May 19, 2016

Former Italian American New Jersey Born Met: Rick Cerone (1991)

Richard Aldo Cerone was born on May 19, 1954 in Newark, New Jersey. After attending Essex Catholic high School he went to the local Seton Hall University. There he was a star baseball player for the Seton Hall Pirates. In 1975 the five foot eleven catcher became the first round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians.

He was brought right up to the team that same year, debuting in Minnesota in a game against the Twins. He would play in seven games that year & appear in seven more at the end of 1976.

In December 1976 he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays along with John Lowenstein for former batting champion, the veteran Rico Carty. There he shared catching duties with Alan Ashby for two seasons taking over the starting job by 1978. He wasn’t known for his bat, hitting .239 in his first full season in 1979, with 7 HRs & 61 RBIs in 136 games.

Defensively he threw out 40% or more of would be base stealers, with a .980 fielding %. Although he was second in the league in past balls (8) in 1978 & second in errors (13) in 1979. In November 1979 he was traded along with Tom Underwood to the A.L. New York team for Chris Chambliss, Damaso Garcia and Paul Mirabella.

In 1980 he led all A.L. catchers throwing out 57 of 110 would be base stealers (52%) with a .990 fielding %. At the plate he had career highs in HRs (14) doubles (30) RBIs (85) & batting (.277) while posting a .321 on base %. In 1981 his average fell off 33 points & he got back to reality never matching his previous season numbers again. In the strike shortened season he batted .244 with two HRs 13 doubles & 21 RBIs.

In the post season he batted .333 in the ALDS against the Oakland A's with one HR & five RBIS. In the next two series he batted just .145 with a HR in the World Series loss to the L.A. Dodgers. Cerone spent five seasons in New York sharing time with Butch Wynager.

In 1984 he was traded to the Atlanta Braves spending the '85 season there sharing time with Bruce Benedict. He then went to Milwaukee in 1986 batting .259 in 68 games. In 1987 he signed again with the AL New York team getting released at the end of the season. He then spent two seasons in Boston behind Rich Gedman with one more brief stint in AL New York, before signing on with the New York Mets for the 1991 season.

Cerone debuted as a Met in the second game of the 1991 season, catching Frank Viola. In the 9th inning of that game at Shea Stadium he hit a HR off former Met Roger McDowell to tie the score as the Mets went on to win it on a Hubbie Brooks walk off HR in the 10th. In his third Mets game of 1991, he had a 1st inning bases loaded single scoring two runs in the Mets 7-1 win over the Expos. He then drove in runs in three straight games going into May, while keeping his average above .300 through the middle of the month.

In August he hit safely in 13 of 17 games while driving in three runs. Cerone led met catchers, Mackey Sasser, Charlie O’Brien & Todd Hundley with 81 games behind the plate that year. His .273 batting average was third best on the team, behind Keith Miller & Daryl Boston. At age 37 he threw out 45% of would be base stealers, posting a .987 fielding % making just six errors in 466 chances.

The next season the Todd Hundley Mets era began at catcher & Jeff Torborg took over as the teams manager. Cerone was not resigned & went to Montreal to finish out his career.

In his 18 year career Cerone threw out 37% of would be base stealers, posting a .990 fielding % (78th all time) He caught 1279 games behind the plate (57th all time) with 705 stolen bases allowed (81st all time). Cerone batted .245 with 998 career hits 59 HRs 190 doubles a .301 on base % & 436 RBIs in 1329 games.

Retirement: Cerone did a short time as a broadcaster in the 1990's with New York & Baltimore. He currently lives in Woodland Park, New Jersey as well as Long Branch to be near his three daughters from his prior marriage. Cerone has been honored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for his tremendous efforts in raising money & awareness to the disease.

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