John Hardin Stearns (born August 21, 1951), nicknamed "Bad Dude",
is a former
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball (MLB) catcher who played for the New
York Mets from 1975 to 1984 after playing a single game for the
Philadelphia Phillies in 1974. Stearns was a two-sport star in
college, and he entered professional baseball after being selected in
both the MLB and
National Football League
National Football League drafts. He struggled with
injuries in the latter portion of his career. He served as the
catching coordinator for the Seattle Mariners and the interim
manager of the minor league Tacoma Rainiers before being named
third base coach under
Lloyd McClendon for the 2014 season. However,
Stearns underwent surgery for a hiatal hernia prior to spring training
and his slower-than-expected recovery compelled him to resign on March
7, 2014. He remained in the Mariners' organization, however, as a
scout for the 2014 season. After attending a memorial service for
his high school baseball coach in 2015, he said he was not sure how
he'd be involved with baseball again.
1 Early career
2 Trade to the Mets
3 Mets highlights
6 Career statistics
8 External links
John Stearns was drafted by the
Oakland Athletics in the 13th round of
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball Draft at 17 years old, but he chose to
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Colorado at Boulder instead. His older
brother, Bill, was a late-round draft pick in 1971 and played in the
New York Yankees
New York Yankees organization, also as a catcher, but never reached
John became a two-sport star at Colorado and was drafted as a
defensive back by the
Buffalo Bills in the 17th round of the 1973 NFL
Draft. When the
Philadelphia Phillies made him the second overall
pick in the 1973
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball Draft behind pitcher David
Clyde (who was out of the majors with arm problems at age 24), he
chose baseball. Stearns was drafted just ahead of two eventual Hall of
Robin Yount and Dave Winfield. Coincidentally, Stearns was
also drafted ahead of Winfield in the NFL draft, as the Minnesota
Vikings drafted Winfield in the 17th round six picks after the Bills
Stearns's professional career started with Philadelphia's Eastern
League affiliate, the
Reading Phillies in 1973, but did not start
particularly well. After batting just .241 in double A, he was sent to
the high-A Carolina League's Rocky Mount Phillies for 1974 and
improved drastically. Mid-season, he was promoted directly to the AAA
Toledo Mud Hens. Although his hitting statistics were not fantastic at
Toledo, he was called up to the Phillies that September. On September
22, 1974, Stearns made his major league debut and picked up his first
hit, going 1-for-2 off the bench.
Trade to the Mets
Stearns's first game with the Phillies turned out to be his last. With
Bob Boone firmly entrenched behind the plate for
Philadelphia, Stearns became expendable. The Phillies struck an off
season trade with the
New York Mets
New York Mets to acquire ace relief pitcher and
New York fan favorite,
Tug McGraw on December 3, 1974. In return for
McGraw, outfielders Don Hahn and Dave Schneck, the Mets received
Stearns, outfielder Del Unser, and relief pitcher Mac Scarce.
With McGraw, the Phillies had two 101-win seasons and their first
World Series championship. The Mets, meanwhile, had two mediocre
seasons, then descended to the bottom of the
National League for seven
years. In his first season as a Met, Stearns spent 1975 as the backup
catcher behind veteran Jerry Grote. Grote had been the Mets' regular
catcher since 1966, including every inning of every postseason game
for both the 1969
World Series champions and the 1973 NLCS champions.
As Grote's backup, Stearns batted only .189 in 1975.
In 1976, Stearns hit poorly in limited time and was soon replaced in
backup duties by lefty hitter Ron Hodges. Stearns was sent back to the
Tidewater Tides and hit very well while Hodges struggled in the
majors. He was brought back to the majors for September and continued
his hot hitting. With 18 hits in his first 13 games back, including
seven hits in two games, Stearns not only ousted Hodges, but even took
over the starting duties from Grote for most of the rest of the
Stearns made his Mets debut wearing number 16. For the start of the
1977 season, he and Mets center fielder
Lee Mazzilli traded uniform
numbers, and Stearns began wearing number 12. After his torrid finish
to 1976, Stearns was the starting catcher for most of 1977, with Grote
and Hodges relegated to backup and pinch-hitting duty. On August 31,
1977, the Mets traded Grote to the
Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Dodgers for two players
to be named later.
In June, Stearns posted two four-RBI games, including the only grand
slam of his career. On July 1, his average stood at .314, with a
slugging average of .554. With his good mid-season statistics and the
Mets firmly in last place in the
National League East, Stearns was
chosen as the team's sole representative to the All-Star Game,
catching the bottom of the ninth inning.
His second half was terrible, with a .125 average in August and .167
average in September. Although his final statistics were mostly at or
below the league average, they looked very good compared to the rest
of the team which lost 98 games and had the worst offense in the
majors in 1977. His 25 doubles were tops on the team and 12 home runs
tied Steve Henderson and
John Milner for the team lead. Still, the
most indellible image of Stearns for the season had to be when he
became irritated at the
Atlanta Braves mascot, Chief Noc-A-Homa, and
chased him off the field before the game.
Stearns quickly became a Mets fan favorite for his defensive back-like
hard physical play. On June 30, 1978, the Mets defeated the Pittsburgh
Pirates with Stearns tagging out
Dave Parker to end the game. Parker,
who had run over two other catchers in the previous two weeks,
suffered a broken cheekbone in the collision with Stearns. When the
Pirates in-state rivals (also the Mets' own division rivals), the
Philadelphia Phillies, next came to New York City, they thanked
Stearns for standing up to Parker.
Despite a poor average and only two RBIs in April, Stearns set career
highs in home runs, RBIs, runs and total bases in 1978. He also led
the team with a career high 25 stolen bases, and in the process broke
National League record for catchers, which had been held by Johnny
Kling since 1902. (
Pittsburgh Pirates catcher
Jason Kendall has
since set a new
National League record for catchers). The Mets were
again near the bottom of the National League, and with his slow start,
Stearns was bypassed for the All-Star team, with Pat Zachry
representing the Mets instead. The Mets finished with a National
League-worst 96 losses.
Stearns got the 1979 season started for the Mets by getting into a
bench clearing brawl in the fourth game of the season. With the
Montreal Expos at Shea on April 11, Stearns and Expos catcher Gary
Carter collided at home when Carter tried to score from first on a
throwing error by Mets pitcher Pete Falcone.
Right fielder Elliott
Maddox made a perfect throw to the plate to get Carter. Following the
play, a fight broke out when Stearns felt that Carter unnecessarily
threw an elbow at him. Both benches and bullpens emptied, and both
players were ejected from the game. The Expos won the game in
extra innings 3-2.
Stearns set career highs in games played in 1979, but at age 27, it
was his last season with 100 or more games. He also set personal highs
in at-bats, hits and doubles. Although he struggled to get above .200,
a good June resulted in selection to his second All-Star Game
(although he did not play). The Mets finished 1979 with 99 losses, and
35 games behind the division champion Pittsburgh Pirates. Between 1967
and 1993, no season was worse for the Mets. Well out of contention in
the second half, they experimented by playing Stearns at both first
base and third base, as well as in the outfield, but he finished out
the season back behind the plate.
1980 brought a new approach for Stearns, as he completely stopped
hitting for power. In fact, he went the entire season without a home
run—but his batting average started to rise. Instead of struggling
to stay around .250, his average was mostly between .300 and .320 from
early May through the end of June.
The football player in Stearns, however, was still evident. On June
12, 1980, two inebriated spectators jumped onto the playing field.
While police were unable to catch them, Stearns grew frustrated and
ran from behind the plate onto the third base side of the infield,
tackling and subduing one of them. At
Shea Stadium on July 4, 1980,
Montreal Expos Rookie
Bill Gullickson sailed a pitch over Mets first
baseman Mike Jorgensen's head in the second game of a doubleheader.
Jorgensen didn't appreciate this as he had been the victim of one of
the worst beanball injuries in baseball history the previous season
with the Texas Rangers, and motioned toward Gullickson his
disapproval. Stearns, who wasn't even in the line-up for this game,
charged out of the dugout and grabbed Gullickson from behind by the
neck. Gullickson responded by clocking Stearns in the face with 3
Stearns was selected to his third All-Star Game and even logged his
first All-Star Game at bat, grounding out in the fifth inning. A
three-hit, three-RBI game highlighted his July, but just a week later,
on July 26, a broken finger on a foul tip ended his season. He was
also on pace to hit over 40 doubles, which would have easily been his
The injury that ended his 1980 season was the first of several
injuries that would plague the rest of his career. Stearns started
1981 the same way he ended 1980: on the disabled list. After missing
the first two weeks, he was eased back with pinch-hitting duty and
play at first and third base. He finally started catching regularly
again in late May and was hitting fairly well, when the 1981 Major
Baseball strike canceled two months of the season starting in
mid-June. Play resumed in mid-August and Stearns finished with a
respectable .271 average, but his run production dropped quite a bit
from 1980 and he had only 14 extra base hits all season.
1982 appeared to be a return to Stearns's 1980 approach, as his
average was again at or above .300 for much of the first half. He was
again on pace for around 40 doubles and was even on pace for nearly 30
stolen bases. At age 30, Stearns was picked for his fourth All-Star
Game. He continued hitting well after the break, but after a month,
began suffering the effects of elbow tendinitis. He went on the
disabled list in mid-August and only made three pinch running
appearances the rest of the season.
The elbow injury that ended Stearns's 1982 season ultimately ended his
career. In 1983, he was unable to start the season and was put on the
disabled list in mid-April. Unable to throw, he played in only
four games, all as a pinch-runner. In 1984, he spent some time with
triple A Tidewater and logged only one big league game in the first
five months. He was finally well enough to play in September, but only
played sporadically. After the season, the Mets traded Hubie Brooks,
Herm Winningham and
Floyd Youmans to the Montreal
Expos for Gary Carter. Stearns became a free agent and attempted a
comeback with the Winter League's Ponce Lions, until re-injuring his
elbow. Another comeback with the Cincinnati Reds' AAA Denver
Zephyrs in 1985 was going well, until he was hit by a pitch in
mid-May. After one final attempt at a comeback with the Texas
Rangers in spring training 1986,
John Stearns retired.
Career-ending injuries did not keep Stearns away from baseball for
long. In late 1986, he was hired as a scout and minor league
instructor by the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1989, he was the New York
Yankees' bullpen coach. He was then hired by the Toronto Blue Jays
as the manager of the AA-level Knoxville Blue Jays for 1990 and 1991,
reaching the post-season in the latter season.
Stearns spent 1992 as a
Cincinnati Reds scout, and 1993 as an ESPN
broadcaster. He returned to the Reds as the manager of their
rookie-level team, the Princeton Reds, in 1994. The team won the
Appalachian League championship and Stearns was named Manager of the
Year. Afterwards, Stearns managed the
Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona
Fall League and won his second minor league championship of the year.
Stearns then spent 1996 to 1998 as a scout and first base coach in the
Baltimore Orioles organization.
In 1999, Stearns returned to the
New York Mets
New York Mets as an advance scout. He
was then made the Mets' bench coach in 2000. He was dismissed after
the season, but re-hired as the third base coach. Younger fans
witnessed Stearns's enthusiasm and excitability while he was a Mets
coach in 2000. He was wearing a microphone for Fox television when the
Mike Piazza hit a run-scoring double in Game 1 of the 2000 NLCS
against the St. Louis Cardinals. Stearns's audible reaction of "The
monster is out of the cage!" became a rallying cry for the entire
series, which the Mets won four games to one.
After two years coaching the major league Mets, Stearns was let go,
but hired as a scout for 2002. In 2003, he returned to the dugout
as Manager of the Binghamton Mets. Despite a poor record with AA
Binghamton, he was made the manager of the AAA
Norfolk Tides for 2004.
Stearns spent 2005 as a roving catching instructor for the Mets.
On January 11, 2006, Stearns cut ties with the Mets, and became a
coach in the
Washington Nationals farm system. He spent one season as
manager of their triple A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers, and spent
two seasons as manager of the Nationals' double A team, the Harrisburg
Stearns joined the Mariners as minor-league catching coordinator
(2011) then served as a professional scout in 2012. On May 2, 2013,
was named the interim manager for the Triple-A
Tacoma Rainiers after
Daren Brown replaced third-base coach
Jeff Datz at his position due to
Datz's cancer diagnosis. Stearns was named the Mariners' third base
coach for the 2014 season, but stepped down before the season began to
recover from his surgery. He was replaced by Rich Donnelly.
Stearns' fielding percentage as a catcher was .985.
^ Moss, Irv (July 9, 2007). "Old tag no longer fits: John Stearns".
The Denver Post. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
^ http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/team/coaches.jsp?c_id=sea Seattle
Mariners Coaching Staff. MLB.com.
^ a b
Associated Press (2013-05-02). "Mariners add Brown to coaching
staff". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 2013-05-02. [permanent dead
^ a b mob.com
^ "Bill Stearns Minor League player stats". Baseball-reference.com.
^ "All-Star Selected to Lead Senators". Harrisburg Senators. Retrieved
^ Mets swap Grote
^ Malone, Michael (2001-07-11). "Wishing Upon a Star". ESPN.
^ Noble, Marty (2005-06-29). "Notes: GM dismisses Cameron rumors".
^ Kaplan, Jim (September 25, 1978). "A Hard
Catcher To Nab". Sports
Illustrated. Archived from the original on January 2, 2013. Retrieved
^ Vrusho, Spike (2008-03-04). Benchclearing: Baseball's Greatest
Fights and Riots. ISBN 978-1-59921-052-0. Retrieved
1979-04-11. Check date values in: access-date= (help)
^ "Centerfield Maz". Retrieved 2009-09-16. [dead link]
^ a b Turetzky, Ken (2006-01-11). "John Stearns". BaseballLibrary.com.
Archived from the original on 2007-02-11. Retrieved 2006-07-04.
^ "Transactions". The New York Times. 1983-04-16. Retrieved
^ "Stearns Reinjures Elbow". The New York Times. 1984-11-14. Retrieved
^ "Sports World Specials; Catching Up". The New York Times.
1985-06-03. Retrieved 2006-07-06.
^ "Brewers Hire Stearns". The New York Times. 1986-11-15. Retrieved
^ "Sports People; Wrong Number". The New York Times. 1989-02-26.
John Stearns To Manage B-Mets in 2003". Eastern League. 2002-12-03.
^ "Stearns to Return As a Mets Coach". The New York Times. 2000-12-17.
^ Ringolsby, Tracy (2000-10-12). "Piazza powers Mets". The Cincinnati
Post. E. W. Scripps Company. Archived from the original on 2004-09-29.
Norfolk Tides Manager, John Stearns". Norfolk Tides. Retrieved
^ "Princeton Rays December Newsletter". West Virginia Sports on the
Net. 2005-12-20. Retrieved 2006-07-04.
Washington Nationals Press Release". Washington Nationals.
2006-12-12. Retrieved 2006-12-31.
^ Johns, Greg (March 7, 2014). "Citing recovery, Stearns resigns as
third-base coach". MLB.com. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN,
or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball
Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors), or Retrosheet, or The
Ultimate Mets Database
Baltimore Orioles first base coach
Seattle Mariners third base coach
Resigned March 7, 2014
Baseball All-America Team selections
P Eddie Bane
P Ron Roznovsky
C John Stearns
1B Jerry Tabb
2B Phil Turner
3B Keith Moreland
SS Roy Smalley
O Steve Newell
O Bobby Tucker
O Joe Wallis
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball Draft First Round Selections
Philadelphia Phillies first-round draft picks
1974: L. Smith
1984: P. Smith
1995: Taylor, Coggin
1998: Burrell, Valent
2006: Drabek, Cárdenas
2007: Savery, d'Arnaud
2008: Hewitt, Collier
2012: Watson, Gueller