John Stearns, a catcher for the Mets and a four-time All-Star, died on Thursday in Denver. He was known for being a tough player. He was 71.
The Mets said that the death was caused by a long battle with cancer. Stearns played for the Mets from 1975 to 1984. He died less than three weeks after going to Citi Field in Queens for Old-Timers’ Day. The event was held to mark the 60th anniversary of the Mets.
Sandy Alderson, the president of the Mets, said in a statement that no one played the game with more heart or determination than John Stearns. “Last month, he made himself go to Old-Timers’ Day so he could see old friends and teammates. Even though he was sick, he was able to go to the batting cage and take a few swings.
John Hardin Stearns was born in Denver on August 21, 1951. He played baseball and football at the University of Colorado, and the Buffalo Bills of the NFL picked him late in the draught as a defensive back in 1973. In the same year, the Philadelphia Phillies took him with the second pick, and he chose to play baseball.
Stearns never got a chance to play regularly for the Phillies because Bob Boone was behind the plate. Stearns had trouble early on at the plate. After playing one game for the Phillies in 1974, he was traded to the Mets as part of a deal that also sent Tug McGraw to the Phillies.
Even though Stearns was hurt a lot, he was named to the All-Star team for the National League in 1977, 1979, 1980, and 1982. In his career, he played 810 games and hit.260 with 152 doubles, 10 triples, and 46 home runs. He also stole 91 bases, which is unusual for a catcher. In 1978, he stole 25 bases, which led the team.
Stearns, who was known as “Bad Dude,” could be a tough guy. In 1978, Dave Parker, a star outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, broke his collarbone when he ran into Stearns. In 1979, Gary Carter, who would later become a star catcher for the New York Mets, got into a fight with him after they collided at home plate.
In 1980, Stearns caught one of two fans who ran onto the field and stayed away from the police for a little too long. Stearns was a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers, a bullpen coach for the New York Yankees, a minor league manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, and a scout and coach for the Baltimore Orioles.
In 2000, he went back to the Mets as a coach for two years. He worked for Bobby Valentine. He worked for the team again as a scout and a coach in the minor leagues. Valentine said, “John was such an important part of our team.” “He had a unique way of getting the guys excited. Every time we talked on the phone, he told me he was going to win.
Stearns has a son named Justin, two brothers named Richard and William, and a sister named Carla.