Mets catcher Jerry Grote dies

Jerry Grote making a catch on the field.

Mets championship catcher Jerry Grote has died.

He was 81.

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Grote was, according to Mets owner Steve Cohen, the “backbone of a young Mets team who captured the heart of New York City,” The Associated Press reported.

Grote was born in San Antonio in 1942 and played third, pitcher and catcher during high school, but it was at Trinity University in San Antonio where he excelled as a catcher, learning from Del Baker, The New York Times reported.

Grote was acquired by the Mets in October 1965 after he played two seasons with the Houston Colt .45s. The Mets had been a replacement for the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers when they left the Big Apple. In their first seven seasons, the team was either ninth or 10th in the league. but in 1969, the Mets went to the World Series and were the champions that year.

The Mets were in first for their first time starting on Sept. 10, 1969 and finished 100-62, winning the NL East by eight games. They swept three games from Atlanta in the NL Championship Series before beating Baltimore in the World Series.

Grote said in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of their win, “We were not supposed to do anything and we did it all,” the AP reported.

“Without Jerry, we don’t win in 1969,” teammate Art Shamsky said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Grote started 100 games as the catcher in 1969 plus every postseason inning that year. He hit .252 and had six home runs and 40 RBIs for the season.

Grote was behind the plate as primary catcher from 1966 through the 1971 season. He then split duties with Duffy Dyer starting in 1972. The Mets took home the NL Championship in 1973.

Pitcher Jon Matlack called the two-time All-Star “the best catcher I ever threw to.”

Grote was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977 and was a free agent in 1989 before retiring. He came back in 1981, playing for first the Kanas City Royals and then the Dodgers again before leaving the game.

He still managed in the minors and had a Texas ranch, raising steers, the Times reported.

According to the newspaper, Grote had heart issues and died of respiratory failure on Sunday after a medical procedure at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute, the team said.

Grote is survived by his third wife, children, step-children and grandchildren.

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