BUFFS

John Stearns, CU Hall of Famer and former two-sport star, passes away

Sep 16, 2022, 9:36 AM
John Stearns...
(Photo by Getty Images)
(Photo by Getty Images)

The University of Colorado and sports world lost a legend on Thursday.

John Stearns, a former baseball and football star at CU, died in Denver after a long battle with cancer. He was 71-years-old. Stearns was inducted into the CU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.

Stearns played nearly his entire MLB career with the New York Mets and attended their “Old Timers’ Day” last month, despite his declining health.

In a statement the Mets said: “Despite his illness, he even managed to step into the batting cage to take a few swings. His nickname, ‘Bad Dude’ couldn’t have been more appropriate. A four-time All Star, John was one of the most complete catchers in Mets history. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.”

Stearns was a standout at CU in the early 1970s. He set the career interceptions record at Colorado with 16, a force to be reckoned with on the football field. In baseball at CU, he put up the most prolific numbers ever by a catcher in a Buff uniform, and was the 1972 Big Eight batting champion (.492), the 1973 NCAA home run leader (15) and an All-American as a senior in ’73.

Before attending the University of Colorado, Stearns grew up just south of downtown Denver and went to Thomas Jefferson High School in the late 1960s. He was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 13th round of the 1969 MLB Draft, but chose to head to Boulder instead.

He was drafted to play in the NFL in 1973 in the 17th round by the Buffalo Bills, but pursued a professional career in baseball instead. That was a wise choice, as the Philadelphia Phillies took him No. 2 overall in the MLB Draft the same year. He played one year with the Phillies before enjoying a 10-year career with the Mets.

Stearns is survived by his son, Justin, brothers, Richard and William and his sister, Carla.

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