Sunday, June 24, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1977

Part 16 of our 50-year quest for Supremacy of New York...
What is it: 1977 Topps #119, John Stearns

What makes it interesting: Not the card design, that's for sure. Some in the know seem to really like the design of the '77s. but I've never been much of a fan.

With the trade of Tom Seaver in '77, the Mets were clearly in a state of flux, and one of the team's darkest eras was ushered in. But through the years of losing, John "The Dude" Stearns was always a bright spot. Originally drafted #2 overall by the Phillies, Stearns came to the Mets in the Tug McGraw deal and eventually made the Majors before the '75 season. Although Stearns was never an offensive standout, he was always a solid line-drive hitter with great speed for a Catcher. His 25 steals in 1978 were, at the time, a record for Catchers. Stearns was a 4-time All-Star, in 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1982, and always was a fan favorite. Stearns consistently showed a deep fire and passion for the game, even when things were hopeless, which was often during his time here. Also known as a fine Defensive Back when he played College Football, Stearns often brought his gridiron intensity to the baseball diamond. He got into his share of fistfights, taking on, among others, Gary Carter, Dave Parker, Bill Gullickson and, most famously, Atlanta Braves Mascot Chief Nok-A-Homa.

Unfortunately, just as the Mets lean years were coming to an end, injuries caught up with Stearns. His fine 1980 season was derailed by a broken finger, and two years later, elbow tendonitis would ultimately derail his career. Unable to throw, he appeared in only 4 games as a Pinch Runner in 1983, and by 1984 had been surpassed on the depth chart by up-and-comer Mike Fitzgerald, and, after that, newly acquired Gary Carter.

Younger Mets fans will, of course, remember that Stearns remained active in the Mets organization. He was brought aboard as a scout in 1999, and by 2000 was named the Mets bench coach. Here, he produced one more memorable moment during the 2000 NLCS. Following a 1st Game, 1st Inning double from Mike Piazza, Stearns, who was wearing a microphone for the game, was heard screaming "HE'S OUT OF THE CAGE! HE'S OUT OF THE CAGE! THE MONSTER IS OUT OF THE CAGE! LET'S GO! THE MONSTER IS OUT OF THE CAGE!" This instantly caught on and became a rallying cry for the team as they wiped out the Cardinals in 5 games.

Card Back:

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