he was 1-for-6). So he was still a rookie in 1966 — one of three at critical positions up the middle for Baltimore, joining second baseman Davey Johnson and center fielder Paul Blair. Soto has already surpassed Etchebarren’s 11 homers he hit in 121 games, and will soon top his 50 runs batted in.

Etchebarren batted just .221 in the middle of what has been called “the second dead-ball era,” when pitching dominated in the 60s. Yet it’s a mystery why Etchebarren isn’t more celebrated for the feat. He received no votes in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting (won by the White Sox’ Tommie Agee), and the Cubs’ Randy Hundley was named catcher on the Topps interleague All-Rookie Team, even though Etchebarren did place 17th in Most Valuable Player voting that year. He caught all four games of the O’s four-game Series sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the last three of which were shutouts, and Etchebarren recently told Baseball Prospectus of how they pounded the Dodgers with hard stuff on the outside corner to do it. Yet Google Etchebarren today and you’re more likely to read of how by grounding into a double play to end the sixth inning of the second game of that series he was the last batter to face Sandy Koufax (soon to be retired), if not how Jim Bouton named him catcher on the All Ugly team in his 1970 book, Ball Four, no doubt thanks to his prodigious eyebrows. Etchebarren deserves better — and Soto couldn’t put himself in better company.