Jerry Grote: Wikis

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Jerry Grote
Catcher
Born: October 6, 1942 (1942-10-06) (age 67)
San Antonio, Texas
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
September 21, 1963 for the Houston Colt .45s
Last MLB appearance
October 3, 1981 for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Career statistics
Batting average     .252
Hits     1,092
Fielding Percentage     .991
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Gerald Wayne Grote (born October 6, 1942) is a former Major League Baseball catcher considered one of the finest defensive catchers of his era.

Grote was raised in San Antonio, Texas where he attended Douglas MacArthur High School. When he was just ten years old, he and his family were caught in an F-4 tornado. His mom, dad and two sisters made it to safety, however, he lost his grandmother in the storm.[1]

Contents

Colt .45s

In 1962, he was signed as an amateur free agent by the Houston Colt .45s after one season at Trinity University. He was assigned to his hometown San Antonio Bullets, Houston's double A affiliate, and at the end of his first professional season, he earned a September call-up to the Colts. He made his major league debut on September 21, 1963 as a late inning defensive replacement for John Bateman, and hit a sacrifice fly to score Bob Aspromonte in his only at-bat.[2] On September 27, Grote was behind the plate when the "Baby Colts," a starting line-up with an average age of nineteen years old, took the field against the New York Mets (the oldest player used by the Colts all game was 26 year old Dick Drott, who pitched the ninth inning).[3]

In 1964, Grote platooned with Bateman behind the plate, however, the Colts also experimented with young catchers Dave Adlesh and John Hoffman as well, as neither Grote nor Bateman hit for a very high average that season (.181 and .190, respectively). Grote was the Colt' catcher on April 23, when Ken Johnson became the first pitcher in major league history to lose a complete game no-hitter in nine innings, when he was beaten 1-0 by the Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati's Pete Rose hit a ground ball back to Johnson, who threw it past Pete Runnels at first base, allowing Rose to go to second. Two batters later, Nellie Fox mishandled Vada Pinson's ground ball, allowing Rose to scored the only run of the game.[4]

In 1965, the newly renamed Houston Astros continued to have something of a revolving door behind the plate, with former All-Star Gus Triandos and prospect Ron Brand being added to the mix. Grote spent the entire season with Houston's Triple A Pacific Coast League affiliate, the Oklahoma City 89ers, where he batted .265 with eleven home runs. At the end of the season, he was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher Tom Parsons.

New York Mets

Grote became the starting catcher for the Mets immediately upon his arrival in New York. Though he batted only .237 with three home runs in 1966, his handling of the Mets' young pitchers was instrumental in helping the Mets avoid 100 losses and a last place finish for the first time in franchise history.

Grote was soon recognized as one of the top defensive catchers in the National League. In 1968, Grote's bat caught up to his glove, as he was batting .291 with a home run and fourteen runs batted in at the All-Star break to become just the second Met in franchise history to earn a starting nod at an All-Star Game (Ron Hunt, 1964).[5] Though Grote was help hitless in his two at-bats, so was the American League for the most part, as other than a lead-off double by Jim Fregosi, the American League did not get a single man on base the entire time he was behind the plate. Oddly enough, he was out of the game by the time Mets pitchers Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman were given the opportunity to pitch in the game.[6] For the season, Grote batted .282 with three home runs and 31 RBIs.

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Amazin' Mets

During the 1969 "Miracle Mets" season, he was considered one of the most valuable players on the team because of his work in handling the pitching staff and for his defensive skills.[7] On May 28, after a five game losing streak that saw the Mets fall into fourth place in the newly aligned National League East, Jerry Koosman and the San Diego Padres' Clay Kirby engaged in a pitchers' duel at Shea Stadium. After nine scoreless innings by Kirby and ten by Koosman, the game was turned over to the bullpens for extra innings. The game finally ended after eleven innings when Bud Harrelson hit a single to drive in Cleon Jones.[8] This led to an eleven game winning streak that brought them back into second place, seven games back of the Chicago Cubs. Grote caught every inning of ten of the eleven games (June 8 against against the Padres being the only game he sat out), including all fifteen innings of the Mets' 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 4.[9]

The Chicago Cubs, had been in first place in the NL East for 156 days of the season, and seemed likely to win the division when they came to Shea Stadium to open a crucial two game series with the Mets on September 8. Cubs starter Bill Hands knocked down the first batter he faced, Tommie Agee, in the bottom half of the first inning. Koosman hit the next Cubs batter he faced, Ron Santo, in the hand, breaking it. Agee himself retaliated by hitting a two run home run in the third, and scored the winning run of the game on a Wayne Garrett single in the sixth inning.[10]

The Mets won the second game as well, to move just a half game back of the Cubs. Aside from calling Seaver's five hit performance, Grote drove in the Mets' seventh and final run of the game.[11] The following day, the Mets swept the Montreal Expos in a double header, with Grote catching all 21 innings. Coupled with a Cubs loss (who'd slumped to a 9-17 record in their final 26 games), the Mets moved into first place for the first time ever during the 1969 season. The Mets will not relinquish their lead from this point. On September 24, the New York Mets clinch the NL East as Donn Clendenon hit two home runs in a 6-0 Mets win over Steve Carlton and the St. Louis Cardinals[12] (who struck out a record nineteen Mets nine days earlier in a losing effort). The Mets went 37-11 in their final 48 games and clinched the pennant.[13] [14]

1969 World Series

The Mets went on to sweep the Atlanta Braves in the 1969 National League Championship Series, and were heavy underdogs heading into the World Series against the mighty Baltimore Orioles. Following a 4-1 loss in the series opener with Cy Young award winner Seaver on the mound,[15] it seemed as if the Mets had little chance against the Orioles.

This was not the case, as the Mets won the second game of the series in Baltimore,[16] and sweep all three games at Shea. For his part, Grote batted only .194 with two RBIs in the play-offs and World Series, however, he caught every inning, and with Grote behind the plate, the Mets' pitchers held Braves batters to a .255 batting average, and Orioles batters to .146.

1973 NL Champs

Grote's catching and pitch calling skills also played a valuable role for the 1973 New York Mets, when they went from last place on August 30th to win the National League Eastern Division pennant, and defeated the heavily-favored Cincinnati Reds in the 1973 National League Championship Series.[17][18] In the World Series, the Mets took the Oakland Athletics to the seventh and final game, before they were defeated.[19] Grote caught every inning of every post-season game for the Mets in 1973 as he had in 1969.[20 ]

Though the Mets won it all in 1969, and not 1973, "It was no miracle," Grote said of his first post-season with the Mets. "Now, '73 was a miracle."

2nd All-Star appearance

In 1974, Grote was batting .287 with four home runs and 27 RBIs to earn his second All-Star selection.[21] The Following season, Grote led all National League catchers with a .995 fielding percentage.[22] Perhaps the most surreal moment of the 1975 season for Grote occurred at Veterans Stadium on July 4 when he stepped in as a pinch hitter against long time battery-mate Tug McGraw, who had been traded to the Philadelphia Phillies during the off-season. With the Mets down 3-2, Grote connected for a game winning two run home run. Without McGraw to go to in the Mets' bullpen, Rick Baldwin stepped in, and earned the save.[23]

By the 1977 season, John Stearns had taken over as the Mets' starting catching duties, and had himself developed into an All-Star. In August, during his twelfth season with the Mets, Grote was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two players to be named later. Neither of the minor leaguers the Dodgers sent the Mets ever reached the majors.

Los Angeles Dodgers

During his two seasons with the Dodgers, he played part time as a back up to Steve Yeager, and appeared in two World Series against the New York Yankees. He retired from professional baseball after the 1978 season, only to be lured out of retirement in 1981 by the Kansas City Royals, who were experiencing a shortage of catchers. After another short stint with the Dodgers, he retired for good after the 1981 season.

Post retirement & honors

After his playing career had ended, Grote spent 1985 as manager of the Lakeland Tigers and the Birmingham Barons. In 1989, he played for the St. Lucie Legends in the Senior Professional Baseball Association. He was inducted into Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991,[24] and the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1992.[25] In 1998, he was inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame.[26] After retirement, Grote continued to raise prize Texas longhorns on his ranch near Austin, Texas. He appeared as a Mystery Guest on the television game show What's My Line?.[27]

Grote called the pitches for some of the most outstanding pitchers of his era, including Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw, Nolan Ryan, Tommy John, Don Sutton and Dan Quisenberry. Grote was acknowledged to be highly competitive by his teammates and opponents. One of his trademarks was seen whenever his pitcher ended an inning with a strikeout, whereupon, while leaving the field, Grote would roll the ball to the far side of the pitcher's mound (closest to the Mets' dugout). This necessitated the opposing team's pitcher having to walk further to stoop and retrieve the ball, thus adding insult to injury.

At the time of his retirement in 1981, his .991 career fielding percentage was eighth highest all-time among catchers. He possessed a strong and accurate throwing arm against opposing baserunners. Hall of Fame inductee Lou Brock found Grote to be one of the most difficult catchers on which to attempt a stolen base, [28] and though Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench was the perennial Gold Glove winner during their careers in the National League together, Bench once said of Grote, "If Grote and I were on the same team, I would be playing third base."

Seasons Games AB Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO HBP Avg. Slg. Fld% CS%
16 1421 4339 352 1092 160 22 39 404 15 399 600 26 .252 .326 .991 38%

On September 15, 1977, Grote struck out in his only career at-bat against Tom Seaver.[29]

References

  1. ^ "Grote Survived Storm Long Before Amazin' Title Run". New York Post. 2009-08-12. http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/mets/grote_survived_storm_long_before_8xp7Xfg4uA1M1b0IqIOPVP.  
  2. ^ "Philadelphia Phillies 4, Houston Colt .45s 3". Baseball-reference.com. 1963-09-21. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/HOU/HOU196309210.shtml.  
  3. ^ "New York Mets 10, Houston Colt .45s 3". Baseball-reference.com. 1963-09-27. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/HOU/HOU196309270.shtml.  
  4. ^ "Cincinnati Reds 1, Houston Colt .45s 0". Baseball-reference.com. 1964-04-23. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/HOU/HOU196404230.shtml.  
  5. ^ "Mets All-stars". http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/nym/history/all_stars.jsp. Retrieved 2009-03-27.  
  6. ^ "1968 All-Star Game". Baseball-reference.com. 1968-07-09. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NLS/NLS196807090.shtml.  
  7. ^ Jerry Grote: Mets Most Valuable?, Baseball Digest, Feb 1970, Vol. 29, No. 2, ISSN 0005-609X
  8. ^ "New York Mets 1, San Diego Padres 0". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-05-28. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN196905280.shtml.  
  9. ^ "New York Mets 1, Los Angeles Dodgers 0". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-06-04. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN196906040.shtml.  
  10. ^ "New York Mets 3, Chicago Cubs 2". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-09-08. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN196909080.shtml.  
  11. ^ "New York Mets 7, Chicago Cubs 1". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-09-09. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN196909090.shtml.  
  12. ^ "New York Mets 6, St. Louis Cardinals 0". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-09-24. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN196909240.shtml.  
  13. ^ 1969 National League East standings at Baseball Reference
  14. ^ Pennant Races Don't Really Begin Until Month of July, Baseball Digest, July 1996, Vol. 55, No. 7, ISSN 0005-609X
  15. ^ "1969 World Series Game One". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-10-11. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL196910110.shtml.  
  16. ^ "1969 World Series Game Two". Baseball-reference.com. 1969-10-12. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL196910120.shtml.  
  17. ^ 1973 New York Mets Batting, Pitching, & Fielding Statistics at Baseball Reference
  18. ^ 1973 National League Championship Series at Baseball Reference
  19. ^ 1973 World Series at Baseball Reference
  20. ^ Jerry Grote at Centerfield Maz
  21. ^ "1974 All-Star Game". Baseball-reference.com. 1974-07-23. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NLS/NLS197407230.shtml.  
  22. ^ Baseball Digest, July 2001, P.86, Vol. 60, No. 7, ISSN 0005-609X
  23. ^ "New York Mets 4, Philadelphia Phillies 3". Baseball-reference.com. 1975-07-04. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHI/PHI197507040.shtml.  
  24. ^ Jerry Grote at the Texas Hall of Fame
  25. ^ New York Mets Hall of Fame
  26. ^ Jerry Grote at the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame
  27. ^ *Fates, Gil (1978). What's My Line? TV's Most Famous Panel Show. New York: Cornerstone Library. ISBN 0-346-12396-8.  
  28. ^ Jerry Grote: He Caught Some of the Greats in his Career, Baseball Digest, May 1992, Vol. 51, No. 5, ISSN 0005-609X
  29. ^ "Cincinnati Reds 3, Los Angeles Dodgers 2". Baseball-reference.com. 1977-09-15. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/LAN/LAN197709150.shtml.  

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