Sports

Jerry Grote, World Series-champion catcher with the Mets, dead at 81

Jerry Grote, a two-time All-Star catcher who won a World Series with the New York Mets, died on Sunday at a hospital in Texas, a team spokesman said. He was 81.

Grote was a part of the 1969 Miracle Mets that stunned Major League Baseball to sweep the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series and then defeat the Frank Robinson-led Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

Jerry Grote in Mets spring training

New York Mets catcher Jerry Grote is seen at spring training camp in St. Petersburg, Florida, in March 1977. (AP Photo/Harry Harris, File)

Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said Grote suffered from heart issues and died at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin. He was set for a procedure and died of respiratory failure during the operation, Horwitz said.

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

“Known as the best defensive catcher in franchise history, he was a two-time All-Star who played 12 seasons in Flushing. We are grateful that Jerry was able to reunite with his teammates one last time during the 1969 World Series reunion at Citi Field in 2019. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Cheryl, family and friends.”

Jerry Grote in the World Series

Jerry Grote, left, and Gary Gentry, #39, meet on the field during Game 3 of the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles at Shea Stadium on Oct. 14, 1969 in Flushing, New York. (Focus on Sport via Getty Images)

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Grote played for the Houston Colt .45s to start his career before he was traded to the Mets in 1965. He played more than 11 years with New York before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He last played in 1981 for the Dodgers and the Kansas City Royals.

“He was the reason for my success,” Grote’s former teammate Jerry Koosman said. “I have the photo in my home of me jumping into his arms after we won in 1969. I am heartbroken. No one was better behind the plate. He really controlled the game.”

Ed Kranepool added, “He was the best defensive catcher in the NL when he played. Johnny Bench once told me ‘If he was on the Reds, I would be playing third base.”

Jerry Grote celebrates

In this Oct. 16, 1969 file photo, New York Mets catcher Jerry Grote, right, embraces pitcher Jerry Koosman as Ed Charles, left, joins the celebration after the Mets defeated the Baltimore Orioles in Game 5 to win the baseball World Series at New York’s Shea Stadium. (AP Photo, File)

Grote was a lifetime .252 hitter in 16 years in the majors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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