Many who read this site might look back on the Mets and think Mike Piazza and Gary Carter are the paradigm for catchers. Both were outstanding; one in the Hall of Fame, and the other to be enshrined in five years. Both are well deserving. Believe it or not, considering how great these players were, they weren't even the greatest catcher to don the armour for the Mets. That distinct title goes to none other than Jerry Grote.
Now Grote wasn't the best hitting catcher the Mets ever had, his lifetime Avg. is .252, he hit a whopping 39 HR's, and drove in a staggering 404 runs over a 16 year career, 11 of which were with the Mets.
What was Grote? The greatest fielding catcher I have ever seen. This includes Johnny Bench, who was quoted as saying if Grote was with the Reds, "I would be playing third base."
His lifetime fielding percentage is .991, and caught an incredible 350 of a potential 929 base stealers. That is an incredible 37.67% caught stealing percentage. Just ask Lou Brock how difficult it was to steal off Grote.More importantly, he is my favorite ball player of all time. I started catching because of Grote, and had the pleasure of playing ball until I was 19 or 20... as a catcher. I was so enamored of Grote, I never, in 12 years of playing organized ball, wore the number 15. I was not worthy. The excitement I got out of watching him run the game, was indescribable. Even sitting here writing this, I feel like I did the first time I saw him play live on June 1, 1975. Although he did commit an error that game, he did hit a line drive single to LF. It was the best present I could ever ask for. Jerry Grote was so special to me as a young boy growing up, and I remember when he was traded to the Dodgers in 1977, it crushed me. The biggest thrill I got was when I wrote him a letter, and he signed and returned the 1973 baseball card I sent him, which I still have to this day.
Thank you Jerry Grote, for showing a young boy the beauty of the game and the position of catcher. Thirty three years after being a patron at the park for the first time, I still remember the thrill of seeing my idol play.