posted on Feb.17, 2012
Yesterday the baseball world lost a real good guy in catcher Gary Carter. While that sounds like the start of every article that has been published about the Hall of Famer over the past 2 days, nothing can be closer to the truth.
First of all, I am not going to say how I remember his time playing because he played his last game before I was even born. However, I have read enough and talked to enough Mets fans to know how great of a guy he was.
Take the statement released by his family upon his death:
“I am deeply saddened to tell you all that my precious dad went to be with Jesus today at 4:10 p.m. This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write in my entire life but I wanted you all to know. He is in heaven and has reunited with his mom and dad. I believe with all my heart that dad had a STANDING OVATION as he walked through the gates of heaven to be with Jesus.”
That was released by his daughter Kimmy Bloemers Thursday, and it tells us a lot about this wonderful individual.
One Mets fan I talked to earlier today [Friday] said “what a class act Gary Carter was and how he played every game with enthusiasm, no matter what the situation was. Today’s athletes could learn a lot from him. He will be missed. If you were down to your last out with the game on the line you wanted him at the plate because you knew he wouldn’t go down without a fight–that’s how he played the game and that’s how he lived his life.”
One caller to WFAN-New York Friday told a story of how Gary Carter had called his mother for her birthday. Have you heard of a player that calls fans for their birthdays? I have heard so many stories about how he made sure EVERY autograph was signed when people were asking him. He did not hide away when the fans came, as some current players do. But now on to the story of Gary Carter.
Carter was the missing piece to that Mets team, and when he was traded to the Mets prior to the 1985 season, he made an immediate impact on the team. Ironically, his first game start off terribly, striking out looking, being hit by a pitch, giving up a stolen base to a pitcher, and a passed ball which led to a run. However, he made sure his debut ended the right way: a Mets win, and Carter delivered it himself with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th.
That home run and more can be found on MLB.com, there is a whole section devoted to Gary Carter videos and memoirs. Fans can also share their memories and condolences.
As I write this, I just heard Keith Hernandez break down on the phone in an interview on WFAN-New York because of what the loss of Carter meant to him and his fellow teammates on that 1986 team.
While this has been mentioned in a number of places already, Gary Carter may not have hit the ball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, but he started the rally. Carter stepped up to the plate, bases empty 2 out, against Calvin Schiraldi down 5-3 in the Bottom of the 10th, he was thinking ‘I will not make the last out of the World Series.’ It’s something all hitters think, but not something they always do. Yet Gary Carter made sure he didn’t, lining a single to left to start the rally. I think we all know what happens after that, Mookie Wilson hits “a little roller up along first, BEHIND THE BAG! It gets by Buckner! Knight scores and the Mets win it!” Of course that is the call from Vin Scully, but that call is not possible without Carter’s determination to not be the last out of the series. Maybe without Carter at the plate, the Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino right there.
Something from that World Series that will tell you more about Gary Carter than I can think of is that he had said his favorite moment of that World Series was not his hit to start the rally, or his home runs in Boston, or his 9 total RBIs for the series (2nd most all time for a single series), it was embracing Jesse Orosco after the final out of the World Series, because it was a win. That says all one needs to show what a great guy he was.
Let’s take it another step further, that Mets team was known as the Bad Guys. They all had their issues with drug abuse and other personal issues, but Ron Darling, a Met who threw to Gary Carter for most of his Mets career, said Gary Carter was the moral compass of that team, and that says a lot. The team may have made fun of him for his beliefs or for his holding the bus up to sign autographs but he was a great person. As great a person as you thought he was, that’s exactly who he was. I paraphrased that and I did not want to misquote him, but again, see the great person that Carter was.
I had thought of trying to find a Yankee to compare Gary Carter to so that the not as informed fan or more casual fan who wouldn’t know as much about the 1986 Mets would be able to understand. I thought better of it, this is a post reserved for Gary Carter’s memory. But something to remember for those younger fans, there was a time when the team in the Bronx stunk and the Mets owned the city of New York. The games to be at were in Queens. The Mets were perennial contenders, while the Yankees were finishing 2nd or worse (worse when the Mets won in ’86).
The part that makes this harder for many Met fans is that Gary Carter was someone of their childhood. He was a hero to them, brought the Metropolitans and their fan base the most recent championship for the franchise.
Let’s finish this by remembering the way Gary Carter finished his career: where he started it. Carter went back to the Expos in 1992 for the last year of his career. His last game was Sept 27, 1992, Cubs at the Expos in Olympic Stadium. His last at bat came with runner on 1st, 2 out in the bottom of the 7th, scoreless game. Carter hit a go-ahead RBI double to give the Expos a 1-0 lead, received a standing ovation, then was lifted after the end of the inning. But he left with a hit, Carter’s favorite kind of hit: a game winner.
This is the beginning of the Andy $AM$ Sports Blog on wtsr.org. You can listen to Andy $AM$ Goes 30/30 in 30 Tuesday afternoons at noon on 91.3 WTSR and wtsr.org.