Jerry Grote, beloved ex-Mets catcher and World Series champion, dead at 81

Jerry Grote, the starting catcher for the Mets’ first World Series championship team in 1969, died Sunday afternoon from respiratory failure following a heart procedure, his wife Cheryl announced on Facebook.

He was 81.

Jerry Grote
Jerry Grote died on Sunday. He was 81. ASSOCIATED PRESS

“It’s with great sorrow that I make this post to all of Jerry’s fans. Today, April 7, 2024 at 4:29 p.m., I lost our beloved catcher,” she wrote, in part. “He gave a hard fight to the very end as we all expected he would. He is now home with Jesus. Thank you for all the memories and support.”

In a statement of their own, the Mets said that Grote had died at Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute in Austin, Texas.

Grote, a member of both the Mets’ beloved 1969 championship team and the 1973 club that won the National League pennant, spent the majority of his 16-year major league career with the franchise, from 1966 until he was traded to the Dodgers during the 1977 season.

Jerry Grote (R.) hugs Jerry Koosman as the Mets won the World Series in 1969.
Jerry Grote (R.) hugs Jerry Koosman as the Mets won the World Series in 1969. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Grote was considered one of the best defensive catchers in baseball in his day.

He made two All-Star teams during his career, as a Met in 1968 and 1974, and is the franchise’s all-time leader in games played at catcher.

“We are incredibly saddened to hear about the passing of Jerry Grote. The Mets Hall of Famer was the backbone of a young Mets team who captured the heart of New York City in 1969,” Mets owners Steve and Alex Cohen said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Cheryl, family and friends.”

Grote had been lauded throughout his career for his ability to work with young pitchers and famously caught some of the best pitchers in Mets history.

That list included Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman and Tug McGraw.

“He was just a wonderful defensive catcher. It was great working with him,” Koosman told The Post’s Steve Serby in 2019.

Grote’s personality could be described as an embodiment of that 1969 Miracle Mets, who stunned the world by defeating the Orioles in the World Series to capture the franchise’s first championship.

The team won 100 games that season, one year after its previous franchise-best of 73.

In an interview with The Post in 2009, Grote said he believed the ballclub could do the unthinkable back in spring training of that season.

“I felt we had the pitching and the defense,” he said at the time. “All we needed was that one more person.”

Grote’s reputation as one of the top catchers in baseball ran so deep that Hall of Famer Johnny Bench once said that, if he were on the same team as Grote, he would have to play third base and Grote would be behind the plate.

Making his debut with Houston at 20 years old in 1963 and finishing with stints on the Dodgers and Royals in 1981 — Grote appeared in 1,421 games while recording 1,092 hits and a .252 batting average.

A San Antonio native, Grote was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.

The Mets inducted him into their Hall of Fame in 1992.


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