|The Mets posted this tribute on social media Friday morning. @Mets.|
Mets legend John Stearns, who was at Old Timers Day a few weeks ago, passed away on Thursday night in Denver, Colorado, after a long battle with cancer at the age of 71.
Stearns played for the Mets from 1975 to 1984, earning four All-Star selections as he was a leader of the team when they were between the Amazin' Mets and Keith Hernandez/Gary Carter era Mets.
Doug Flynn, an infielder who was Stearns' teammate, summed him up perfectly, "I saw John hit his first major league home run. He was a great teammate, great competitor and later became a dear friend."
To younger Mets fans, Stearns is remembered as a coach in 2000, when the team won the National League pennant, and 2001. A boisterous presence in the dugout, he was mic'd up during the 2000 playoff run, and was known for saying of Mike Piazza after big hits, "the monster's out of the cage!"
Stearns is survived by his son, Justin, brothers Richard and William, and his sister, Carla.
"No one played the game with more spirit or determination than John Stearns," Mets President Sandy Alderson said in a statement, one of many released by the club. "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. 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."
Joe Torre, who was Mets manager in Stears' early years with the team, said, "I'm so glad we had a chance to take at Citi Field a few weeks ago. No one played the game harder than John. He never came to the park in a bad mood. All he wanted to do was win. To be a four-time All-Star is something special."
Lee Mazzilli, who was a teammate of Stearns, said, "I am heartbroken. 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."
Bobby Valentine, who was Manager of the Mets when Stearns was a coach, said, "John was such a key part of our staff. 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."
John Franco, who was a Mets relief pitcher on those teams, said, "John loved the game. As a coach, he always had your back. I saw how sick he was at Old Timers' Day and I think he was holding on just to get back to the ballpark and see some of the guys one more time."