As a Mets fan I am mourning the loss of Hall of Famer Gary Carter as many others are, and they are not just Mets fans. Gary was one of those great players you just had to admire even when he was on the other team. I can remember when he was a Montreal Expo, and I always appreciated the way he played the game, the obvious excitement for the game itself, and an enthusiasm that transcended the sport and seemed to just be part of his daily life.
Gary Carter was one of the good guys. On the World Series Champion 1986 New York Mets, a great team with many demons hidden and otherwise, Gary stood out as just a good man. It seems implausible now that the most important player on that team was not the hardest partying, not the meanest one, or perhaps even the most talented. What Gary represented was a moral compass in a clubhouse sometimes lost at sea. You had bad influences all around in those days, and it was hard most of all for the young players, but in the center of it all was the rock that was Gary Carter.
During his career his good guy-white hat stuff annoyed some people. Carter was also extremely genial with the press, always ready for the microphone or the reporter, prompting some of his teammates to razz him for seeking out the question before it was even asked, but Gary was always Gary: honest, unapologetic for being so, and ready to accept blame when the fault was his own for losing.
As I look back at those 1986 Mets (and now it seems like a more and more distant dream for me and my fellow Mets fans), everything seemed to click into place, and most of us know that only happened when Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez came into town. Keith was sort of an urban legend, the guy with the black hat and the cigarette dangling from his mouth (sometimes inadvertently caught by a dugout camera). Gary was the opposite, with the white hat with the silver spurs and the golden smile. Together, something like the sheriff and the former gunslinger who becomes his deputy, they brought order to the clubhouse and started the team on its winning trajectory.
If you hear the former Mets now, even those who were the “bad” boys to be sure, they all had a great respect for Gary Carter. They admire him as a player and a family man. Those seemingly trite descriptions of “Kid” living a clean life and loving his wife and children do not seem that way to his former mates or to most of his fans either. So we remember Gary Carter for everything he was and the things he was not – and maybe that is what hurts most of all now.
Gary Carter is gone at 57. He left us much too quickly, but he will always be remembered as one of the great New York players, and I can picture him up there in heaven shaking hands with Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roy Campenella, Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, and so many others welcoming him to the club. It is just hard to accept that he has to be a member so soon.
Rest in peace, Gary Carter!
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