Former New York Mets catcher John Stearns, a four-time MLB All-Star, died Thursday at the age of 71.
Stearns played for the Mets from 1975 through 1984 after starting his career with one season as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1974. He later served as a coach for the Mets, New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.
The Colorado native was a 13th-round pick of the Oakland Athletics in the 1969 MLB draft. He instead honored his commitment to the University of Colorado, where he was a standout two-sport athlete for the Buffaloes' football and baseball teams.
In 1973, Stearns was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the NFL draft and the Phillies in the MLB draft before opting to pursue a baseball career.
His peak came when he earned four All-Star selections in a six-year period with the Mets from 1977 through 1982. He ranked eighth among all catchers with a 17.4 WAR over that stretch, per FanGraphs.
"No one played the game with more spirit or determination than John Stearns," Mets president Sandy Alderson said. "He literally willed himself to attend Old Timers' Day last month so he could visit friends and old teammates. Despite his illness, he even managed to step into the batting cage to take a few swings. His nickname, 'Bad Dude,' couldn't have been more appropriate. A four-time All Star, John was one of the most complete catchers in Mets history. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family."
Along with his stints as a major league coach following his on-field career, he also spent time filling various executive, scouting and minor league roles with the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals.
Stearns, who earned the nickname "Bad Dude" for his hard-nosed style of play, confirmed to Sean Keeler of the Denver Post in July he'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer in January and then suffered a broken hip in April.
While he attributed his later-life health issues to his athletic career, mostly football, he said that doesn't change his perspective on his journey.
"I wouldn't change anything," Stearns told Keeler. "I mean, I've made mistakes along the way [that] anybody would want to change. But I wouldn't change anything. I'd still go to CU. I'd still want to play for [coach] Donnie Day at Thomas Jefferson [High School]. And before that, play in Little League with my dad as the coach and the way he kicked our butts and made us what we are today ... looking back on everything, I wouldn't change anything that happened. It just all came together."
Stearns finished his MLB career with a .260 batting average, 46 home runs and 91 stolen bases in 810 appearances across 11 seasons.