John Stearns Dead at 71
Former Mets catcher, John Stearns, has passed away at the age of 71.
His passing was announced early this morning by former Mets exec, Randye Ringler. Stearns was a 4-time All-Star, and played in Queens from ‘75-‘84.
His cause of death is not immediately known.
John Hardin Stearns, born August 21, 1951, nicknamed “Bad Dude”, wass a former Major League Baseball (MLB) catcher who played for the New York Mets from 1975 to 1984 after playing a single game for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1974.
Stearns was a two-sport star in college, and he entered professional baseball after being selected in both the MLB and National Football League drafts.
He struggled with injuries in the latter portion of his career.
He served as the catching coordinator for the Seattle Mariners and the interim manager of the minor league Tacoma Rainiers before being named third base coach under Lloyd McClendon for the 2014 season.
However, Stearns underwent surgery for a hiatal hernia prior to spring training and his slower-than-expected recovery compelled him to resign on March 7, 2014.
He remained in the Mariners’ organization, however, as a scout for the 2014 season.
After attending a memorial service for his high school baseball coach in 2015, he said he was not sure how he would be involved with baseball again.
Stearns’s professional career started with Philadelphia’s Eastern League affiliate, the Reading Phillies in 1973, but did not start particularly well.
After batting just .241 in double A, he was sent to the high-A Carolina League’s Rocky Mount Phillies for 1974 and improved drastically.
Mid-season, he was promoted directly to the AAA Toledo Mud Hens. Although his hitting statistics were not fantastic at Toledo, he was called up to the Phillies that September.
On September 22, 1974, Stearns made his major league debut and picked up his first hit, going 1-for-2 off the bench.
Stearns’s first game with the Phillies turned out to be his last. With budding prospect Bob Boone firmly entrenched behind the plate for Philadelphia, Stearns became expendable.
He was traded along with Del Unser and Mac Scarce from the Phillies to the New York Mets for Tug McGraw, Don Hahn and Dave Schneck at the Winter Meetings on December 3, 1974.
With McGraw, the Phillies had two 101-win seasons and their first World Series championship.
The Mets, meanwhile, had two mediocre seasons, then descended to the bottom of the National League for seven years.
In his first season as a Met, Stearns spent 1975 as the backup catcher behind veteran Jerry Grote.
Grote had been the Mets’ regular catcher since 1966, including every inning of every postseason game for both the 1969 World Series champions and the 1973 NLCS champions.
As Grote’s backup, Stearns batted only .189 in 1975.
In 1976, Stearns hit poorly in limited time and was soon replaced in backup duties by lefty hitter Ron Hodges.
Stearns was sent back to the Tidewater Tides and hit very well while Hodges struggled in the majors. He was brought back to the majors for September and continued his hot hitting.
With 18 hits in his first 13 games back, including seven hits in two games, Stearns not only ousted Hodges, but even took over the starting duties from Grote for most of the rest of the season.
Source: John Stearns Dead at 71