Tuesday, July 14, 2009

1976 Topps #143 - Jerry Grote

  • This is a pretty good action shot of Jerry Grote. He's wearing a mask, but most of his face can be seen.
  • Jerry Grote played for four teams (mostly the New York Mets) from 1963-1981. He didn't play in 1979 and 1980. Jerry made his debut as a September call-up for the Houston Colt .45s in September 1963. He only played in three games in 1963, but he played in 100 games the following season. Jerry batted .198 in 298 at bats and was sent back down to AAA for the 1965 season.
  • After the 1965 season Jerry was traded to the New York Mets for Tom Parsons and cash. He caught in 115 games in 1965 and played in 120 total games. Jerry batted .237 with little power. Grote caught in 119 games in 1966 but slipped to a .195 average. Manager Wes Westrum said, "If he ever learns to control himself, he might become the best catcher in baseball."
  • The 1968 season was a good one for Jerry. He made his first All Star team and batted .282 in 404 at bats. Since 1968 was such a pitcher's year, that .282 mark was especially good. Grote had another solid year for the 1969 world champions, batting .252 and handling the pitching staff well.
  • Jerry had similar seasons in 197o and 1971, but in 1972 his playing time begain to decrease. He caught in only 59 games in 1972. He must have been hurt, but I can't find anything about it. There are two-week gaps in June and August (probably trips to the DL) and he only played in 4 games in September.
  • Jerry missed two months of the 1973 season (May 11-July 11), but he hardly missed a game in August and September as the Mets returned to the playoffs and almost won another World Championship. Grote was named to his second (and last) NL All Star team in 1974. Jerry had a good year in 1975 as he batted .295 and caught in 111 games. Grote batted .272 in 1976 and caught in 95 games.
  • Grote started the 1977 season with the Mets and played in 42 games. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent two minor leaguers to the Mets on August 31 to acquire Jerry for the stretch drive. Grote caught in 16 games for the Dodgers and appeared in the NLCS and the World Series.
  • Jerry got into only 41 games for the Dodgers in 1978 and did not appear in the postseason. He became a free agent at the end of the season and retired. In 1981 the Kansas City Royals needed some catching help and lured Grote out of retirement. He batted .304 in 22 games before being released on September 1. He signed with the Dodgers on September 8 but played in only one game and didn't appear in the postseason. Jerry was released by the Dodgers after the season.
  • Grote did some managing and coaching in the minor leagues. In 1985, at the age of 42, he appeared in one game for Detroit's AA Birmingham club. Baseball Reference lists him as manager of both AA Birmingham and Class A Lakeland in 1985, but the Birmingham listing is probably correct.
  • After retirement Jerry raised prize Texas Longhorns at his ranch near Austin. He also has a web page which has contact information and instructions on how to get things signed TTM.
Joe Torre, on catchers: "Most people don't understand catchers. For example, Jerry Grote is a catcher who hits. Johnny Bench is a hitter who catches. There is a big difference." (August 1975)
Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench once said of Grote, "If Grote and I were on the same team, I would be playing first base."

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