(Long Island, N.Y.) Even when the expected and inevitable happens, it still doesn’t soften the blow. Such is the case with the passing of Gary Carter from brain cancer at the young age of 57. The former Mets catcher had fought a long and courageous battle before succumbing to the disease.
“It is with profound sadness that we mourn the loss of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter,” said Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “Gary’s enthusiasm, giving spirit and infectious smile will always be remembered in Cooperstown. Our thoughts are with Sandy, Christy, Kimmie, DJ and the entire Carter family on this very sad day.”
That sentiment was league-wide for the player known as “The Kid” because of his youthful exuberance for the game. He led the Mets to the 1986 World Series championship and for his career, was an 11-time All-Star and was elected into ‘The Hall’ in 2003.
Carter was a mainstay on the Montreal Expos for a decade before coming to Flushing in 1984. He was a veteran presence and settled down a young rotation that included Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling. He was beloved by the fans and got under his opponent’s skin, but no one could deny the talent that Carter possessed.
“On behalf of everyone at the Mets, we extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to Gary’s family,” Mets chairman and CEO Fred Wilpon said in a statement released by the organization. “His nickname, ‘The Kid,’ captured how Gary approached life. He did everything with enthusiasm and with gusto, on and off the field. His smile was infectious. He guided our young pitching staff to the World Series title in 1986 and he devoted an equal amount of time and energy raising awareness for a multitude of charities and community causes. He was a Hall of Famer in everything he did.”
In a career that spanned 19 years and also included stops with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, Carter hit 324 home runs, had 1,225 RBI, and won three Gold Gloves and two All-Star Game MVP Awards. He also is fourth on the list for most games behind the plate with 2,056.
His batting average (.262) may not have been the quintessential number that most players with plaques in Cooperstown amassed, and his induction was certainly no automatic. But Carter’s intangibles that cannot be measured in statistics apparently were not lost on the Baseball Writers Association of America members who voted for him.
Once his playing career ended, Carter settled in as a minor league manager and was named the 2005 Gulf Coast Manager of the Year while leading a Mets Class A club. Carter also spent one summer as the skipper of the Long Island Ducks of the Independent Atlantic League.
Even with a period of time leading up to his death, Carter’s passing still hurts.
(I have gone on record in an earlier article a few years ago stating that Carter did not deserve induction into the Hall of Fame and stand by that now. Sure, he was always one of my favorite players and a great talent, but I feel that Cooperstown is already watered down from what it was originally intended to be, and that is only for the game’s best players. (Cy Young didn’t even receive 50 percent of the vote in the first ballot in 1936.) Carter was arguably only the second best player on his own team in 1986 when you consider Darryl Strawberry, so he was far from the top player in the game during any point in his career. Regardless, we have lost a very special person.)