Remembering Mets History: (1978) John Stearns Sets NL Stolen Base Record For Catchers

September 1978: The 1978 Mets finished last 66-96 under Manager Joe Torre. One of the few highlights that year was catcher John Stearns. Stearns a three time All Star with the Mets during those dark years, set a record for N.L. catchers by stealing 25 bases.

John Stearns stole his first base on Opening Day 1978 in a 3-1 Mets win at home against the Montreal Expos. Four days later he would swipe his second of the year, as Craig Swan shut out the Chicago Cubs 6-0 at Shea giving the Mets a 4-1 start to the season in front of just 3,751 fans.

On May 10th Stearns had a big day going 2-3 with two walks, a HR & two stolen bases, as the Mets beat the Expos in Montreal 7-2. He would swipe five in the month of May to total eight steals. He stole three more bases in June all coming in Mets losses. 

In July he modestly stole four bases including a pair in back to back games in Houston off catcher's Luis Pujols & Bruce Bochy. Stearns would have two hits with two RBIs in the latter game. 

The other steal came against the Cincinnati Reds, off the battery of Tom Seaver & Johnny Bench.

On August 2nd, Stearns stole two bases off the Phillies star catcher; Bob Boone. The night before Stearns led the Mets to a 5-1 victory over that year's NL East Champs with a three run HR. He would steal six bases in August with another pair in back to back games against the San Francisco Giants at home.

Stearns entered September with 21 stolen bases on the year, just two shy of the N.L. record set by catchers. The Cubs Johnny Kling had 23 steals in 1903. The New York Giants catching legend Roger Bresnahan stole 34 bases as well in 1903, but that year he played the majority of his games as an outfielder.

The Mets began the month in Los Angeles home of that year's NL Champion Dodgers. Stearns swiped a base in the first game getting him within one of the record. 

On September 3rd, Stearns singled off Tommy John to start off the 2nd inning. He quickly went to work swiping the record tying base off veteran catcher; Joe Ferguson. In that big six run inning for New York, Stearns scored a run & drove in a run collecting two base hits. The Mets salvaged the series without a sweep winning 8-5.

On Monday September 7th, the Mets were in Montreal playing the Expos at Olympic Stadium in front of 10,161 fans.

Starting Lineups

In the very first inning, the Mets picked up two runs. John Stearns hit into a fielders choice that brought home Eliot Maddox. As Stearns was now on first base, he wasted no time, he took off as Expo pitcher Bob James pitched to Bruce Boisclair.

The Expo catcher, non other than future Met & Hall of Famer Gary Carter threw to second attempting to nail the speedy Stearns. But Stearns was safe & set a new National League record for single season steals by a catcher.

Stearns would finish the 1978 season with 25 stolen bases, a record he held until 1999 when Jason Kendall of the Pittsburgh Pirates broke it with 26. Stearns is still second on that list.


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