It was reported this weekend that former New York Mets catcher Gary “Kid” Carter has been diagnosed with four small brain tumors. Carter released a statement in which he bravely discussed the situation and asked for respect for his family as he waited to learn more about how he will handle the situation.
This is sad news indeed for Mets fans – and all baseball fans – for Carter surely epitomized the type of play we would want all players to embrace in sports. He was always a very positive influence in the clubhouse during his five years with the Mets (and his overall 19 year career), and his effervescent smile and “we can win” attitude was certainly an important part of Carter’s appeal.
As one of the central figures of the 1986 Championship Mets, Carter loomed as a strong and stable personality. In a turbulent clubhouse with many larger than life players, Carter’s steady nature was needed and the other players knew that. He hit 24 homers, drove in 105 runs, but it was his handling of the pitching staff (and sometimes other personal clubhouse matters) that made him a leader on that team.
People may remember some big moments from the 1986 Series, and one image usually stands out (the ball that went through Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner’s wickets). Still, it was Carter who knocked in 11 runs in that seven game series and provided a key hit against Boston’s closer Calvin Schiraldi when the game was down to the final strike. No Carter hit – no championship. It’s that simple.
Carter was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, and he has always been respected by Mets fans (and other fans of the game too) for his “Kid” persona. He has seemed eternally youthful in his attitude about the game and loved playing it in a way just like his nickname suggests. Major League Baseball is a man’s game, but Carter always made it look like he was having fun. Maybe that’s his greatest legacy of all.
So while we wait and hope to hear good news about this baseball legend’s condition, let’s all remember what kind of player Carter was: he never gave up, even down to the last strike in the World Series. That should tell us something about how the “Kid” will handle what lies ahead.
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