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A Eulogy For Baseball's Gary Carter03:28
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Although he may not have been as good as Johnny Bench or Ivan Rodriguez, Gary Carter still left an imprint on the game that few catchers have matched. (AP)
Although he may not have been as good as Johnny Bench or Ivan Rodriguez, Gary Carter still left an imprint on the game that few catchers have matched. (AP)

Gary Carter never hit .300, but he once hit .400. In 27 at-bats over the nine games he played for the Montreal Expos in his first year, 1974, Carter hit .407 with a home run ... and a triple.

Catchers don't hit triples very often.

Catchers also don't often last as long as 19 years in the majors.

These are among the distinctions achieved by Gary Carter, who died this week at the age of 57 of a brain tumor, and certainly longevity and durability are among the qualities for which Carter will be remembered by those who followed his Hall of Fame career.

He will also be remembered for the enthusiasm with which he played the game. On the New York Mets team that won the World Series in 1986, lots of the players could be charitably described as aloof. Some of them were probably born jerks, and others had jerkiness thrust upon them, perhaps by the entourages that trooped around behind them. Several of those players later sabotaged their careers with self-destructive behavior involving drugs and alcohol, which goes beyond jerkiness. So do car theft and bankruptcy fraud, which brought down another of Gary Carter's former Mets teammates. From guys like that and others, Gary Carter took a lot of heat for being an open, accessible guy who didn't dismiss writers as mosquitoes with note pads and microphones.

Some regarded Gary Carter as a phony whose energetic persona was a calculated presentation by a guy with an eye on his image. Perhaps his critics didn't believe a wealthy pro athlete could be anything but an ass.

Carter gave fans and everybody else the impression that he enjoyed playing baseball and felt very fortunate to be doing so for a living. He inspired a series of books for young readers. He also made 11 All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, and hit 324 home runs.

Throughout his playing career, Gary Carter's nickname was "The Kid." Toward the end of his career, he told the New York Times that his Expos teammates had begun calling him that in his first spring training camp because from day one, "I was trying to win every sprint. I was trying to hit every pitch out of the park." He will be remembered for that attitude, certainly, and for never feeling he had to hide the fun and satisfaction with which playing baseball provided him.

This segment aired on February 18, 2012.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.

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