The New York Mets announced Friday that four-time All-Star catcher John Stearns passed away late Thursday night at 71. Stearns had been battling cancer.
Stearns appeared in 810 games during an 11-year MLB career, 809 of those appearances coming with the Mets.
“No one played the game with more spirit or determination than John Stearns. 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,” Mets President Sandy Alderson said in a statement.
“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.”
Stearns was selected with the No. 2 overall pick of the 1973 amateur draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. He was traded to the Mets after appearing in just one game for the Phillies during the 1974 season.
He finished his career with a .260 batting average, 46 home runs, and 312 RBI’s.
Stearns made an appearance at the Mets Old Timers’ Day in late August.
“I am heartbroken,” Mets teammate Lee Mazzilli said. “John was just a joy to be around. He loved the game so much. I was amazed when he went to the batting cage on Old Timers’ Day. That just showed you how much of a competitor he was.”
Stearns would go on to become a member of the Mets coaching staff from 2000-2001.
“John was such a key part of our staff,” former Mest manager Bobby Valentine said. “He had a unique way of lighting a fire under the guys. Every time we spoke by phone, he kept telling me he was going to beat this thing. That was John Stearns to a tee.”