Tom Pagnozzi

How Tom Pagnozzi won his first Gold Glove in 1991

On the same day that Ozzie Smith won his 12th consecutive Gold Glove Award, another Cardinal “Ozzi,” Tom Pagnozzi, captured the first of his three career Gold Gloves as the National League’s premier defensive catcher.

The recognition, announced on November 26, 1991, came at the end of Pagnozzi’s first season as the Cardinals’ starting catcher. It had been a challenging journey for the 28-year-old backstop.

Drafted in the eighth round out of the University of Arkansas, Pagnozzi had seemed destined to top out as a backup catcher, as the Cardinals traded for Tony Peña, then, after  Peña signed with the Red Sox after the 1989 season, designated Todd Zeile as their catcher of the future.

Though manager Whitey Herzog announced a spring training competition between Zeile and Pagnozzi for the starting job heading into 1990, Zeile always had the inside track on the job.




“Going into camp last year, they said it was open, but it wasn’t,” Pagnozzi said.[1]

However, after Herzog resigned midway through the 1990 season, new manager Joe Torre – a former catcher who was transitioned to a corner infielder – moved Zeile to third base and installed Pagnozzi as the starting catcher for the final two months of the season. Pagnozzi responded by throwing out 46% of attempted base stealers. He also hit .293 after the all-star break to finish the year with a .277 batting average.

When the Cardinals arrived at spring training in February 1991, this time it was Pagnozzi who had the starting job locked up.

“This year, I came into camp knowing it was mine,” he said.[2]




Pagnozzi responded with another strong defensive year, including a .991 fielding percentage and just seven errors at catcher. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that he caught 65 of 149 (43.6%) would-be base thieves that season, while Baseball-Reference.com statistics show that he caught 70 of 156 (44.9%).

“I thought I had a good defensive year when you consider the major-league average is 29 or 30%,” Pagnozzi said.[3]

Nonetheless, Pagnozzi didn’t expect to be in contention for a Gold Glove Award. That May, he mentioned that he rarely heard people discussing him among the league’s best defensive catchers.

“I guess not enough people have seen me,” he said. “It’s going to take some time to show people what I can do, but I know a lot of players have come up and told me.”[4]




As a result, Pagnozzi was stunned to learn that he had wrested the award from Padres catcher Benito Santiago, who had been recognized with a Gold Glove each of the previous three seasons.

“I was totally shocked,” Pagnozzi said. “To take it away from him is something special in my mind. It seems like once you get it, it’s tough to take it away, especially for a first-year player. I think it takes a year or two to establish yourself.”[5]

The award was voted upon by managers, with a rule disallowing them from voting for their own players.

“That really makes me feel good that I impressed enough managers and coaches to vote for me, especially when I came from the bench a year ago,” Pagnozzi said.[6]




Torre admitted that he was surprised to see Pagnozzi win as well.

“I really didn’t think he would win, but his numbers were just so glaring as far as throwing people out,” Torre said. “He’s burned enough clubs.”[7]

Pagnozzi continued to burn clubs for years to come, winning another Gold Glove in 1992. After the Giants’ Kurt Manwaring won the award in 1993, Pagnozzi won his third career Gold Glove in 1994 despite playing in just 70 games.

Pagnozzi played 12 seasons in the big leagues, all in St. Louis. For his career, he hit .253 with 44 homers and 320 RBIs, and at the time of his retirement he ranked fourth in club history with 827 games at catcher.[8] As of December 2023, he ranked 10th all-time in franchise history in Baseball-Reference.com’s career defensive WAR (wins above replacement) with 10.1, ranking only behind Yadier Molina (28.0) among Cardinals catchers.[9]




“If you look at my tools, it’s not like I’m a superstar,” he said in 1998. “For me to spend 11 ½ years in one spot, that’s an accomplishment to me.”[10]

Tony La Russa, who replaced Torre as manager in 1996, called Pagnozzi “a real pro.”

“He’s an excellent defensive catcher and has a good feel for pitchers and for opposing hitters,” La Russa said. “He’s got the guts to be imaginative. He’s creative when something is not working for a pitcher and he’s a tough guy. I saw him get beaned once and go back in there the next day.”[11]

Pagnozzi’s nephew, Matt Pagnozzi, made his major-league debut with the Cardinals in 2009. He played two seasons in St. Louis as part of a five-year major-league career.





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[1] Vahe Gregorian, “Secure Pagnozzi Plays Long Ball,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 2, 1991.

[2] Vahe Gregorian, “Secure Pagnozzi Plays Long Ball,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 2, 1991.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Gold Glove A Surprise To Pagnozzi,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 27, 1991.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Pagnozzi Awaits Challenge Of Facing Ex-Card Coleman,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 23, 1991.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Gold Glove A Surprise To Pagnozzi,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 27, 1991.

[6] Rick Hummel, “Gold Glove A Surprise To Pagnozzi,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 27, 1991.

[7] Rick Hummel, “Gold Glove A Surprise To Pagnozzi,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 27, 1991.

[8] Mike Eisenbath, “Pagnozzi’s career as a Cardinal ends,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 17, 1998.

[9] St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Career Batting Leaders, https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/STL/leaders_bat.shtml.

[10] Mike Eisenbath, “Pagnozzi’s career as a Cardinal ends,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 17, 1998.

[11] Mike Eisenbath, “Pagnozzi’s career as a Cardinal ends,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 17, 1998.

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