THE 6TH BEST TRADE IN METS HISTORY: The Day the Mets Got Serious

 

THE 6th BEST TRADE IN METS HISTORY

* October 19, 1965: New York Mets trade Tom Parsons and cash to the Houston Astros for Jerry Grote.

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Jimmy:

It’s a cliche, but in this case, so true: The back of the baseball card can’t begin to express it. If there was ever a Met who you had to see play to fully appreciate, it was Jerry Grote. Texas tough and as serious as a heart attack, Grote played with an intensity and ferocity that intimidated opponents and teammates alike. Jerry Koosman once said of him: “If you looked up red-ass the dictionary, his picture would be in there. Jerry was the guy you wanted on your side, because he’d fight you tooth and nail ‘til death to win a ball game.”

Maybe Grote's most famous catch. Koosman was no small boy.

Maybe Grote’s most famous catch. Koosman was no small boy.

Mike:

With Grote it was all about intangibles. As you say, it is not as if Jerry put up monster numbers. Because of this and the fact that he played so long ago, I was mildly surprised how many of our readers voted for this trade. Surprised and pleased, as they got it right. This was a fantastic deal.

Jimmy:

One factor that makes this trade one of the best in Mets history is that it was such a steal. In our conversations so far, we’ve looked at trades where there has been real, calculated sacrifice. The Mets got 12 seasons of Jerry Grote for Tom Parsons.

Pitcher Tom Parsons went 1-10 for the 1965 Mets, and retired with career record of 2-13. The good news: You can still buy this vintage photograph on eBay for $27.95!

Pitcher Tom Parsons went 1-10 for the 1965 Mets, and retired with career record of 2-13. The good news: You can still buy this vintage photograph on eBay for $27.95!

Mike:

Tom_Collins-4Yes, but Parsons did have a nice summer drink named after him. Very refreshing.

Jimmy:

Um, I’m wondering if you had a few! Jerry Grote was always getting injured. It surprised me to look at his numbers to discover that he only reached 400 ABs three times in his 16-year career, and just barely (404 in 1968; 415 in ’70; 403 in ’71).

I have vivid memories of watching the Mets with my mother when I was a 8, 10, 12 years old. Grote would invariably take a foul ball to the neck, a bat to the shoulder, and down he’d go. The trainers would come out and my mother would say, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, here we go again.”

Mike:

Wow, I wish we had those trainers now, because Ray Ramirez can’t keep anyone on the field.

Jerry GroteI remember Grote didn’t have a helmet on when he caught, only a facemask. That explains a lot. He was always giving his body up too. Jerry was involved in plenty of collisions at home plate. Grote was not the swiping tag type of guy. It was like he dared guys to hit him. I also can still see him diving into the stands at Shea to catch a pop-up.

Jimmy:

Another image I have of Grote is that he was surly, hot-tempered. When he wasn’t happy with the way a pitcher was throwing, Grote would gun the ball back to the mound faster than it came in. I have to believe those young pitchers didn’t want to make Jerry mad. If they dared shake him off, Grote would let them hear about it. Remembered Jon Matlack: “When I came up I was scared to death of him. If you bounced a curveball in the dirt, he’d get mad. I worried about him more than the hitter.”

Mike:

Yes, there was never a doubt who was calling the game. That is another image I have of Grote, of a guy in charge of that pitching staff. Grote was a guy who was integral to two of our greatest teams in history, the 1969 and 1973 squads. Those teams did not win because of the offense.

L-R: Dick Selma, Jerry Koosman, Jerry Grote, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver. It's not an accident that Grote was the man in the middle.

L-R: Dick Selma, Jerry Koosman, Jerry Grote, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver. It’s not an accident that Grote was the man in the middle.

But defensively there was more. There was his arm. Grote had a fabulous throwing arm, the best one I have ever seen. How good was it? From 1966 to 1968 he threw out 44% of base stealers. Jerry was such a great defensive catcher that Johnny Bench, known for a cannon arm, once said,

“If Jerry Grote were a Cincinnati Red, I would have been a third baseman.”

Jimmy:

Here’s a nice clip of Grote behind the plate. Look at him back up first base on a grounder to short; I think he almost beat the hitter.

 

 

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9 comments

  1. When I was a kid, Grote was always one of my favorite Mets, though I guess I had a lot of favorite Mets in those days.

  2. William, for some reason, I am always thwarted when I try to comment on your site. Obviously, I’m some kind of idiot. Loved your recent Sandy speak piece. Hilarious and inventive.

    Reading up on Grote, I found a guy who claimed that when the inning ended with a strike out, Grote would always roll the ball to the Mets side of the dugout — just to make the opposing pitcher have to walk farther for the ball. I don’t have that memory, so didn’t include it here, but it sounds exactly like something Grote would have done.

  3. Dave says:

    I did not rank the Grote trade in my top ten, but this post has me feeling nostalgic on a cold December afternoon. I attended my first Mets game with my father and brother on June 30, 1971 (about a week after the date of the SI issue with Grote on the cover). I was 8 years old. My father, who was not a big baseball fan, was offered tickets by someone he worked with at Grumman Aerospace. It was the first week of summer, so my father agreed to take us to the Wednesday game. As it turned out, the seats were about 10 rows up from the 3rd base dugout. It was a close to perfect first game experience. The Mets won 4-0 to close within two games of the 1st place Pirates. My memories are somewhat impressionistic but I remember Nolan Ryan pitching ( per baseball almanac-7 scoreless innings with 9 Ks). I also remember Kranepool hitting a HR. Jerry Grote caught the game, and I clearly recall him diving into the Pirates dugout in an effort to catch a foul ball. This left an impression on me, even though Grote came out of the dugout empty handed. He was a scrapper and a grinder in the best sense of those words.

    The June ’71 SI cover with Grote reads “Struggle at the Top”. With the 4-0 win on June 30th, the Mets were 45-29 that year. Notably, there were over 50,000 in attendance for that Wednesday game. As it turned out, the game I went to was the high water mark of the 1971 season…by mid-August the Mets were below .500 and finished 14 games back of the World Series bound Pirates. Nevertheless, the SI cover speaks to the fact that the Mets were relevant in those years (and were the “A Team” in New York), even if they ended up a mediocre 83-79. I think what we all hope for in 2014-15 is relevance in Flushing, where a mid-week game in June brings a capacity crowd (and maybe a new crop of 8 year olds attending their first game). Championships may be several years in the making, but relevance can’t wait.

  4. RAFF says:

    Let’s not forget- two years after that, in 1973, they won their division with an 82-79 record. That was definitely RELEVANT. I always feel that once a team gets to playing reliable “.500″ baseball – there’s always a SHOT at getting hot at the end, by discovering a young talent, finding a player in mid-season, or just getting into the playoffs with a little streak. I think that there are pieces coming together. The Mets need to find or discover a couple more pieces- and the Pitching Promise needs to reveal itself further as Pitching Prowess. Their Free Agents need to deliver. A good start to reclaiming relevance- D’arnaud at catcher. I don’t think we can project him as Grote, defensively, or Carter or Piazza, offensively. But we have to hope he becomes a GOOD Major League Catcher. Maybe a little better than good- But GOOD will do. .

  5. IB says:

    Loved Grote. Who didn’t? Quick story from my famous memoirs. ’68, Grote is out there signing autographs. Me and my pal, Lanny, are clarmoring for his attention. Lanny is over the top loud and obnoxious. Grote finally says, “Allright kid, I heard ya, I heard ya. Jeez!” I can see Lanny trying to hold back the tears.
    Poor kid. BTW – Up close, Grote was one of the toughest looking dudes I ever saw and we were inner city kids.

  6. RAFF says:

    As a 9-14 year olds- Me and my twin brother were Mets Nuts- Watching the Mets on our black and white TV. We were Gigantic Jerry Grote Fans. In the sports we played, we fashioned ourselves as scrappy, tough, heady ballplayers- And, to us, Jerry Grote was a shining example of a guy who got more out of his talent than God Gave him, if that makes sense. We continued to root for him after he left. He was a key role player for the Dodgers- and I still remember watching him with my brother in one of his Dodger Stints— Late in his career- Still a FACTOR behind the dish- Pouncing on a bunt and throwing a runner out at first. Interestingly- His Career WAR, for all you Sabermetrics Fans- Grote was only 12.4 (Cumulatively, for 16 seasons). I don’t buy it. http://www.baseballprojection.com/war/g/grotj101.htm

  7. Eraff says:

    Speak for yourself—YOU were Scrappy. I was an Incredible Talent. Ruined, BTW, by a bad Hitting Coach.

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