Despite the recent Giants Super Bowl win followed by the nightly Linsanity of Jeremy Lin and Knicks I’ve been keeping Gary Carter in my thoughts. Carter’s passing today is a major departure from the joy of the other events going on in New York sports.
Carter was diagnosed with brain tumors in May of 2011 and less than a year later he is gone. Pretty much the only player from the ’86 Mets who chose the straight and wholesome path, I felt that he’d probably outlive some of his more reckless former teammates. But as the story goes, cancer doesn’t discriminate.
Carter wasn’t my favorite player from the mid to late-’80s Mets (Dwight Gooden took that title for me), but he represented the change from the miserable teams of the late ’70s, early ’80s to the magical team of 1986. When he and Keith Hernandez came aboard, everything came together. Carter may have had a syrupy-sweet image off the field, but on it he was never afraid of a home plate collision or a scuffle on the mound.
I never got to meet Carter, but stood just feet away from him at a baseball dinner in New York about six or seven years ago. And I was fortunate to be in attendance at his Hall of Fame induction in 2003, as Mets fans clad in blue and orange meshed with some Expos fans in their powder blue. His speech wasn’t full of laughs or snappy quotes, but was honest and accentuated his love for friends and family.
In an era where a power-hitting catcher isn’t out of the ordinary, Carter was a rare breed. Only a handful of catchers before and during his time could match the 25-homer, 100-RBI type production that Carter would routinely deliver during this prime years.
For Mets fans in their early to mid 30s, Carter represents an introduction to baseball. His enthusiasm and smile showed us how fun the game could be. On the baseball field he did it all. Unfortunately, his life after baseball was taken away far too soon. He is a major loss not only to New York and Montreal but more importantly to the game of baseball.