Last year I published the 50 top Mets of all time as voted by you – the fans. Gary Carter came in at number 11 on the countdown. Here is the column in it’s entirety.
When you dissect the Mets of the mid to late ’80′s, you can sort of develop a timeline when the Mets went from pitiful losers to a perennial 90 plus team win. It is obvious the the turning point came in June of ’83 when the Mets obtained Keith Hernandez from the St Louis Cardinals , as well as the a still unripened Darryl Strawberry being promoted to the team. In 1984, the emergence of both Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling led the Mets to their first winning record in eight years. But it can be argued that in 1985 the biggest piece of the puzzle would be fastened into place. That puzzle piece in number eleven on the countdown of the top 50 Mets as voted by you the fans. That man is no other than Gary Carter.
Gary Edmund Carter was born in Culver City, California on April 8, 1954. After he graduated high school, Gary was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the he third round of the 1972 Major League Baseball Draft. It is a little known fact that Gary was signed originally as a shortstop upon his being drafted, before switching to catcher.
While he was with the Expos Triple A affiliate, Memphis Blues, Gary was one of the most feared hitters at that level. He finished the ’74 season with 23 homers while driving in in 83 runs. Later that season, Carter would earn a September call up with the Expos. Ironically enough, he made his Major League debut against the Mets, going 0-4. He finished the season with a .407 batting average in 38 official at bats with one homer.
In 1975, Gary made the Expos out of Spring training. He was used primarily as a catcher, but he did spend some time in right field. Gary was selected to his first ever All Star Game that season – as the National League right fielder !! He never came to bat, instead he was used as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. Gary finished the season with a batting average of .270 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs. He finished second to John “ The Count” Montefusco, the San Francisco Giants pitcher for the National League Rookie of the Year award. Gary did earn the The Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award instead.
In 1976, Gary still shuttled back and forth between the out field and catching. He broke his finger during the season, which allowed him to play in only 91 games. It was a disapointing season for Gary offensively. He hit just .219 with six home runs and 38 RBIs.
In 1977, Carter was ordained the Expos everyday catcher after they traded then starting catcher, Barry Foote that June. Gary had a career year, belting 31 home runs while plating 84 RBIs.
During ’80- ’84 . Gary was a perennial All Star and Gold Glove catcher for the Expos. He consistently hit over twenty homers and driving in more than eighty RBI’s during this span of time.
After the 1984 season, the Expos felt it was time for a change, and they traded their prized bat to the Mets in exchange for third baseman, Hubie Brooks, catcher, Mike Fitzgerald, minor league outfield prospect, Herm Winningham and highly touted pitching prospect, Floyd Youmans.
In his first game as a Met on Opening Day of 1985. Carter immediately ingratiated himself with Mets fans everywhere when he hit a walk off home run against former Mets closer, Neil Allen to give the Mets a 6-5 Opening Day victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Carter along with Keith Hernandez would provide the veteran leadership that would help turn the Mets into contender. During the ’85 season, the Mets and Cardinals would fight each other tooth and nail the entire season for first place. The Cards eventually bested the Mets by three games, and ended up facing the Royals in the World Series. Gary had one of the best years of his career. He his .281 with 32 home runs and 100 runs batted in that season. He finished sixth in the NL MVP voting that season .
In 1986 the stars would align for both Gary and the Mets. Gary was hobbled by injuries that season, but he still managed to play in 132 games that season batting .255 with 24 homers and 105 RBIs ( which tied the Mets team record held by Rusty Staub). The Mets ended up winning 108 games that season, leaving the entire National League in the dust. The Mets closest competitors, The Philadelphia Philles trailed the Mets by 21.5 games.
The Mets did not have a easy time in the playoffs. They barely made it past the Houston Astros in six games in the NLCS, and they ended up beating the Boston Red Sox in seven games in the 1986 World Series. During the World Series, Gary hit .276 with nine RBIs .In game four of the World Series at Fenway Park in Boston, Carter launched two home runs over the ”Green Monster“.
It was Gary who started that legendary two out rally in the tenth inning of game six. He would score on a single by Ray Knight, and the Mets would end up being victorious on the famous Mookie Wilson dribbler through the legs of Bill Buckner.
After the glorious year that was 1986, Gary’s career would quickly start it’s way into decline. Carter did play in 139 games in the ’87 season, but his knees were starting to betray him. He batted .235 with 20 homers and 83 RBIs that season.
In August of ’88 Gary hit his milestone 300th career home run against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. As a fan this chase seemed to go on forever. Gary only hit eleven homers that season, and I guess when he hit that one for number 300 it was a bit of a relief to us fans. He would have a career low 46 RBIs for the Mets that season and batted a anemic .242. The Mets made it to the NLCS that season against the Dodgers, losing in seven games. Gary hit a woefully low.222 that post season with 0 homers and 4 RBI’s.
Gary was released after a injury riddles ’89 season which limited him to 50 games. he batted .183 with 2 homers that season. It was evident that his career was waning, but us Mets fans were surprised that it happened so fast.
In his five seasons with the Mets, Gary hit 89 home runs with 349 RBI’s while hitting .249.
After leaving the Mets, Gary jumped around from the San Francisco Giants to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1992 Gary ended his career where it started when he was selected Carter off waivers from the Dodgers by the Expos. He retired after the season ended.
Carter finished his career with a fielding percentage of a .991 . He currently ranks sixth all-time in career home runs by a catcher with 298.
After his retirement, Carter became a color commentator for Florida Marlins television broadcasts from 1993-1996.
In 2001 Gary was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame.
In 2003 Gary was elected to Baseball Hall of Fame . He is enshrined as a Expo ( one of the only players to have that distinction). It has been reported that Gary had asked if his plaque could depict him as both a Met as well as a Expo, but he was rebuffed.
Gary has been employed on and off with the Mets through the years. In ’05 he was named the manager of the Gulf Coast Mets . He one the league’s Manager of the Year award that season. That next year, Gary was promoted to the A-level St. Lucie Mets, where he managed his team to the 2006 Florida State League championship. He would win the leagues Manager of the Year Award that season also. In 2008, Gary took a lot of heat when he gave a interview in which he came across as campaigning for Willie Randolph’s managers job, even though Randolph was not yet fired.
In 2008, , Carter was named the manager of the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Former Met Bud Harrelson in co-owner off the team.
Gary was on hand to ” Shea Goodbye ” to Shea Stadium in September of ’08 .
I was driving home from work when I learned of Gary’s departure from this mortal coil. He was one of my favorite Mets of all time – and all though I do not and never will share his profound sense of religious spirituality, I still looked up to him and admired his intestinal fortitude. Just like Tug McGraw before him I will miss him just as much, and as I wipe a tear from my eye – I wish I could say that I had the honor of meeting him. Instead I can say that I had the honor of watching him deliver a World Series Championship to Flushing.
And with that said… HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!!
Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today includes:
Original Mets starting pitcher, Roger Craig is 82 (1930). Before Roger was a Met, he was a dominant closer for both the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. When the Mets drafted him they conerverted him into a starting pitcher, and he suffered many losses due to a lack of run support. In his 2 seasons with the Mets he ammassed a record of 15-46 with a E.R.A of 4.14. He went on to become a respected pitching coach as well as manager with the San Francisco Giants.
Middle reliever from the ’05 season, Juan Padilla is 35 (1977).
Sadly on this date in 1986, Red Ruffing – the Mets first pitching coach passed away.
The Chicago Cubs signed reserve outfielder, Jerry Morales of the New York Mets as a free agent on February 17, 1981. Morales appeared in 94 games as a Met. He ended up hitting.254 with 3 homers and 30 RBI’s during his lone season with the team.
The Colorado Rockies signed pitcher, John Maine of the New York Mets as a free agent on February 17, 2011. You just have to wonder how his career would have skyrocketed if he wasn’t so injury plagued.
Mo Vaughn is quietly mourning the death of a Mets legend !