Now, the only reason I even paid attention to Grote was because I've always felt his 1976 card was one of the nicest cards ever (I'll be profiling that awesome card in the near future).
I was a Yankee fan, and except for Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman (and ONLY because he was an all-star), I didn't really care about any Mets player.
But that 1976 Grote card left such an impression on me, that when the "new" cards were out, I had him on the back of my mind as I came across Mets players.
Nevertheless, as a young kid I just figured the guy wasn't playing baseball anymore. I don't even think it occurred to me in 1978 when Grote reappeared as an airbrushed Dodger that he was back, or that it reminded me of this "missing" card from 1977.
It wasn't until years later that I did notice that Grote did play a relatively full season in 1976, appearing in 101 games for New York, good enough for 323 at-bats.
So why no card for him in 1977?
Turns out that Grote suffered such back problems during this time period that he openly talked about retiring after the 1976 season. Grote talked about it so much that it seems Topps took him at his word and decided to omit his from the set the following year.
Well, turns out Grote never retired, and while John Stearns took over a majority of the Mets catching duties in 1977, Grote was eventually traded to the Dodgers on August 31, 1977 for two players to be named later.
He stuck around with the Dodgers in a part time role for 1978, but was released after the season and signed on with the Kansas City Royals. However, he didn't appear in a big league game with them until 1981, where he saw action in 22 games before being released in September.
The Dodgers decided to pick Grote up for the stretch run, but he only appeared in a scant two games, good for two at-bats, ending his career as a player on the final day of the season, October 3, 1981.
Though he was never actually a full-time catcher in his career, Grote did have some pretty decent numbers in a time when hitting was at a low-point during the pitching era.
1968 was arguably his finest season, when he finished with a nice .282 average in 124 games and 404 at-bats, even getting voted in as starting catcher for the National League in the All-Star Game that year.
Sadly for him, Topps wasn't yet in the practice of showing the starters that were voted in as all-stars on "all-star" cards the next year. They depicted all-stars as picked by the Sporting News, and the publication picked Johnny Bench as their N.L. all-star.
If I ever do a 1960's baseball card blog, I'll surely right that wrong. We shall see...
Until then, here's a 1977 "missing" card I designed for him, showing a decent "in-action" photo.
|Grote in action for the Mets in 1976.|