Career Numbers as a Met
Batting Average: .256
Home Runs: 35
Runs Scored: 314
Slugging Percentage: .329
Best Individual Season: 1969 (.252 average, 6 home runs, 40 RBI, .313 OBP, .351 slugging percentage)
The first of many great catchers in Mets history, Jerry Grote anchored both one of the best defensive teams in his era and one of the best pitching staffs in baseball history. He was also one of the best defensive catchers and had one of the best arms behind the plate throughout the league. A two-time All-Star and Mets fan favorite, Grote was the originator of what has become one of the team's most productive positions throughout its history.
After spending his first two professional seasons in 1963 and 1964 with the Astros, Grote spent all of 1965 in the minor leagues, and was traded to the Mets at the end of the season. This turned out to be one of the best trades in Mets history.
Grote was never a strong hitter, but then-manager Wes Westrum always liked his defensive skills, which immediately paid dividends as the Mets' pitching staff ultimately became one of the strongest in the league.
At the plate, though, Grote batted .237 in 1966 with just three home runs and 31 RBI. His 1967 numbers included a low .195 average, four home runs and 23 RBI. The Mets struggled those two seasons, but the team, along with Grote's hitting got better with time.
Grote made his first All-Star team in 1968, mostly thanks to him anchoring a staff that included Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Ron Taylor and Tug McGraw. He also raised his average to .282, with three home runs and 31 RBI.
1969 was an even better season for Grote, and not just because the Mets won their first World Series that fall. Despite his batting average falling 30 points to .252, Grote set career highs with six home runs and 40 RBI. Compared to other catchers on this list, these numbers weren't necessarily much, but Grote's defense and leadership certainly made up for the lack of offense. He caught every inning of the postseason.
In 1970, Grote again anchored a strong pitching staff, but despite batting .255, he finished with just two home runs and 34 RBI. Grote's 1971 season was quite similar with a .270 average, two home runs and 35 RBI.
Grote did not play much in 1972 due to injuries that eventually required bone chips to be removed from his elbow. However, in just 64 games, Grote did hit three home runs and 21 RBI, despite a .210 average.
Grote's injuries continued in 1973 when he was forced to miss two months due to a broken arm he suffered after getting hit by a pitch. When Grote returned, the Mets had started winning and eventually went to the playoffs, despite a record barely above .500.
Grote's offense that year was not particularly good ,as he batted .256 with only one home run and 12 RBI. However, he once again caught every inning of the postseason, even though the Mets this time failed to win the World Series.
Grote made his second and final All-Star appearance in 1974, thanks to a good first half. However, in the second half, he was banged up and split time with backup Duffy Dyer. He finished the year with a .257 average, five home runs and 36 RBI.
Grote had a strong bounceback year in 1975. He batted a career high .295, but finished with just two home runs and 39 RBI. He also led National League catchers with a .995 fielding percentage.
Grote's last full season with the Mets was in 1976. His numbers weren't bad, as he batted .272 with four home runs and 28 RBI. However, thanks to the infamous Tug McGraw trade, the Mets had a young catcher named John Stearns on the bench, and the Mets wanted him to get more playing time. Grote at that point was starting to age and his injuries were certainly taking a toll.
Back injuries in 1977 plagued Grote's Mets career and he appeared in just 42 games with 115 at-bats before getting traded to the Dodgers at the end of August for two minor leaguers that never appeared in a major league game with the Mets. By then, Stearns had been starting for most of the season and Grote became expendable.
Grote spent the last month of 1977, as well as 1978 with the Dodgers as a veteran backup before retiring. However, in 1981, the Royals were able to lure him out of retirement due to a shortage of catchers. He spent most of the season in Kansas City, and the remainder in his second stint with the Dodgers before retiring for good.
As a Met, Grote's offensive numbers were not particularly strong. Over 12 seasons, he batted .256 and finished with just 35 home runs and 357 RBI. However, he has caught more games as a Met than anyone else, and by a long shot.
Had it not been for the popularity of Johnny Bench, Grote probably would have won at least a few National League Gold Gloves. Bench, who won the award 10 consecutive years from 1968-1977 later admitted that Grote's defense was so good that if both were on the same team, Bench would have to play third base, which goes to show how good, yet underrated Grote's defense was.
Grote was later inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame in 1992, becoming the first Mets catcher to receive the honor. More recently, he makes occasional appearances at Citi Field and remains a fan favorite even today.
Jerry Grote may not have had the overall reputation that Johnny Bench, for example had as a catcher. However, Mets fans will always think highly of Grote's career and how the position has been a strength for the Mets ever since his playing days.