My crush was NY Mets catcher John Stearns.
In 1978 I was fourteen and a Mets fan but something (hormones, the something was hormones) suddenly triggered the awareness that 20something MLB players were quite, um, cute. Quickly number 12, John Stearns, became “my guy”. (Ironically the Mets got him when they traded away my childhood “guy”, Tug McGraw.)
He went by the nickname “Bad Dude” or just “Dude” but I never called him that. It seemed like it was a “between guys” kind of nickname.
He was from Boulder Colorado. He drove a Cadillac (I know this because we’d wander past the players’ lot at Shea and there was one car with CO plates.) He was tough and regularly used his college football skills to block the plate, including the time he held fast and Dave Parker ended up with a broken jaw.
And the other time he started a brawl with future Met star and Hall of Famer Gary Carter.
He set the Met record for most steals by a catcher.
He was the lone Mets All-Star in years when the Mets really didn’t deserve to have a player on the All-Star team. Did I mention the Mets were awful during the years I was drooling over #12? Horrendous.
But we kept rooting and going to games and “sneaking” down to field boxes to try to get autographs and chat with players during batting practice (in reality no one was sitting in those seats so we’d stay down there for the game, it was a different time… )
In 1980 John had shirts made up for his languishing teammates that read
We Can Win
(admittedly a defeatist slogan for a team that at the time could not win) so my friend A & I had We Can Win t-shirts made up and wore them to a game, scrambling down to where John was signing autographs to show them off. I’m not sure what he thought of these 16 year old girls thrusting their baby-blue t-shirt clad chests at him, but he was polite and signed autographs for us.
As the 70s became the 80s I had a boyfriend and my crush on John began to feel more like cheering on a big brother. He never lost his place as my favorite Met.
Earlier this year I heard that John was seriously ill. Photos showing him thin and using a walker appeared. Stage 4 prostate cancer. The same thing that took my dad.
A couple weeks ago the Mets had their first Old Timers game in awhile. 60+ former Mets showed up, among them John. Although he looked thin and frail, he took batting practice according to alum relations head Jay Horowitz.
This morning I woke to the sad news that John had died. He was 71.
Most teens crush. If we’re lucky our crushes stay with us in our hearts, and that piece of my heart is broken today💔.