The Mets acquired catcher Jerry Grote, known more for his defense than his offense, from the Houston Colt 45’s on October 19, 1965 in exchange for Tom Parsons. He made his Met debut on Opening Day 1966 and would spend the next 12 seasons as the team’s primary catcher. In his first season with the Mets he hit just .237 with 3 home runs and 31 RBIs. He did deliver the game winning hit on June 12 with a pinch-hit single in the 11th inning against the Cincinnati Reds.
Grote hit a 2-run homer on Opening Day in 1967. It was one of the few highlights of the season as he struggled at the plate hitting just .195 with 4 home runs and 23 RBIs. The other highlight of his season was a 4 for 5 performance in the Mets 9-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on June 24.
Grote got off to fast start in 1968, hitting .333 over the first month of the season. He continued to show improvement at the plate and was named the starting catcher for the 1968 National League All-Star team. He ended the season with a .282 average with 3 home runs and 31 RBIs. But more importantly he helped groom the Mets young pitching staff of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan.
In 1969 Grote’s average dipped to .252 but he hit 6 home runs and drove in 40 runs both career bests. But it was his skills behind the plate which proved his value. He threw out 56.3% of would be base stealers, 2nd highest in the league. He also guided the Mets young pitching staff, a staff that led the league in shutouts with 16 and posted the 2nd lowest ERA in the league, 2.99, as the Mets shocked the world and won the 1969 World Series. In the World Series the Mets staff held the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles to a .146 batting average for the series. Grote also got a couple of key hits in the series. In game 2 his 9th inning single prolonged the Mets rally as they went on to win 2-1. In game 4 he led off the 10th inning with a double, he was replaced by pinch runner Rod Gaspar who eventually scored the winning run.
In 1970 he hit .255 with a 2 home runs and 34 RBIs and continued his strong play behind the plate leading the league in putouts with 855. On April 22 he set the Major League record for most putouts by a catcher in a game with 20, it was the game in which Tom Seaver struck out 20 batters. He also had a 4-hit performance in the Mets 7-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on July 8.
He put up similar numbers in 1971 batting .270 with 2 home runs and 35 RBIs while once again leading all catchers in putouts with 892. He also led the team in doubles with 25. On May 3 he recorded 4 hits and scored the winning run in the 11th inning against the Chicago Cubs.
Injuries limited him to just 64 games in 1972 and he hit just .210 with 3 home runs and 21 RBIs. However, he did have his only multi-homer game of his career on May 19, his 2 home runs helped propel the Mets to an 8-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Grote missed 2 months of action in 1973 with a fractured right arm. When he returned in the middle of July he helped the Mets capture the Eastern Division title. He finished the season with a .256 average with a home run and 32 RBIs. His one home run was a grand slam and helped the Mets defat the San Diego Padres 7-0 on August 15. He also had a 4-hit performance against the Cincinnati Reds on August 18. The Mets reached the World Series but lost to the Oakland A’s in seven games. Grote caught all 12 postseason games. He recorded 8 hits in the World Series and batted .267.
During the first half of the 1974 season he batted .287 with 4 home runs and 27 RBIs to earn his 2nd All-Star appearance. Injuries took their toll on Grote in the second half and he finished the season with a .257 average and 5 home runs and 36 RBIs.
In 1975 Grote hit a career best .295 with 2 home runs on 39 RBIs. On July 4 his pinch-hit home run in the 9th inning propelled the Mets to a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. He also led all National League catchers with a .995 fielding percentage.
Grote hit .272 in 1976 with a 4 home runs and 28 RBIs. He enjoyed a 4-hit game on April 19 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Grote saw diminished playing time in 1977 with the emergence of John Stearns as the team’s regular catcher. He appeared in 42 games. the lowest total of his Met career and batted .270 with 7 RBIs. The Mets traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 31 in exchange for a couple of minor leaguers.
In 12 seasons with the Mets Grote batted .256 with 35 home runs and 357 RBIs.
Though he never won a Gold Glove he was considered to be the best defensive catcher of his era. In fact Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, who many consider to be the greatest defensive catcher in history, once said of Grote, “If Grote and I were on the same team, I would be playing 3rd base.”
Jerry Grote was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1992.
While with the Mets Grote wore number 15.
Jerry Grote also played for the following teams:
Houston Colt 45’s = 1963,1964
Los Angeles Dodgers – 1977,1978, 1981
Kansas City Royals – 1981