1977 TOPPS JERRY GROTE
I don’t own this card.
And as common as it might seem at first glance, neither do you. Unless your name is Keith Olbermann.
And if your name is Keith Olbermann, well: Hello, Keith Olbermann.
Jerry Grote had a reasonably successful 1976 season, hitting a respectable .272 in 323 at bats, and providing typically stellar defense behind the dish. However, a dozen years as a catcher had taken their toll on his back, and Grote began to give every indication that he was going to retire.
So when the time came for Topps to finalize the checklist for its 1977 set, they opted not to include Grote.
But they did create at least one proof card, which pictures him gripping a bat along the Shea sidelines. And Keith Olbermann purchased the one-and-only known version of this card back in 1989 at the famous Topps Guernsey’s auction.
Of course, Grote changed his mind, and was back with the Mets to start the 1977 season. He was traded to the Dodgers on August 31 of that year for minor leaguers Dan Smith and Randy Rogers, and stayed with Los Angeles through the 1978 season. He retired in earnest following the 1978 campaign, with two All-Star appearances and a World Series ring to his name.
In a curious coda, Grote returned to the game in 1981 at the age of 38 and hit .304 in 68 at bats with the Royals. This stint included what was likely the single best offensive game of his career, on June 3 against the Mariners. Batting ninth that day, Grote went 3-4 with a double and a grand slam, and drove in 7 runs.
Kansas City released him on September 1, which led to one last brief stint with the Dodgers and two fruitless October at bats.
Grote went on to manage the Lakeland Tigers and the Birmingham Barons in 1985, and snuck himself onto the Barons roster for one game and his three final plate appearances in organized ball…