Jun 27, 2020

Remembering Mets History: (1978) Tough Guy John Stearns Wins Out In Home Plate Collision With Dave Parker

Friday June 30th 1978: Joe Torre's fifth place Mets (33-45) were in Pittsburgh at Three Rivers Stadium to play the fourth place Pirates (35-38) in a weekend series.

Not much excitement surrounded this one, although a nice crowd of 31,947 came out as the Mets; Nino Espinosa went up against veteran Don Robinson.

Starting Lineups

The Mets scored in the 3rd inning, as Espinosa doubled, Len Randle singled  & Tim Foli brought in the first run with a sac fly. By the 7th inning the Pirates took the lead, as shortstop Frank Taveras had driven in two runs & Ken Macha had an RBI double of his own. 

In the top of the 8th, Randle & Foli both singled to start the inning. Grant Jackson came in & got Lee Mazzilli & Steve Henderson both to pop out in foul territory. But Willie Montanez came through with a double bringing it to a 3-2 game.

In the 9th, John Stearns led off with a double. The Pirates relief ace; Kent Tekulve was brought in to close it out. But the Mets; Ed Kranepool (one the games premiere pinch hitters) came through with another pinch hit single, scoring Stearns to tie the game.

Lenny Randle then tripled, bringing in Kranepool. Joel Youngblood singled bringing in Randle. With two out Steve Henderson brought in Youngblood with another single. By this time the Pirates had brought in their fourth pitcher of the inning, Eddie Whitson.

The Mets took a 6-3 lead into the 9th inning with Dale Murray on the mound. Murray got the first out, but gave up singles t o Frank Taveras & Omar Moreno. 

Then Big Dave Parker came to bat. Parker had won the 1977 batting title & would win the 1978 title as well. Parker would win that years MVP Award, hitting 30 HRs with 32 doubles, 12 triples, 117 RBIs & a .394 on base %.

In this game Parker would hit one of his 12 triples, bringing in Tavares & Moreno making it a 6-5 game, exciting the Three Rivers Crowd to their feet. Two outs, bottom of the 9th & the Pirates down by a run with the winning run on third base.

The next batter was (future Mets coach) Bill Robinson. He hit a fly ball to left field, Parker tagged at third base, the Mets outfielder, Joel Youngblood who had a good arm, caught it & threw home. 
Parker took off all six foot five, 230 lbs of him barreling into Mets catcher John Stearns. Stearns caught Youngblood's throw, stood his ground tagged out Parker, and was knocked away from home plate. According to Stearns in a recent interview, "I gather my senses & to my surprise the ball is still nestled in my mitt, like a sleeping baby. I showed it to the umpire & the game was over. I look over at Parker & he was still on the ground, moaning from a fractured jaw." The Mets won it 6-5.

John Stearns was one of the toughest guys in baseball. A former college football defensive back, Stearns was more football player than baseball player.

The same guy who once tackled a fan who got onto the playing field that the police could not catch, the man who took on Gary Carter & the Montreal Expos in a brawl, the Big Red Machine & even Braves mascot Cheif Noc-a-homa. 

Stearns stood at six feet tall, weighing in at 185 lbs. But it was he, who walked away from the home plate collision unsaved.

As for Dave Parker, he broke his cheekbone & missed two weeks of action. When he returned in his 1978 MVP season, he wore both; a hockey style goalie mask & a protective face mask on his helmet around his facial area, much like a football helmet. 

The legend of "Bad Dude" John Stearns continued to grow..................

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