Jerry Grote, Star Mets Catcher on 1969 Championship Team, Dies at 81

Jerry Grote, who was among the National League’s leading catchers of his time and guided the pitching staff that propelled the New York Mets to their astonishing 1969 World Series championship, died on Sunday in Austin, Texas. He was 81.

Jay Horwitz, the Mets’ vice president of media relations, said early Monday that Grote had died of respiratory failure on Sunday afternoon after a heart procedure at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute.

Grote, who played for the Mets for more than a decade, was known for targeting would-be base stealers with his powerful arm, and for his savvy in calling pitches.

In 1969, he caught the future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver and the outstanding left-hander Jerry Koosman when the Mets staged a late-season drive and defeated the Baltimore Orioles in a five-game World Series. That championship was a remarkable turnaround for a team that had finished at or near the bottom of the National League for years after its founding in 1962.

An enduring image of the Mets’ triumphal moment shows Koosman leaping into Grote’s arms on the Shea Stadium mound seconds after left fielder Cleon Jones caught a fly ball for the Series’ final out.

The New York Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman jumps into the arms of catcher Jerry Grote, right, after the team’s World Series victory in October 1969.Credit…Associated Press
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