John Stearns, Feisty Met Catcher for a Decade, Is Dead at 71

Despite being frequently injured, he was named to the All-Star team four times. He could hit, field and — unlike most catchers — steal bases.

John Stearns of the Mets in action against the Chicago Cubs in 1978. “No one played the game with more spirit or determination than John Stearns,” the Mets’ president, Sandy Alderson, said.
John Stearns of the Mets in action against the Chicago Cubs in 1978. “No one played the game with more spirit or determination than John Stearns,” the Mets’ president, Sandy Alderson, said.Credit…Larry Stoddard/Associated Press

John Stearns, a combative four-time time All-Star catcher with the Mets, died on Thursday in Denver. He was 71.

The Mets announced the death, which they said came after a long bout with cancer.

Stearns, who was with the Mets from 1975 to 1984, died less than three weeks after attending Old-Timers’ Day at Citi Field in Queens. The event was held to acknowledge the Mets’ 60th anniversary.

“No one played the game with more spirit or determination than John Stearns,” the 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.”

John Hardin Stearns was born on Aug. 21, 1951, in Denver. He played both baseball and football at the University of Colorado and was a late draft pick as a defensive back by the Buffalo Bills of the N.F.L. in 1973. The Philadelphia Phillies took him second overall that same year, and he opted to play baseball.