Gary Carter

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Gary Edmund Carter
(The Kid or Camera)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2003

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Playing Career[edit]

"An exuberant on-field general with a signature smile who was known for clutch hitting and rock-solid defense over 19 seasons" - Carter's Hall of Fame plaque

Nicknamed "The Kid", Gary Carter is widely regarded as one of the best catchers of all-time and a perennial fan favorite. He played in eleven All-Star Games, was named a Silver Slugger five times, and won three Gold Gloves during his nineteen-year career. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Perennial Star with the Expos[edit]

"I’ve always been named The Kid, and then when I went to my first big-league spring training camp in 1973, I was a vivacious and enthusiastic young kid who wanted to get to the major leagues." - Carter

"Gary was a champion. He was a `gamer' in every sense of the word — on the field and in life. He made everyone else around him better, and he made me a better pitcher." - Steve Rogers

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A star on the gridiron as well as the baseball diamond while attending high school in Fullerton, California, Carter was offered a football scholarship to UCLA but instead signed with the Montreal Expos after being selected in the third round of the 1972 amateur draft. He quickly rose through their chain, and after hitting .268 with 23 home runs and 83 RBI for the Memphis Blues in 1974, earned a September call up to the majors, where he hit .407 in 9 games. His first major league homer was hit off the Philadelphia Phillies' Steve Carlton.

With Barry Foote behind the plate for Montreal, Carter became the club's regular right fielder in 1975 and hit .270 with 17 homers, playing in his first All-Star Game and finishing second to John Montefusco in National League Rookie of the Year voting. He did play a fair number of games behind the plate as well, since Foote hit only .199. Carter hit just .219 in 91 games the following summer while missing time with hand injuries, the result of an outfield collision with Pepe Mangual on June 6th. New Expos manager Dick Williams decided in spring training 1977 that Carter would be his full-time catcher, and he did not disappoint, hitting a home run on Opening Day (a feat he would repeat in each of the next three seasons) and clubbing three more off pitcher Jim Rooker of the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 20th; he was the first Expo ever to have a three-homer game. The Expos traded away the now-redundant Foote on June 15th, and Gary's new back-up, Tim Blackwell, hardly played the rest of the year. He ended the year with 31 homers, a club record at the time.

Carter again played in the All-Star Game in 1979, the first of ten straight years he would be selected for the Midsummer Classic. He was always at his best under the floodlights, and that game was no exception, as he made a spectacular tag at home plate on a sliding Brian Downing, handling Dave Parker's throw from deep right field to preserve the National League's 7-6 win. Unfortunately, he was injured during the season's last week, missing the crucial final games as the Expos fell just shy of the Pittsburgh Pirates and a possible first-ever division title. He hit 29 home runs and drove in 101 runs in 1980 and finished second to Mike Schmidt in NL MVP voting. During the strike-shortened 1981 campaign, he was named MVP of the All-Star Game after hitting a pair of homers off Ken Forsch and Ron Davis. The Expos won the NL East title for the second half of the split season, making the playoffs for the only time in team history, and Carter recorded hits in each of the ten postseason games. He hit .421 with a pair of home runs in the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies and then batted .438 in the NLCS as his club fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Prior to the 1982 season, after months of arduous negotiations, Carter agreed to a seven-year, $15 million contract, one that owner Charles Bronfman would regret during his tenure as the Expos owner. That regret came not because Carter was not productive - on the contrary - but because for the Expos, who were run on a tight budget, a lot of money was tied up in a single player, even if he was one of the best in the game. Carter responded with the highest OPS+ of his career (146) in 1982. The 1983 season was among the most frustrating of his career, as he had to deal with an elbow injury all year long. After the season, Charles Bronfman invited him to his Florida home and then lambasted Carter heavily for failing to bring a championship to Montreal. The writing was on the wall and it was not a matter of if, but when, Carter would be let go.

Carter had perhaps his best year in 1984, hitting a career-high .294 while adding 27 homers and leading the National League with 106 RBI. He was also named MVP of the All-Star Game again that summer, hitting another key home run. Given the season he had, the time was ripe for the organization to unload him and they traded him to the New York Mets in return for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham, and Floyd Youmans. He was the Expos' most valuable trading chip, and the team had a number of gaping holes that needed to be filled. His trade marked the end of the Expos' glory years and the beginning of their time as a "small-market" team trying to compete with makeshift lineups.

World Series Champ with the Mets[edit]

"I remember when he came to New York with all the pressure on him. We were expected to win and he was expected to lead us, and both came through… He loved the media, loved the expectations, and lived up to all of them." - Ed Lynch

"When he was playing for me, I always knew good things were coming. He was awfully clutch." - Davey Johnson

"Nothing will ever replace the moment when Jesse Orosco struck out Marty Barrett to end Game 7, and I was able to go out and jump in his arms. That was my biggest thrill." - Carter

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Joining a Mets lineup that included stars Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez, Carter became the team's cleanup hitter and, his sense of drama not having been affected by the trade, smashed a game-winning home run in his first game in a Met uniform. He added three more in a September 3rd contest against the San Diego Padres and ended the year with a career-best 32 home runs. In 1986, he hit 24 homers and recorded 105 RBI despite missing two weeks with a thumb injury, and finished third in the MVP vote as the Mets won the NL East. He struggled in the NLCS against the Houston Astros, going 4-for-27, but drove in the game-winning run in the 12th inning of Game 5, and the Mets went on to win in six games. Carter returned to form in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox. He drove in three runs in Game 3, then clubbed a pair of homers in Game 4. In Game 6, he drove in the tying run in the 8th inning to force extras, and with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the 10th and the Red Sox ready to jump on the field to celebrate a Series win, he singled to spark a rally that led to a Mets win. The Mets were down by two runs when Carter singled off Calvin Schiraldi, starting the Mets' amazing comeback. In the decisive Game 7, he drove in the tying run in the 6th inning, as New York went on to win the game and the Series. He could by all means have been named the World Series MVP, but the honor went to Ray Knight, who had a higher batting average and hit a solo home run in Game 7, but overall was not as instrumental to the title.

Carter's batting average dipped to .235 in 1987 as he began to feel the toll of catching all these games, and his home run output slipped to just 11 the following year. In 1988, he did manage to record the 300th homer of his career off Al Nipper of the Chicago Cubs on August 11th, 1988. He earned another taste of the postseason that fall, driving in the game-winning run in Game 1 of the NLCS, but the Mets fell to the Dodgers in seven games. He hit just .183 in 50 games for New York in 1989 and lost the starting job behind the plate to Barry Lyons. Still, he was named Mets' co-captain in 1988, joining Keith Hernandez who had received the honor the previous season. Both after the 1989 season, and the title was not used again until John Franco was named captain in 2001.

Giants, Dodgers, and Back to the Expos[edit]

Carter became a free agent following 1989 and signed with the San Francisco Giants for 1990, moving on to the Dodgers in 1991. He was a part-timer with both clubs and did not have any particularly shining moments. He returned to the Expos in 1992 for a last hurrah, finishing his big league career where he started it. He was not expected to be the regular, with Darrin Fletcher and Tim Laker on hand, but he played so well that he got into 95 games, banging 18 doubles in 285 at-bats in spite of hitting only .219. His throwing arm was still as strong, as he racked up 45 assists that year. He also received credit for steadying a young Expos pitching staff, as the team bounced back from a dreadful season in 1991 to be competitive again. On September 27th, he drove in the only run of a 1-0 win over the Chicago Cubs and Mike Morgan with a 7th-inning double, then gave way to pinch-runner Laker as a crowd of over 40,000 gave him a huge standing ovation at Stade Olympique. It was his last major league appearance, and as always, he had a knack for being at his best at the center of the spotlight.

Career Analysis and Honors[edit]

"He was not only a Hall of Fame ballplayer, but also a Hall of Fame man as well." - Bob Ojeda

Carter ended his career with 324 home runs, 1,025 runs scored and 2,092 hits in more than 2,000 games behind the plate. According to the similarity scores method, the most similar player to Carter, with a score of 880, is the legendary Johnny Bench, followed by a score of 879 for Lance Parrish.

Carter's number 8 was retired by the Expos in 1993; the number has been reused by the franchise since it became the Washington Nationals, but in 2010, the Nats honored Carter as a franchise great at a home game and stated they would respect the Expos' retired numbers in the future. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the BBWAA on January 7, 2003, his sixth time on the ballot. He was the first player to be so honored as a Montreal Expo; his long-time teammate Andre Dawson joined him in 2010 with Tim Raines making it a party of three in 2017. In 2001, Gary was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame.

The city of Montreal renamed a street in his honor in May 2013. Rue Gary-Carter leads to the former Jarry Park, now a tennis venue named Uniprix Stadium. A ballpark in the Ahuntsic neighborhood of the city also bears his name.

Post-Playing Career[edit]

Carter with some young fans

Broadcaster, Manager, and Coach[edit]

After baseball, Carter was a television color commentator for the Florida Marlins from 1993 to 1996. Following a stint as a catching instructor in the Mets organization, he managed in their system in 2005 (GCL Mets) and 2006 (St. Lucie Mets). In 2007 Carter was offered the Binghamton Mets manager's job but apparently turned it down citing the long bus rides in the Eastern League. Carter returned to management in the independent leagues, leading the Orange County Flyers of the Golden Baseball League in 2008 and the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League in 2009. He became the head coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University, leading the team to 17 wins in 2010 and 27 victories in 2011.

Brain Tumor[edit]

"Nobody loved the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. Nobody enjoyed playing the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. He wore his heart on his sleeve every inning he played." - Tom Seaver

In May 2011, Carter was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors after complaining of headaches and memory loss; he immediately underwent surgery at the Duke University Medical Center. The tumors were deemed inoperable, and he was left with aggressive chemotherapy as his only hope. There was some reassuring news in July, as Carter indicated that he was responding well to treatment and planned to return to his coaching job at Palm Beach Atlantic. Unfortunately, the news in early 2012 was not positive: it was reported that several new tumors had been found. He passed away on February 16th at age 57.

Two days later, he was paid an unusual tribute by the NHL's Montreal Canadiens on behalf of his countless fans in Montreal. The team came out for its pre-game skate against the New Jersey Devils with all of its players wearing a sweater bearing Carter's name and number 8. The jerseys were auctioned off with the profits going to the Gary Carter Foundation. The Mets also paid tribute to Gary on Opening Day, April 5, 2012. The team's coaches came out for batting practice at Citi Field wearing Carter's jersey, and the team wore a patch on its right sleeve in the shape of a black diamond with the word "Kid" and the number 8 outlined in white in tribute. Carter's wife, Sandy, son, D.J., and daughter, Kimmy, were present as the team held a minute of silence before the ceremonial first pitch. Montreal fans got a chance to pay tribute to Carter on March 28, 2014, before an exhibition game between the Mets and Blue Jays played at Stade Olympique. A huge crowd of more than 46,000 came to honor its late hero, with Sandy and Kimmy also present, as well as a number of former Expos teammates.

Among the posthumous honors bestowed on Carter were naming a street and a youth ballpark after him, both initiatives coming from the City of Montreal. In 2018, the Régie des installations olympiques, responsible for managing Stade Olympique, dedicated a special lounge in his honor, located immediately behind home plate when the stadium is in baseball configuration. The lounge, used for special events, is decorated with various features commemorating Carter's time in Montreal.

Family[edit]

Carter's brother, Gordon, was an outfielder in the Giants chain in 1972 and 1973. His daughter, Kimmy Bloemers, was head softball coach at Palm Beach Atlantic for 11 years.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Year-By-Year Minor League Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs
2005 GCL Mets Gulf Coast League 37-16 1st New York Mets Lost League Finals
2006 St. Lucie Mets Florida State League 77-62 3rd New York Mets League Champs
2008 Orange County Flyers Golden Baseball League 51-35 1st Independent Leagues League Champs
2009 Long Island Ducks Atlantic League 74-66 3rd (t) Independent Leagues Lost in 1st round

Further Reading[edit]

  • Gary Carter (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, July 1991, pp. 61-62. [1]
  • Chris Donnelly: Doc, Donnie, the Kid, and Billy Brawl: How the 1985 Mets and Yankees Fought for New York’s Baseball Soul, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. NE, 2019. ISBN 978-1-4962-0553-7
  • Danny Gallagher: "Carter makes it to Cooperstown", in Remembering the Montreal Expos, Scoop Press, Toronto, ON, 2005, pp. 93-98.
  • Norm King: "The Kid Goes Out in Style; September 27, 1992: Montreal Expos 1, Chicago Cubs 0 At Olympic Stadium", in Norm King, ed.: Au jeu/Play Ball: The 50 Greatest Games in the History of the Montreal Expos, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 87-89. ISBN 978-1-943816-15-6

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