Former MLB All-Star John Stearns, catcher for the Mets, dead from cancer at age 71

A beloved former Major League Baseball All-Star, New York Mets catcher John Stearns, reportedly passed away on Thursday, according to Fox News.

Stearns, who played for 10 seasons in the 1970s-80s, was 71 years old when he succumbed to cancer following a long bout with the disease.

Among the “most complete catchers in Mets history”

Stearns’ death was first announced by the Mets Insider Blog, which noted that he had died at his home in Denver, Colorado, and was survived by his son as well as two brothers and a sister.

“No one played the game with more spirit or determination than John Stearns,” Mets President Sandy Alderson said in a statement. “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,” Alderson added. “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.”

All-star career as a catcher, later served as coach and scout

According to ESPN, Stearns had played both baseball and football at the University of Colorado and was drafted to play both sports on the professional level, first as a defensive back for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills in 1973, which he declined, and then as a catcher for the MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies, which he accepted.

Stearns actually only played in one game for the Phillies in 1974 before he was traded to the Mets, where he played more than 800 games between 1975-1984 and was named to the National League’s All-Star teams in ’77, ’79, ’80, and ’82.

Once his playing days were over, however, Stearns didn’t fully leave the game and instead filled a variety of different staff roles on several different franchises before finally hanging up his cleats for good.

That included serving as a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers, as a pitching coach for the New York Yankees, as a minor league manager for the Toronto Blue Jays organization, as a coach and scout for the Baltimore Orioles, and finally as a coach with his old Mets squad in the 2000 and ’01 seasons.

Beloved by former managers and teammates

“John was such a key part of our staff. He had a unique way of lighting a fire under the guys,” Bobby Valentine, who managed the Mets while Stearns was a coach, said in a statement, according to the Mets blog. “Every time we spoke by phone, he kept telling me he was going to beat this thing. That was John Stearns to a tee.”

Joe Torre, who was once a teammate of Stearns who also later managed him, told the blog of his late friend, “I’m so glad we had a chance to talk 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.”