Friday, July 20, 2012

Great Job!

The subject line has noting at all to do with this player. He's in front of an empty seating section, and it looks like the police officer in the background can rest easy to know he's doing a great job:

Card #113 -- Jerry Grote, New York Mets

Actually, the title line would be an adequate description of Jerry Grote, as well. He was one of the best defensive backstops of his era. I've always said that catchers should get more credit than they do -- there's a reason so many of them are managers -- and he was a big part of the Mets teams that went to the World Series in 1969 and 1973. He also backed up three World Series-bound Dodgers teams late in his career.

When Grote came up to the big leagues, he was with the other "new" team of 1962, the Houston Colt 45s. After taking over behind the plate for the team in 1964, he went back to the minors for '65 and then was traded to the Mets during the offseason. He immediately took his place in Shea, and became the director of pitches for a talented young staff that would soon include Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman and Tug McGraw.

Known for his habit of rolling the ball back to the far side of the mound when a strikeout ended the inning so the opposing pitcher would have to walk a few extra steps, Grote was a competitive player who helped to get the team out of its "lovable loser" routine after showing up. His presence was a big factor in 1969, when the team rallied to win the World Series against the heavily favored Orioles. He played every inning of that Series and his pitch-calling helped hold the O's to a .146 batting average.

Injuries began to slow Grote down and limit his time in 1972-'74, and then Duffy Dyer and John Stearns began to take over. In 1977, Grote was dealt to the Dodgers, where he was a backup to Steve Yeager on two straight pennant-winning clubs. Though he retired after the 1978 season, he was enticed by the Royals to return in 1981. He split that season with the Royals and the Dodgers before retiring for good.

After his retirement, Grote spent a few seasons managing in the minors, and also raised cattle on his Texas farm. He's also a color commentator for his local minor league team.

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