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John Stearns, ex-Mets All-Star and coach, dies at 71

Former New York Mets catcher John Stearns, who died Thursday, participated in Old Timer's Day on Aug. 27, at Citi Field in Queens, N.Y. Photo courtesy of the New York Mets
Former New York Mets catcher John Stearns, who died Thursday, participated in Old Timer's Day on Aug. 27, at Citi Field in Queens, N.Y. Photo courtesy of the New York Mets

Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Longtime New York Mets catcher and coach John Stearns, who earned four All-Star selections while with the team from 1975 to 1984, died after a long battle with cancer, the team announced Friday. He was 71.

The Mets said Stearns died Thursday night in Denver. He is survived by his son, Justin.

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"No one played the game with more spirit or determination than John Stearns," Mets president Sandy Alderson said in a news release.

"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.

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"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."

Stearns entered the league with the Philadelphia Phillies as the No. 2 overall pick in the 1973 MLB Draft. The Phillies traded Stearns to the Mets in 1974.

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Stearns hit .251 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs in 139 games in 1977, en route to his first All-Star selection. He also made the All-Star team in 1979, 1980 and 1982. Stearns hit a career-high 29.3 with four home runs and 28 RBIs in 98 games in 1982. He played his final season in 1984.

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Stearns hit .260 with 46 homers and 312 RBIs in 810 games over his 11-year MLB career. He went on to serve as a coach in 2000 and 2001.

"I'm so glad we had a chance to talk at Citi Field a few weeks ago," Joe Torre, one of Stearns' former teammates, said. "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."

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