The Mets announced Friday morning that former catcher John Stearns, who earned four All-Star nods over a decade-long career with the team and also served on the Major League coaching staff from 2000-01, passed away last night at 71 years of age. He’d been battling cancer.
“No one played the game with more spirit or determination than John Stearns,” Mets president Sandy Alderson said in a statement within this morning’s press release. “He literally willed himself to attend Old Timers’ Day last month so he could visit friends and old teammates. Despite his illness, he even managed to step into the batting cage to take a few swings. His nickname, ‘Bad Dude’ couldn’t have been more appropriate. A four-time All Star, John was one of the most complete catchers in Mets history. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.”
The No. 2 overall pick by the Phillies in 1973, Stearns was traded to the Mets alongside Del Unser and Mac Scarce in a Dec. 1974 deal that sent Tug McGraw, Don Hahn and Dave Schneck back to Philadelphia. Stearns appeared in just one game with the Phils prior to that trade and spent the other 809 games of his career with the Mets, for whom he batted .259/.341/.375 in 3081 plate appearances. Stearns was named to All-Star teams in 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1982 — his final full, healthy season in the big leagues. In his career behind the plate, he threw out 37 percent of runners who attempted to steal against him. Persistent elbow troubles, however, cut Stearns’ career short in his early 30s.
Following his playing days, Stearns spent another two decades in baseball, working as a scout, minor league manager and Major League coach between the Reds, Yankees, Orioles, Mets, Nationals and Mariners organizations. He was the bench coach for the 2000 Mets and their third base coach in 2001, and his famous, enthusiastic cry — “He’s out of the cage! The monster is out of the cage!” — following a Mike Piazza double in the 2000 NLCS will forever live on in the memories of Mets fans. Over at MLB.com, several of Stearns’ former teammates and colleagues shared fond memories following this morning’s announcement.
Our condolences go out to Stearns’ family, his friends and to his countless fans as they mourn his passing.