Friday, June 3, 2011

Gary Carter's Battle

"I wasn't making the last out of the ----ing World Series."  Gary Carter after starting the two-out rally in the epic 10th inning of Game #6 of the 1986 World Series.
One of the few Mets players I really liked during the dark days of the early 1980s was Hubie Brooks.  After so many dismal third basemen, Hubie was a breath of fresh air.  He wasn't a great fielder, but he played hard and was a pretty decent hitter.  Even with Hubie anchoring the hot corner, however, the Mets were lousy.  But by 1983, after another last place finish, there were some hopeful signs.  Darryl Strawberry, with his great name and incredible talent made his debut, and in mid-season the Mets acquired a star from the Cardinals, Keith Hernandez.  Then in 1984, after seven straight losing seasons, the Mets became a fun team to watch.  With a full year from Keith, and a youth movement led by Strawberry and phenomenal rookie sensation Dwight Gooden, the Mets won 90 games and finished in second place.  Things were finally, finally looking up.

Before the 1985 season, the Mets traded Hubie Brooks and a couple of other players for Montreal Expo catcher Gary Carter.  Carter succeeded Johnny Bench as the dominant National League catcher in his 11 years with the Expos.  He had been a 7-time All Star and won 2 Gold Gloves.  Still, I hated seeing Hubie go, and wasn't sure whether Carter had that much left at age 31, after so many years behind the plate.

Along with many other skeptical Met fans, my doubts about Carter evaporated on Opening Day, when in his debut as a Met he hit the game-winning home run in the 10th inning.  With Carter anchoring the pitching staff and solidifying the middle of the batting order, he helped transform the Mets from a good team to a great one.  In 1985 he led the team with 32 home runs, and led them in RBIs in 1985 and 1986.

Of course, in 1986, the Mets won the World Series, and it was Gary Carter, with the Mets down by two runs with two outs in the 10th inning of Game #6, who started the famous rally which culminated in Mookie Wilson's hit going through Bill Buckner's legs.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Carter made the All Star team as a Met four years running, from 1985 through 1988.  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.

Ron Darling, a former teammate of Carter's and currently a Met announcer, said on a recent Met broadcast that Gary Carter was one of the "finest human beings" with whom he had ever played.

Gary Carter, only 57 years old, has been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer.  His family says that "he's ready to battle."  No doubt.  No one had more determination on the field than Carter.  As he starts chemotherapy, he is sure to show the same fighting spirit.


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