Frank Catalanotto spent the first twelve years of his career in the American League, and during that time, was a certified Red Sox killer. If his teams played Boston 100 times a year, Frank would have been the greatest hitter ever to walk this planet. When I was a kid, the “Little Cat” was my least favorite player in the Majors. But now, in retrospect, I have nothing but respect for Catalonotto, who played fourteen MLB seasons and appeared at every position except pitcher, shortstop, and center field.
He was drafted by Detroit in the 10th round of the 1992 draft, and made his Major League debut in 1997 at second base. He played 100 games in 1999, hitting eleven homers. The Tigers traded Catalanotto to the Rangers in the 1999 deal that sent Juan “Juan-Gone” Gonzalez to Detroit. Once in Texas, Catalanotto established himself as one of the best hitters-for-average in the American League.
Catalanotto hit a career-high .330 in 2001, his second season in Texas, good enough to place him fifth in the American League. He also flashed a little speed that year, stealing fifteen bases for the Rangers. After an injury-plagued 2002 year, however, he was cut loose by the Rangers.
The following year, Frank caught on with the Blue Jays. In his first season in Toronto, Catalanotto rebounded nicely, collecting 13 home runs and 59 RBI, both career highs. He hit .299 and posted an .823 OPS. In that season, I swear Frank hit about ten walk-off homers against Boston.
After another stint with the Rangers, and single seasons with the Brewers and Mets, Catalanotto retired after the 2010 season. He finished his career with 84 dingers and 457 RBI to go with his career .291 average. He never had a ton of power, but seldom struck out, and hit very well for average, which kept him around for a total of 14 seasons.
In 109 games against the Red Sox, Catalanotto hit .314 with an incredible-for-him .514 Slugging percentage. He hit 11 home runs against Boston, twice as many as he had against any other team, and his 52 RBI against the Sox were 20 more than he had against any other club. SEE?! I wasn’t just imagining things–Frank Cat, Red Sox Killer extraordinare!
Frank’s book is called Heart and Hustle: an Unlikely Journey from Little Leaguer to Big Leaguer. It came out a few years ago and I highly recommend it. He played for Italy in the ’06 and ’09 Wold Baseball Classics, and now that he’ll never do any more terrible things to the Red Sox, he’s one of my favorite ballplayers.