John Hardin Stearns
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 185 lb.
- School University of Colorado
- High School Thomas Jefferson High School
- Debut September 22, 1974
- Final Game September 30, 1984
- Born August 21, 1951 in Denver, CO USA
- Died September 15, 2022 in Denver, CO USA
Drafted in the 13th round of the 1969 amateur draft by the Oakland A's, John Stearns did not sign and attended the University of Colorado. In 1972, John hit .352, second in the Basin League in Summer Collegiate Baseball. After starring in baseball and football at Colorado, Stearns was drafted by the NFL's Buffalo Bills as a defensive back and was the second overall pick of the 1973 amateur draft, taken by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Immediately sent to Double A, Stearns had 7 passed balls in 31 games behind the plate and hit .241/~.406/.386, showing excellent plate discipline (46 bases on balls in 207 plate appearances). He also played first base, third base and the outfield. In 1974, John batted .343/~.447/.500 for the Rocky Mount Phillies and .266/~.336/.345 for the Toledo Mud Hens. Stearns joined Gary Carter as one of the International League All-Star catchers after the year, then was promoted to the Phillies, where he went 1 for 2. That offseason, he was dealt to the New York Mets as part of a six-player deal in which Stearns and Tug McGraw were the primary objects, as Bob Boone held down the Philadelphia catching job.
In 1975 with the Mets, Stearns struggled (.189/.268/.284) as the backup to Jerry Grote. After a 1-for-11 start in 1976, he was demoted to the Tidewater Tides and tore up the IL. He hit .310/~.438/.464, was 10th in the league in average, third in OBP and drew 71 walks. A catcher and a third baseman, he again made the IL All-Star team at catcher. Returning to the Mets as a September call-up, he became the everyday catcher for the final weeks of the season and finished the year with a respectable .262/.364/.379 line (117 OPS+).
Replacing Grote as the starter, he did a fine job for the Mets in 1977, making the All-Star team and batting .251/.370/.397 with 77 walks and a 111 OPS+. In 1978, Stearns hit .264/.364/.413 with 15 home runs, 73 RBI and a career-high 121 OPS+. He stole 25 bases, a modern National League record for catchers (broken two decades later by Jason Kendall), but was also caught 13 times. Making the All-Star team again the next year, John had a 85 OPS+ (.243/.312/.355) and was gunned down in 15 of 30 tries.
By 1980, Stearns was a part-timer due to injuries but still hit .285/.346/.370 (103 OPS+) and made his third All-Star team. In 1981, he hit .271/.329/.333. He was an All-Star for a fourth and final time in 1982 and produced a 115 OPS+ at .293/.349/.415 with 17 steals in 24 tries. Stearns only played 4 games for the Mets in 1983 and did not bat, then finished his MLB career at 3 for 17 in 1984, hitting .250 in limited time back in Tidewater. Becoming a free agent, he signed with the Cincinnati Reds and was a 1B-DH for their Denver Bears farm team in 1985, hitting .264/~.369/.362 in 72 games. Overall, Stearns hit .260/.341/.375 (102 OPS+) in the majors.
After retiring as a player, Stearns was a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1987, minor league catching instructor for Houston Astros in 1988, and bullpen coach for the New York Yankees in 1989. He managed the Knoxville Blue Jays to identical 67-77 records in 1990 and 1991, worked as an analyst for ESPN in 1992, and scouted for the Cincinnati Reds in 1993-1994. In 1994, he guided the Princeton Reds to a 41-25 finish. In 1996, Stearns was the first base coach with the Baltimore Orioles, a position he served in until 1997.
In 2003, Stearns became manager of the Binghamton Mets and they finished 63-78. Moving to the Norfolk Tides in 2004, Stearns' club finished 72-72. In 2005, he was New York's minor league catching coordinator. Switching to the Washington Nationals chain in 2006, Stearns became manager of the Harrisburg Senators. The next season, he was promoted to skipper of the Triple A Columbus Clippers. In 2010-2011 Stearns was a scout for the Seattle Mariners. In 2012, he became the Mariners' minor league catching coordinator and in 2014 was named to the coaching staff at the major league level as Lloyd McClendon's third base coach. Stearns resigned the position in spring training though, as he recovered from hernia surgery.
His brother, Bill Stearns, was a catcher who advanced as far as Triple A.
He died in 2022 in his hometown of Denver, CO after a long battle with cancer.
- 4-time NL All-Star (1977, 1979, 1980 & 1982)
Year-By-Year Minor League Managerial Record
|1988||Asheville Tourists||South Atlantic League||0-3||--||Houston Astros||--||replaced Gary Tuck (16-23) on May 18/|
replaced by Jim Coveney (49-49) on May 20
|1990||Knoxville Blue Jays||Southern League||67-77||6th (t)||Toronto Blue Jays|
|1991||Knoxville Blue Jays||Southern League||67-77||7th||Toronto Blue Jays||Lost in 1st round|
|1994||Princeton Reds||Appalachian League||43-26||1st||Cincinnati Reds||League Champs|
|2003||Binghamton Mets||Eastern League||63-78||9th||New York Mets|
|2004||Norfolk Tides||International League||72-72||7th||New York Mets|
|2006||Harrisburg Senators||Eastern League||67-75||9th||Washington Nationals|
|2007||Columbus Clippers||International League||64-80||11th (t)||Washington Nationals|
|2008||Harrisburg Senators||Eastern League||73-69||5th (t)||Washington Nationals|
|2009||Harrisburg Senators||Eastern League||70-72||7th||Washington Nationals|
|2013||Tacoma Rainiers||Pacific Coast League||59-58||6th (t)||Seattle Mariners||replaced Daren Brown (17-10) on May 3|
Sources: 1974-1975 and 1977 Baseball Guides, 1986 Baseball America Statistics Report, 2001 Orioles Information and Record Book, 2006 Harrisburg Senators Souvenir Program
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