It's a Miracle! News finally catches up with Jerry Grote, the hard-to-find catcher from the '69 Mets
Added 03-15-19 01:13:01pm EST - “The Texas twang on the other side of the phone line was unmistakingly Jerry Grote's, even if the former Mets catcher himself has not been heard from in more than 30 years.” - Nydailynews.com
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CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Texas twang on the other side of the phone line was unmistakingly Jerry Grote’s, even if the former Mets catcher himself has not been heard from in more than 30 years.
I did not ask him what he’s been doing all these years or why it’s been so hard for anyone from his “former life” to get a hold of him because, as he said, “I’m here now, what do you want to know?” And there was a lot I wanted to know in regard to his memories from the Mets’ miracle 1969 season, of which he was so big a part, and his thoughts about Tom Seaver, who once called him the best catcher he’d ever had, including Hall-of-Famers Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk.
“I heard the news about Tom,” Grote said from his home in Belton, Texas, of the statement from the Seaver family revealing the Mets’ “Franchise” pitcher was suffering from dementia. “I kinda knew it was coming. We’d all heard he was struggling. It’s still hard to believe. I don’t know if I ever knew a smarter player. I’d already had two years in the big leagues when Tom came up in 1967, and I felt I had established myself as a pretty good catcher. With Houston in ’64, Bob Bruce had the best season of his career (15-9, 2.76 ERA) and he gave me a lot of the credit for that.
“But Tom was something else. Even though he was a rookie, he was so far ahead of the hitters (mentally) it was unbelievable. It took me a long while to catch up with him. I’d put down the signs, knowing he was gonna shake me off and we’d just laugh.”
During the course of the 1969 season, Grote caught all of Seaver’s significant games – the 5-0 shutout over Atlanta and Phil Niekro on May 21 that brought the Mets to .500 (18-18) the latest in their history; the 5-2 win over the Dodgers on June 3 that put them over .500 for the first time in their history; the 14 strikeout game on June 8 versus the Padres and seven of the eight complete games with which Seaver finished the season.
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