At the risk of navel gazing, I just wanted to share a few memories of Gary Carter, who passed away today. I’m sure the other authors of Real Dirty Mets will have their own to share in the coming hours and days.
When my cousin first told me about the rumor that the Mets were close to making a trade for Gary Carter, I couldn’t process it. Throughout most of my childhood, Gary Carter was one of “those” players. You know, the good ones. The ones the Mets never had. We settled for the mediocre youngsters, the washed-up veterans, the no-names. Sure, we picked up Keith Hernandez in ’83, but Gary Carter, too?
Then I wasn’t sure – was it worth giving up Hubie Brooks? Who was going to play third? Then I got over it.
When the trade was finalized, I told my brother-in-law, a Yankee fan, that Carter was the “portal to the World Series.” Yes, I actually said that, and I’m not proud of myself.
Then Carter hit a walk-off (they didn’t call it that back then, but I digress) home run on opening day, 1985, against a Cardinals team they would duel with all year long. The Mets won 98 games that year. The Cardinals were 3 games better. But they went down fighting, as if infected by the never-quit attitude of the Kid himself.
By then, my buddy and I would go to the local baseball field and play pick-up games, when we weren’t playing Babe Ruth league games. I would imitate the stance of Keith Hernandez, and he would imitate (perfectly, I might add), the stance of Gary Carter.
Carter was a vital part of the championship team of 1986 team – they all were, really. But Carter provided a game-winning (erm, walk-off) single in the NLCS, and toyed with the Green Monster by hitting 2 home runs in Game 4 of the World Series. He started the miraculous rally in the 10th inning of Game 6 with a two-out single. He jumped like a little kid into the arms of Jesse Orosco after the final swing-and-miss by Marty Barrett in Game 7.
I remember going to a game at Shea in 1987. By the time we got there, it was already the second inning, and the Mets were down by 3. The first thing I saw was Carter staring up at the heavens with his mask off following a wild pitch. I don’t remember who the pitcher was, and I don’t even remember who they played. I do remember that Carter and the Mets came back to win – was it 10-6? Howard Johnson capped the game off with a long bomb into the right field bullpen.
That was another year the Mets just couldn’t outduel the Cardinals. Their pitching staff was just too banged up, much like Carter’s knees. Years of pushing himself to the limit were finally taking their toll.
When he left after the 1989 season, I knew it was the right move, but I wished he could have finished his career with the Mets. He finished it with his original team, the Expos, which was the next best thing.
When Gary Carter passed on today, part of my life did – part of my childhood. Strange as it sounds for someone I never even met, I feel like I lost a friend.