Jim Sundberg

James Howard Sundberg (born May 18, 1951) is an American former professional baseball player, television sports analyst and executive.[1] He played in Major League Baseball as a catcher from 1974 to 1989.[2] A three-time All-Star player, Sundberg established himself as one of the top defensive catchers of his era by winning six consecutive Gold Glove Awards with the Texas Rangers.[3] Later in his career, he won a World Series championship as a member of the Kansas City Royals in 1985.[4][5] He also played for the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago Cubs. Sundberg was inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame in 2003.[6]

Jim Sundberg
Sundberg in 1974
Born: (1951-05-18) May 18, 1951
Galesburg, Illinois, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 4, 1974, for the Texas Rangers
Last MLB appearance
September 24, 1989, for the Texas Rangers
MLB statistics
Batting average.248
Home runs95
Runs batted in624
Career highlights and awards

Playing career

Born in Galesburg, Illinois, Sundberg graduated from the University of Iowa.[2] While attending the University of Iowa he joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity. On January 10, 1973, he was selected by Texas Rangers in the first round of the secondary free agent draft.[7]

On April 4, 1974, Sundberg made the rare jump from Class A level baseball to the major leagues with the Rangers at the age of 22.[2] 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).[8][9] 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.[10] His solid defense helped the Rangers finish above the .500 winning percentage mark for the first time since the club relocated to Texas from Washington, D.C. in 1972.

In December 1983, after ten years with the Rangers, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.[11] After playing one season with the Brewers in which he was named to the American League All-Star team, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals.[11]

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 as, the Royals narrowly prevailed over the California Angels by one game to win the 1985 American League Western Division championship.[12][13] In the 1985 American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Sundberg, normally known for his defensive skills, became an offensive standout when he drove in four runs in the deciding Game 7 to help the Royals clinch the American League pennant.[14]

The Royals went on to win the 1985 World Series. 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. Sundberg reached base when he laid down a bunt that resulted in a force out at third.[15] 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 signing back with Texas where, at the age of 38 he ended his career at the end of the 1989 season.[11]

Career statistics

In a sixteen-year major league career, Sundberg played in 1,962 games, accumulating 1,493 hits in 6,021 at bats for a .248 career batting average along with 95 home runs, 624 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .327.[2] His .993 career fielding average was 8 points higher than the league average over the span of his playing career.[2] Sundberg led American League catchers six times in fielding percentage, putouts and assists.[2][16] He completed 145 double plays in 1,962 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 1,000 games.[2][17] Sundberg still holds the American League record for games caught in one season with 155 in 1975.[18]

Sundberg was the first catcher to win six American League Gold Gloves, although Bob Boone won five in the American League and two more in the National League. His 1976 Gold Glove was the first by any Rangers player. He caught 130 shutouts in his career, ranking him fifth all-time among catchers.[19] Sundberg played more games as a catcher than any other player in Rangers history (1,512).[20] At the time of his retirement, Sundberg had caught more major league games than any man in history except his contemporary Bob Boone.[21] He still ranks fifth today.[22] 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.[23]

Post-playing career

After retiring as a player, Sundberg became a color commentator on Rangers' television games from 1990 to 1995.[24] He later served as a minor league instructor for the Rangers before joining their front office as an executive vice president of communications & public relations, executive director to the president, and director of business development from 2004 until his retirement at the end of the 2014 season.[18][25] Galesburg High School named their main baseball field after Sundberg.[26]



  1. "Cancer survivor Sundberg aims to help others". mlb.com. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  2. "Jim Sundberg at Baseball Reference". baseball-reference.com. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  3. "American League Gold Glove Award winners". baseball-reference.com. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  4. Jim Sundberg Adds Hitting to his Skills on Defense, Baseball Digest, December 1977, Vol. 36, No. 12, ISSN 0005-609X
  5. Jim Sundberg: Does He Rate As The Number 1 Catcher?, Baseball Digest, November 1978, Vol. 37, No. 11, ISSN 0005-609X
  6. "Texas Rangers Hall of Fame at MLB.com". mlb.com. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  7. 1973 Amateur Free Agent Draft at retrosheet
  8. 1974 All-Star Game at Baseball Reference
  9. 1974 Rookie of the Year voting results at Baseball Reference
  10. "Yearly League Leaders & Records for Assists as Catchers". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
  11. Jim Sundberg Trades and Transactions at Baseball Almanac
  12. Jim Sundberg: Forgotten Man in the Catching Derby, Baseball Digest, December 1988, Vol. 47, No. 12, ISSN 0005-609X
  13. 1985 American League Team Statistics and Standings at Baseball Reference
  14. "1985 American League Championship Series Game 7". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  15. 1985 World Series Game 6 box score at Baseball Reference
  16. 2001 Fielding Leaders, Baseball Digest, July 2001, Vol. 60, No. 7, ISSN 0005-609X
  17. For Catchers, The Name of the Game is Defense, Baseball Digest, May 2005, Vol. 64, No. 3, ISSN 0005-609X
  18. Wheaton, Mathew. "Catching Up with: Jim Sundberg enjoys life after baseball". galesburg.com. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  19. "The Encyclopedia of Catchers - Trivia December 2010 - Career Shutouts Caught". The Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  20. Most Games Caught for Team at The Encyclopedia of Catchers
  21. "SPORTS PEOPLE: BASEBALL; Sundberg to Retire". The New York Times. September 12, 1989.
  22. Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers 800 Games Caught - List By Games Caught Table
  23. Dominating Fielding Catchers at The Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers
  24. "Jim Sundberg Bio". premierespeakers.com. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  25. "Rangers VP Sundberg ending long career with club". ESPN.com. Associated Press. July 2, 2014. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  26. "Galesburg's Sundberg retiring from Rangers". The Register-Mail. 2014-02-07. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  27. September 22, 1977 Rangers-Angels box score at Baseball Reference
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