Whether it was smacking a clutch hit down the line, throwing out a runner at second base, or simply that endearing smile, Gary Carter was a gift to baseball fans for more than two decades. But to New York Mets fans, his legendary career took on a heroic note. Carter died yesterday after a long battle with brain cancer. He was 57.
“I choose to celebrate a life that touched and brightened so many other lives through his works both on and off the field,” Longtime WABC sports anchor Scott Clark tells FishbowlNY. “Baseball players respected and admired his skills and his grit. Members of the media craved for more like him, always available, win or lose.”
A blockbuster trade after the 1984 season sent Carter to Shea Stadium, and the New York media. Less than two years later, Carter helped the Mets win one of the “amazing” comebacks in World Series history.
At the height of Carter’s popularity in New York, Len Berman, the longtime WNBC sports anchor, recalls a story involving Sports Fantasy he hosted on Channel 4 and on NBC Sports.
“A local viewer wanted to steal second base against Gary. So we filmed it at Shea, and of course the guy had no chance. He was out by a mile,” Berman tells FishbowlNY. “But after throwing to second, Gary grabbed at his knee. I was thinking, “Uh oh, I cost the Mets the pennant.” Gary smiled and said he was fine. He was always smiling. He never let anything bother him.”
Another veteran sports anchor, Sal Marchiano, recalls Carter always being the perfect interview.
“He was friendly, polite and always accessible which is rare. After his game winning home run against the Astros at Shea Stadium in the 1986 National League playoffs, he graciously reversed his walk to the clubhouse while teammates back slapped him and returned to the field so I could interview live for WNBC-TV,” Marchiano tells FishbowlNY. “His exhuberance was infectious and this strong positive thinking man stood out among the egocentrics.”
Carter’s excitement didn’t go unnoticed, in fact it was relied upon.
[Known as] “‘The Kid,’ no nickname was more appropriate. No matter his endeavor, Gary Carter displayed an effervescent quality that any kid would appreciate, no matter his or her age,” Clark says.
After leaving the Mets in 1989, Carter had one-year stints with the Giants, Dodgers, and a homecoming the Expos.
Carter was honored with a spot in the Mets Hall of Fame in 2001, two years later he was enshrined in Cooperstown, although with an Expos hat for his dozen years playing in Montreal.
An 11-time All-Star, Carter ended his career with 2,092 hits, 324 home runs, and a .262 batting average.
But Marchiano says Carter’s legacy happened off the field.
“Ballplayers come and go, few leave lasting impressions and the ones that do are remembered for their athletic talents. Gary Carter was more than a Hall of Fame catcher who made his teammates better.”
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