Take a look at KC Royals single-game RBI leaders. One name unexpectedly stands out.
Meet catcher Jerry Grote.
Grote’s baseball story began in San Antonio, Texas, where he was born and raised. He graduated from MacArthur High School, then played baseball at Trinity University for one season. That one season was enough to earn him induction into the Tigers’ Hall of Fame.
In 1963, the Houston Colt .45s (now the Astros) signed Grote as an amateur free agent. After hitting .268 with 14 home runs in 121 Texas League games for—you guessed it—San Antonio, Grote was promoted to Houston and made his major league debut that September.
After spending 1964 in the big leagues, Grote was back to the minors in 1965 and in October was sent to the New York Mets, where he found a home.
Over the next 11-plus seasons, Grote was a mainstay for the Mets, collecting nearly 1,000 hits, 35 home runs and 357 RBIs. He was a National League All-Star in 1968 and 1974. Defensively, Grote was consistently in the NL top 10 for fielding percentage as a catcher.
The Mets made it to the World Series in 1969 and 1973 with Grote behind the plate.
In August 1977, the Mets traded Grote to the Dodgers. In a very limited backup role, Grote logged 59 games and just 113 plate appearances over the rest of the season and all of 1978 with LA.
As injuries and age set in, Grote retired following the ’78 season.
The KC Royals coaxed Jerry Grote out of retirement to bolster their catching.
John Wathan opened the 1981 season as the Royals’ catcher, but with reserve catcher Jamie Quirk needed in a utility role and third catcher Jim Gaudet seemingly unable to elevate himself above Triple-A, Kansas City convinced Grote to come out of retirement in April.
Over the first two months of the season, Grote played just 15 games, collecting seven hits and two RBIs. Then the calendar switched to June, the Seattle Mariners came to town, and on June 2 Grote collected three hits, scored his second run of the season and added his second double of the year before Wathan replaced him as a pinch runner in the eighth inning.
Jerry Grote suddenly establishes a KC Royals single-game record for RBIs.
Grote’s success against the Mariners carried over to the next day when he found himself in the starting lineup again and batting ninth against lefty Bryan Clark.
After two scoreless innings, Seattle’s Tom Paciorek launched a three-run home run off Rich Gale for a 3-0 Mariner lead before Grote had even had a chance to come to the plate. He got his first opportunity in the bottom of the third and grounded out.
Seattle’s Gary Gray added a two-run homer against Gale in the fourth, but a Royal comeback started in the bottom of the inning when Amos Otis doubled with one out and Frank White drove him home with a two-out triple. After a walk to Clint Hurdle, Grote drilled a double to left, plating both runners and reducing the KC deficit to 5-3. The two RBIs matched Grote’s season total coming into the game.
After a scoreless top of the fifth that ended when Grote threw out Paciorek trying to steal second, the Royals’ offense exploded and turned the game around.
Otis and Lee May drove in runs with one-out singles to tie the game, then White came through again with a double to score Otis. An intentional walk to Hurdle loaded the bases for Grote against reliever Ken Clay. The strategy backfired as Grote drove a grand slam out to left to expand the Royals’ lead to 10-5. An RBI single by George Brett completed the inning’s scoring and the Royals led 11-5 going into the sixth.
A Bruce Bochte home run against Gale and two run-scoring singles against reliever Jim Wright made it 11-8 before Kansas City reliever Ken Brett came in to finish the inning.
Grote’s final opportunity at the plate came in the bottom of the frame with White at third. When White scored on a ground ball back to pitcher Bob Galasso, Grote was credited with an infield single and a then-club-record seventh RBI. (Mike Moustakas holds the record now with nine). For good measure, Grote stole second with two outs.
Paciorek homered in the ninth off Brett to close out the scoring.
In the end, the Royals had a 12-9 victory, and Grote had a new club record.
What happened to Jerry Grote after his record-setting day for the KC Royals?
Nine days after Grote’s seven-RBI day, major league players went on strike, cutting two months out of the season.
Grote only played one more game for the Royals after the strike ended, going 0-for-3 to drop his average to .304. I
Grote was released by the Royals Sept. 1 and re-signed with the Dodgers. He went 0-for-2 with LA and retired for good following the season. But he once held a big Kansas City record.