He was Known As “The Kid”: A Tribute to the Life and Career of Gary Carter
Monday, February 27, 2012
Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth (Baseball Writer)- I was born in 1976. I have two older brothers that were born in 1975 and 1974. Another brother was born in 1978. My dad had all of us at the baseball park to watch his men’s league windmill team play baseball for every weekend of the summer. By the time I was 4, I also tagged along to my brother’s T-Ball baseball practices. My dad would let me play with the older kids because he knew I loved the game enough to become good at it. While my other brothers liked baseball, I loved it. So as they played cars and watched cartoons, I was happy to be watching baseball with my dad on our old 12’ black and white television screen that you had to pound on with a clenched fist once a day in order for it to focus right. My dad and I would watch the Montreal Expos on the French Channel in Canada. We always muted the sound, opting for a Bob Seger Record instead, but we would watch the game with laser focus. My dad had been a huge Thurman Munson and Yankees fan, so when Munson died in a plane crash, it hurt him a great deal . My dad’s love waned from the Yankees for a bit after. He started to like baseball on TV when I began asking to watch it. He and I sat on the couch and watched Gary Carter play. The Expos were an exciting team at the turn of the 80’s decade with the likes of Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines. I can remember seeing how involved Carter was in orchestrating the leadership of his team.
There was no disputing the man’s love for the game. He would come to the plate and smile at the opposition catcher and umpire. Carter was the reason I became a catcher as my first position in baseball. My dad told me that I should emulate Gary Carter in every aspect of his playing. His great attitude, sportsmanship and never give up attitude. He was masterful at organizing his own team’s defensive positioning. So I did the same at a young age. It was a position that I would go on to play for 10 years. At the end of the 1984 season, the Expos traded the perennial All-Star to the New York Mets. I was heartbroken. I loved the Expos as my favorite team in the NL. I also liked the Detroit Tigers in the AL because of catcher Lance Parrish. These two men were the best offensive catchers in the game. In an era where catchers were not expected to hit, Parrish and Carter would routinely hit 30 Home Runs and drive in 100 RBI for a few years each. My dad explained to me to that my best chance of making it to the Major Leagues, as a kid coming out of Canada, was to be a power hitting catcher. However going into 1985, I found it hard to follow Gary Carter now because he was not on TV anymore. I started loving the New York Yankees when I watched them play the Toronto Blue Jays and beat them like 22-0. My new favorite player was Don Mattingly. My dad’s love was renewed for the Yankees because he could watch them play on TSN versus the Jays. We also watched nightly highlights. Somewhere inside us, we still missed Gary Carter.
In 1986, my dad and I watched the entire MLB playoffs. It was great to watch Gary Carter perform on that amazing Mets team. While I don’t openly cheer for the Mets much, I had a great reason to cheer for them because they were playing the Boston Red Sox. As a 10-year-old kid now, I knew that Red Sox were the main nemesis of the Yankees. Earlier in those playoffs, Carter had struggled versus the Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan led Astros in the NLCS until he had a walk off RBI in the Mets Game 5 win. Carter followed up with another 2 hits in the 16 inning game-6 victory. In the World Series, The 108 win New York Mets struggled at times versus the Boston Red Sox in the first 5 games (and 9 and a half innings plus in-game #6), but not because of Carter, he had clubbed two home runs in Game #4 at Fenway. It was highly unusual for a catcher to hit with so much power that late in the season with all of the innings piling up on his body from catching.
For anyone that was watching the 1986 World Series, they all thought the World Series was over when the Bottom of the 10th came for the Mets in-game #6. The first 2 batters were retired quickly. They showed the champagne on ice in the Boston clubhouse. Bruce Hurst, a highly crafty left-handed starting pitcher, had already been named the World Series MVP on TV by Vin Scully. But woah… back up the horses, Carter worked a 2-1 count on Calvin Schiraldi and lined a base hit to left to start a rally. The 1986 World Series is known more for the Buckner error more than anything however, it was Carter who started it all. The Mets came back and won Game #6 before taking home the World Series in Game #7 at Shea Stadium. Carter drove in 9 RBIs for the Series.
The Mets were smart to have traded for Carter before the 85 season, as he was the cagey veteran leader amongst their talented yet troubled youth. He had time for all of his teammates and stepped out of his way to make sure that fallen teammates Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry had a friend that always had their back. Both men had struggled with drug addictions in their careers and leaned on Carter for support even when he left the Mets. “The Kid” was not afraid of the limelight, but he never made it a point in his real life to toot his own horn for deeds such as these. In the hours after his passing, all of his former teammates had heart-felt interviews talking about Carter’s unconditional support for them. No one outside of the media has ever said anything bad about the man’s character. The words trust, honor, dignity and respect quickly fall into a sentence when others are asked to describe about Gary Carter.
Gary Carter was a 10-time All-Star, a 3-time Gold Glover and a 5-time Silver Slugger winner. At the end of his career, he was second behind only Johnny Bench for All-Time home runs as a catcher. He was called ‘”The Kid” from his first camp in 1974, where he showed a youthful like demeanor for the game. Pete Rose made sure the name stuck for good when he called him it again during the 1975 All-Star Game.
For as great a person as Gary Carter was on the field, he was an incredible vibrant person off the field. His charity work in every city he played doesn’t get enough credit. Carter had the kind of confidence that you needed to be a winner in life and baseball. This ultimately rubbed some media people the wrong way. This may have been a reason why it took Carter so long to make it in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is a shame, in certain ways, that Carter had to literally campaign for his own nomination. This went on for years longer than it should have. Carter finally made it to Cooperstown in 2001. Like his hero Johnny Bench, Carter inspired a new kind of catcher in the Major Leagues. Soon we saw the likes of: Mike Piazza, Pudge Rodriguez, Matt Nokes, Jorge Posada, Javy Lopez and Terry Steinbach set a new wave of catchers that were prolific with the bat like he was.
It is funny how memories do fade sometimes. I hadn’t thought of Gary Carter as much in the last decade. It took his passing to remind me of why I became a catcher in Little League. Why I liked watching baseball with my dad on a Black and White TV with the sound muted just so we could watch our hero perform. Perhaps Major League players can all take a page from Carter in respecting his passion. Please guys, at least smile while you are all being paid millions of dollars. After all, it is still just a “kid’s game.”
*** Thank you to our Baseball Writer- Douglas “Chuck” Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports. To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Chuck Booth, you can follow Chuck on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Chuck’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com***
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Posted on February 27, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged 86 world series, baseball catcher, baseball hall of fame, boston red sox, Chuck Booth, darryl strawberry, detroit tigers, don mattingly, Dwight Gooden, fastestthirtyballgames, fenway park, gary carter, johnny bench, Lance Parrish, montreal expos, new york mets, pete rose, thurman munson. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.