Jerry Grote – His New York Mets Career 1966-1977

Jerry GroteThe 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

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Casey Stengel – New York Mets Manager 1962-1965

Casey StengelThe New York Mets knew that they were not going to win many games when they joined the National League in 1962 and therefore they also knew that they needed someone who would help them attract fans to the ballpark. That was the main reason they tabbed Casey Stengel to be their first manager. Casey Stengel had managed the New York Yankees form 1949-1960, winning seven World Series titles and ten American League Pennants. However, he was unceremoniously let go after losing the 1960 World Series. Even though he was 71 years old, he still knew the game and was still a very popular figure in New York having also played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. Casey was known for his funny comments or ‘Stengelese”as the reporters called them and was always good for a quote which also helped divert attention from the inept play on the field.

During the Mets first Spring Training in 1962 Casey Stengel was looking to draw support for the team and was quoted as saying, “Come see my Amazin Mets.” The phrase stuck and the Mets would be forever known as the “Amazin Mets.” However, the only thing that was truly amazing about the Mets first year in the National League was their amazing ability to find new ways to lose games. They set a record for futility losing 120 games while winning just 40. Over the next two seasons, the Mets improved but still managed to lose over 100 games each season. However, with Casey leading the way, the fans still packed the ballpark as the Mets came to be known as “Lovable Losers.” However, in 1965 Stengel broke his hip and was forced to step aside as manager on August 30th.

Despite posting a dismal 175 and 404 record Stengel is still a beloved figure in Mets history as evidenced by the fact that the organization not only retired his number 37 but also inducted him into the Mets Hall of Fame as a charter member in 1981. In 1966, he was also inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Some of Casey’s most memorable Stengelisms while with the Mets

“Been in this game one-hundred years, but I see new ways to lose ’em I never knew existed before.”

“You have to have a catcher because if you don’t you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls.”

“You look up and down the bench and you have to say to yourself, ‘Can’t anybody here play this game?’”

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Bud Harrelson – His New York Mets Playing Career 1965-1977

Bud HarrelsonTypical of the shortstops of his era, Bud Harrelson was diminutive player with a strong glove and weak bat who anchored the Mets infield for 13 seasons.

Harrelson made his Major League debut on September 2, 1965 as pinch runner in the Mets 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros.  He appeared in 19 games and hit just .108 (4 for 37). He recorded his first league hit on September 19, a first inning single against the Chicago Cubs

He started the 1966 season in the minors before joining the Mets in August.  He appeared in 33 games and batted .222 with 4 RBIs.

1967 would be Harrelson’s first full season in the majors as the Mets everyday shortstop, a role he would remain in for the next decade.  He initially struggled as the everyday shortstop committing 21 errors over the first two months.  He settled down and committed just 11 over the next four months.  He hit .254 with a home run and 28 RBIs.   His first career home run came on August 17 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, it was an inside the park job that tied the score in the 8th inning in a game the Mets would win 6-5.

Injuries and a military obligation limited Harrelson to 111 games in 1968.  He hit just .219 with 14 RBIs.  He did finish with a .972 fielding percentage, the 3rd highest in the league.

During the Mets World Championship season in 1969, he solidified the Mets infield, taking away would be hits and turning double plays.  He hit .248 with 24 RBIs.  He was the offensive hero in the Mets 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on April 15.  He went 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs.  He also drove in the winning run with a walk-off single in the 10th inning on May 28.  On September 23 he once again hit a walk off single to win the game, this time in the 11th inning against future Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.

During the postseason he hit .182 with 3 RBIs in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves.   In the World Series he hit .176 with 2 RBIs against the Baltimore Orioles but his stellar defense played a huge role as the Mets went on to shock the world and win their first championship.

Harrelson got off to a fast start in 1970.  He started off with a 6-game hitting streak and hit safely in 30 of his first 35 games.  During that stretch he hit his second career home run and the first that actually cleared the fence, a solo shot in the Mets 6-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on April 17.   He earned his first All-Star game selection and had a 54-game errorless streak from June until August.  For the season he hit .243 with a career best 42 RBIs.

In 1971 he earned his 2nd All-Star game selection, this time as the starting shortstop, and won his 1st and only Gold Glove Award.   He had a 10-game hitting streak in April and a 12-game streak in May.  On May 15 he went 4 for 5 with 3 RBIs in the Mets 9-5 win over the Pirates.  He had another 4-hit performance on August 5 against the Atlanta Braves, he drove in the only run as the Mets lost 2-1.  He finished with a .252 average and 32 RBIs.     

Injuries limited Harrelson to 115 games in 1972, he hit .215 with a home run and 24 RBIs.  He did lead the team in stolen bases with 12 and on base percentage with .313.

Injuries once again limited Harrelson in 1973, he appeared in just 106 games.  He was hitting .268 on June 4 when he was lost for a month with a fractured hand.  During the month of September, he hit safely in 22 of 27 games and batted .280 as he helped the Mets win the Eastern Division Title.  He finished the season with a career best .258 average with 20 RBIs.

 

Fight
Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose Fight During Game 3 of the 1973 NLCS

During the 1973 NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds he hit just .167 (3 for 18) with 2 RBIs as the Mets won the series in 5 games.  But he is most remembered for his actions in game 3.  With the Mets leading 9-2 in the 5th inning and on the verge of taking a 2-1 series lead a frustrated Pete Rose slid hard into Harrelson with what some consider a cheap slide trying to break up a double play.  Harrelson got up into Rose’s face and the next thing all hell broke loose as the two players got in a fight which eventually led to both benches being emptied.  When order was restored neither player was ejected but Met fans began got throw objects at Rose when he took his position in leftfield.  The game had to be halted and the Mets were told by the league office that they would have to forfeit if order was not restored.  Many Met players pleaded with the fans who eventually relented, and the Mets went on to win the game and the series.

 

The Mets lost the 1973 World Series in 7 games to the Oakland A’s with Harrelson hitting .250 with an RBI.

Harrelson got off to a fast start in 1974 recording three hits on Opening Day and hitting safely in 13 of his first 20 games.  He was hitting .279 at the end of April but injuries once again took their toll and he hit just .227 for the season with a home run and 13 RBIs.   He missed a majority of the 1975 season with a knee injury, appearing in only 34 games and batting just .219 with 2 home runs.

He rebounded slightly in 1976, hitting .234 in 118 games with a home run and 26 RBIs.  He struggled for the entire 1977 season and hit just .178 for the season and following the season the Mets decided to part ways with Harrelson by trading him to the Philadelphia Phillies. 

In 13 seasons and 1,322 game Harrelson batted .234 with 6 home runs and 242 RBIs.

Following his playing career Harrelson would go on to become a coach for the Mets in 1982 and 1985-1990.  He also managed the Mets in 1990 and 1991.

In 1986 he was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

While with the Mets Harrelson wore number 3.

Bud Harrelson also played for the following teams:
Philadelphia Phillies – 1978,1979
Texas Rangers – 1980

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Gary Carter – His New York Mets Career 1985-1989

Gary CarterA seven-time All-Star catcher with the Montreal Expos, Gary Carter was acquired by the Mets prior to the 1985 season in exchange for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Floyd Youmans and Herm Winningham. He was considered to be the final piece to the puzzle as the Mets pursued their first World Series title since 1969.

Carter made an immediate impact when he hit the game winning home run in the bottom of the 10th inning on Opening Day 1985. He would go on to lead the team with 32 home runs and 100 RBI’s. On September 3rd he became the 5th player in franchise history to hit 3 home runs in a game. The next day he hit another 2 home runs to become the first player in Mets history to hit 5 home runs over the span of 2 games. He was selected to be the starting catcher in the All-Star game but was unable to play due to injury. During the month of September, he hit .320 with 13 home runs and 36 RBIs and was named the National League Player of the Month.

In 1986 Carter continued his strong hitting and tied Rusty Staub’s franchise record for most RBI’s in a season with 105. He also hit 24 home runs as the Mets cruised to their first postseason appearance since 1973. He once again was selected to start for the National League in the All-Star game. He also finished 3rd in the National League MVP voting, 

During the postseason Carter initially struggled going 1 for 21 in the NLCS against the Houston Astros before knocking in the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning of game 5. The Mets would win the series in 6 games. During the World Series Carter hit 2 home runs during game 4 and drove in the tying run in game 7. But his most famous at-bat came during game 6. In the bottom of the 10th inning with the Mets trailing by 2 runs and down to their last out and on the verge of losing the series, Carter singled to start the Mets 3 run rally. In one of the most amazing comebacks in World Series history the Mets won the game and would go on to win the series in 7 games to capture their 2nd World Series title.

Carter returned in 1987 but his numbers began to dip as he hit just .235 with 20 home runs and 83 RBIs. In 1988 he hit just 11 home runs with 46 RBIs, but he did manage to hit the 300th home run of his career. The Mets returned to the postseason in 1988 and Carter hit .222 with 4 RBIs in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. His 2 run double in the 9th inning of game 1 drove in both the tying and winning runs, but the Mets would lose the series in 7 games.

In 1989 Carter suffered through an injury plagued season. He hit just .183 with 2 home runs and 15 RBIs in 50 games. It would be his last season with the Mets as the Mets decided that his best days were behind him and chose not to offer him a new contract.

In five seasons with the Mets Carter hit .249 with 89 home runs and 349 RBIs. He would play another three years before retiring following the 1992 season.

In 2001 Carter was elected to the Mets Hall of Fame and in 2003 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

While with the Mets Carter wore number 8,

Gary Carter also played for the following teams:
Montreal Expos – 1974-1984, 1992
San Francisco Giants – 1990
Los Angeles Dodgers – 1991

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Tommie Agee – His New York Mets Career 1968-1972

Tommie ageeOn December 15, 1967 the New York Mets acquired Tommie Agee along with Al Weis from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Jack Fisher, Tommy Davis, Billy Wynne and Buddy Booker.

Tommie Agee who had three cups of coffee with the Cleveland Indians from 1962 to 1964 was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1966 as a member of the White Sox.  But his production fell off the next season and the White Sox decided they had seen enough and shipped him to the Mets.  Though he struggled in his first season in New York (.217 average, 5 HRs and 17 RBIs), he turned out to a god send in helping the Mets win the 1969 World Series. 

In 1969 Tommie Agee got off to a strong start hitting two home runs during the third game of the season against the Montreal Expos, one of which was hit to section 48 of the upper deck in Shea Stadium.  He became the first and only player to hit a home run into the upper deck. Agee would go on to hit .271 while leading the Mets in home runs (26), RBI’s (76) and runs scored (97). 

Even though Agee had a brilliant regular season in 1969, it was his brilliant postseason performance which cemented his legacy in Mets history.  After hitting .357 with two home runs and four RBI’s in the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, Agee continued his superb play in the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.

After the Mets split the first two games in Baltimore they returned home looking to win their first World Series title.  Tommie Agee led off game three of the series with a home run off of Baltimore ace and future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer to give the Mets an early 1-0 lead.  A lead they would not relinquish due in large part to the defensive heroics of Agee in centerfield.  Agee made two spectacular catches in centerfield saving at least five runs from scoring.  The Mets would win the game by a score of 5-0 and never looked back as they shocked the world and won their first World Series title.

Agee continued his stellar play in 1970 hitting a career best .286 while once again leading the Mets with 24 home runs and 75 RBIs.  In 1970 Agee also became the first player in franchise history to win a Gold Glove. 

In 1970 Agee also set the following franchise records, which have all since been broken:

Most At-bats – 636
Most Runs – 107
Most Hits –  182
Most Stolen Bases – 31
Most Total Bases – 298 

Though Agee still led the Mets in 1971 with 14 home runs, sharing the honor with Ed Kranepool and Cleon Jones, knee injuries affected his production in 1971 and 1972 prompting the Mets to trade him to the Houston Astros following the 1972 season.  for Rich Chiles and Buddy Harris.

He would go on to play for the Astros and Cardinals in 1973 but was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 1974 season ending his playing career. 

In five seasons with the Mets Tommie Agee hit .262 with 82 home runs and 265 RBI’s in 661 games.  He also played 8 postseason games hitting .250 with 3 home runs and 5 runs batted in. 

Tommie Agee was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 2002 but unfortunately was not able to enjoy the moment as he passed away in January 2001.

While with the Mets Agee wore number 20.

Tommie Agee also played for the following teams:
Cleveland Indians – 1962-1964
Chicago White Sox – 1965-1967
St, Louis Cardinals – 1973
Houston Astros – 1973

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