Tell Me About Gary Carter

Gary Carter was before my time. I wasn’t alive during the height of his years with the Montreal Expos, and was only four years old when he and the New York Mets did the world a favor, winning the 1986 World Series in seven games. By the time I found baseball, Gary Carter was in the twilight of his career. I don’t remember ever watching him play.

With news of Carter’s worsening condition in his difficult journey with cancer, and having read some of his daughter Kimmy Bloemers’ heartbreaking journal entries about her father’s illness, I’m tempted, as a student of baseball history, to read everything I can about Carter, about his time in Montreal, and his time in Queens. I want to listen to Carter’s Hall of Fame speech, dive into SI’s Vault, and even watch the stupendously thrilling — by all accounts — 1986 World Series. And I’m going to do all that. But, before I do, and most of all, I want to hear from those who watched Gary Carter — revered by all, it seems — play baseball not as journalists, but as fans. I want to know how you remember Gary Carter. I want you to tell me, someone who never watched Carter play the game, what it was like to do so.

What do you remember? What does Gary Carter mean to you?

Tell me about “The Kid.”

Image courtesy The Associated Press, via CBS News.

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Navin Vaswani is a replacement-level writer. Follow him on Twitter.

23 Responses to “Tell Me About Gary Carter”

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  1. Dayn Perry says:

    Amazing energy and exuberance on the field. Made all these little coaxing and reassuring and almost paternal gestures to his pitchers all the time. Relentlessly positive.

    About 12 yrs ago, when I was very new to all this, I called the Mets PR office to ask about interviewing someone from the ’86 team. “Gary would talk to you,” I was told. Called him at his office in Florida, and he talked to me for like an hour and a half. Gracious as could be to an absolute nobody. Just a good, good man by all accounts.

    And if any of the younger set hasn’t seen the *entirety* of the 1986 postseason, please do yourself a favor and watch every moment. It remains like nothing I’ve ever seen.

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  2. Dayn Perry says:

    Oh, and fight on, Kid. Millions are pulling for you.

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  3. nubillybaroo says:

    the 86 postseason was the most exciting and ultimately depressing of all time.

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  4. reillocity says:

    Personal anecdote: I was about 14 or so and recognized him meandering about the Houston Galleria during his days with the Mets. I handed him a pen and a piece of paper and asked him for his autograph. He graciously signed “God Bless, Gary Carter”. Somewhere I still have this.

    Brief history lesson: Back then we saw very little of players from other clubs due to the limited TV exposure of MLB. Most everything we knew about them was pretty much drawn from the limited stats printed Sundays in the local paper, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in USA Today, and in the weekly editions of The Sporting News or whatever we gleaned from the back of their baseball cards (a la “Enjoys collecting baseball cards during his leisure time” per 1981 Topps #660). So yes it’s those very people who were watching him in Montreal and in New York or working for or around those clubs that will be able to answer your general question most capably. As far as my two baseball memories go, I’ll always remember him handling RF Dave Parker’s throw and tagging out Brian Downing in the 1979 All-Star Game and (painfully so) his embracing Jesse Orosco after Kevin Bass had struck out to end the 1986 NLCS.

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    • Your “history lesson” is one of the reasons I’m interested in what people have to say about Carter. Things had to have been so incredibly different back then. Imagine: baseball players that weren’t on Twitter, that weren’t giving us the gems they give us each day.

      This has also made me think of the average age of the FanGraphs visitor. I think more people visit FanGraphs that did not see Carter play than did. But, hell, I could be wrong.

      A couple of guys at work whom I asked about Carter both, in other words, said that Carter’s love for the game stood out, that that’s what they remember about him. His smile, and his clear love for the game.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment. And as Dayn said, my thoughts are with Carter and his family.

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    • Noel says:

      “God Bless” is exactly what was signed on the 8 1/2 x 11 photo of him that he sent to me, in response to a letter that my mom sent him without my knowledge, mentioning that we share the same birthday (April 8th).

      For us, Jewish Liberal freedom-hating New Yorkers that we were, Carter’s piety was more of an obstacle for us to liking him than an entry point (he frequently “Thanked The Good Lord” in interviews, at a time when, though not unheard of, it wasn’t as frequently done as it is today). Despite that, his decency shone through. Whatever our differences are, he’s clearly a good person.

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  5. Navin,

    We’re the same age so I don’t remember him either, but I did a drawing about a year ago — it was my FIRST paid commission after I started doing Every Hall of Famer, for a super nice guy who was giving it to his brother as a present because Carter was their favorite player as kids. Here’s the sketch (I cleaned it up a little later but for some reason didn’t scan the final version before sending it):

    [I'm a girl] I remember when I did the drawing being really struck by how straight-up movie star handsome he was when he was younger (the only active comparable I can think of is Joe Mauer). [ / I'm-a-girl ]

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    • Thanks for sharing that, SAB. You’re an artist.

      And, hey, I’m with you; after having gone through photos of Carter during his playing days, there’s no argument: he was one handsome fella.

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  6. Allan says:

    I remember the Kid from his Expo days. Was a keener, ran out fly balls, ran out easy out ground balls. Always blocked home plate well. Was a great interview after a game, very positive. I still remember him batting, after a couple pitchs, stepping out of batter’s box, “muscling up” and then hitting next pitch out of park. Even did this in all star game.

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  7. IP says:

    I grew up in Montreal and was just a kid (excuse the use) during Carter’s heyday. He was a larger than life personality and although Raines was my favorite player, Carter was an incredible player and personality.

    Later on, when he came back to play for the Expos for that one season, I got to meet him a few times. I was a lifeguard at his neighborhood pool and while he only came by a few times, his daughters were regulars. He was just a really nice guy, very gracious.

    My favorite memory of Carter as an Expo is during his last MLB game in 1992 when he hit an opposite field double over the head of the Cubs’ Dawson (who else…) to cash in the only run of the game in the 7th inning. The ovation at the Big O was thunderous from 40,000+ in the stands. Amazing moment.

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  8. Dayn Perry says:

    Btw, “One Pitch Away” is a damn good book on the ’86 postseason.

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  9. nubillybaroo says:

    He lived on Long Island and sent his kids to a Day Camp that I worked at. I actually called his house when his daughter moved up in her Swimming lesson group. Nice guy on the phone. I hated the Mets, but I didnt have the guts to tel him off (I was 15) so I didn’t want to speak about baseball, cause I would have gotten nasty. Glad I had some sense.

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  10. olethros says:

    My nine-year old self didn’t know the word watching the ’86 Series, but “exuberant” is how I’d describe him. Probably only saw him play a couple of times other than that when the Mets and Cards happened to be the Sunday game on TV.

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  11. Gary Carter was one of those rare players who despite playing most of his career for team’s about which I did not have strong feelings, was one of my favorites. He was not only a great player, but just seemed like a good guy. Interestingly, he was an early favorite of the Bill James set in the early 1980s because he produced so much from such a defensive oriented position. He came to the Giants, my hometown team, towards the end of his career and was a favorite of me and my friends.

    Glad to hear so many people had good interactions with him. Am hoping he recovers.

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  12. Diane says:

    I have EVERY one of his baseball cards, even his minor league ones. I adored him. Still do.

    I have a picture of him and I at a baseball card show from like 20 years ago. I look at it now, and I want to cry.

    My favorite player growing up was Bobby Murcer, who died of a brain tumor at 62. When he retired, I latched onto Carter … and now … this.

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  13. bluejaysstatsgeek says:

    Growing up in the Toronto area, I was able to enjoy the first part of Carter’s career watching Expos broadcasts on CBC Wednesday night with my dad. (To be honest, I didn’t follow the Jays much for the first few years – the Expos were my team.)

    Carter had tremendous enthusiasm and hustle – you didn’t really expect a catcher to play like Pete Rose, but he did. In game, he was a focused, great field general; you could tell he was thinking about every aspect of the game. After games, he always gave a great interview with a huge smile – it was almost as if he was acting like the interviewer was doing him a favour rather than the other way around, as apparent with many players these days.

    But with all his focus, it was obvious he was having fun – he was a grown kid having the time of his life playing baseball and getting paid for it.

    I can’t remember if I cried the day I read about the trade to NY. I wanted the Kid to be a lifetime Expo. The ’85 Expo’s only had Raines and Dawson left and the home-town Jays had become good and an exciting team to watch since ’83 so my loyalty shifted. I never liked the Mets but I still cheered for the Kid.

    If anybody ever pouts together an “All Hustle Team” #8 has to be the Catcher.

    Navin: Thanks for asking. I’ll buy you a coffee someday.

    Gary: Millions of fans of our generation love you and are praying for you. God Bless you.

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  14. Thank you for all the comments, folks. I really, really enjoyed reading your thoughts about Carter.

    We’re all rooting for The Kid.

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  15. Allan G says:

    RIP Gary Carter. Too young to have ever watched him play, but just about everything I’ve ever heard about him is glowing.

    More players like Kid would be a great thing for the game of baseball.

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