One of my heroes is gone. Today, cancer claimed the life of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter at the age of 57. Carter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last May and despite a valiant fight, it was one he could not win.
Fans in New York will remember his two out, two strike hit against Calvin Schiraldi in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Carter's single sparked a rally which eventually led Mookie Wilson hitting a groundball which eluded the glove of Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner. If Carter doesn't get that hit, the Red Sox would have broken the Curse of the Bambino eighteen years earlier. Instead, Carter refused to make the last out and the Mets won Games 6 and 7.
As for me, I remember him as a Montreal Expo through and through. Drafted by the Expos in the 3rd round of the 1972 draft as an outfielder, the club actually moved him behind the plate so he wouldn't get injured. Usually it's the other way around. Carter made his big league debut late in the 1974 season and had a sensational rookie campaign in 1975 finishing runner up in NL Rookie of the Year balloting to San Francisco Giants pitcher John Montefusco. By the end of the decade, Carter had supplanted Johnny Bench as the premier catcher in the NL. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Carter was part of an Expos team which included the likes of Andre Dawson, Warren Cromartie, Tim Raines, Tim Wallach, Larry Parrish, Steve Rogers, Rodney Scott, Scott Sanderson and Ellis Valentine. In 1980, Carter finished runner up in the NL MVP balloting to Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt. Not coincidentally, Schmidt homered against the Expos to clinch the NL East during the final weekend of that season.
Carter was traded to the Mets prior to the 1985 season for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans. After spending five seasons in Queens, Carter had stints with the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers before returning to the Expos in 1992 where he had his number 8 retired at the end of the season. Carter finished his career with a .262 lifetime batting average, 324 homeruns, 1225 RBI, 11 NL All-Star selections, five Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves and a World Series ring. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.
After his playing career ended, Carter spent several seasons as a color commentator for the Expos and then later for the Florida Marlins. In recent years, Carter had tried his hand at coaching. He served as a manager in the Mets minor league system from 2005 to 2007. Carter would manage independent league teams in 2008 and 2009 before turning to the college ranks in 2010 accepting the coaching job at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Two weeks ago, Carter made his last public appearance when he attended PBAU's home opener.
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