Gary Carter died today.
He was only 57 years old.
I know this is a cricket blog, but I love baseball, too. In fact I think the things I love about baseball ultimately led to me to cricket. It is rich in tradition, and history. It inspires fantastic writing.
Watching our former heroes age, grow weak, fade away – it’s one of the toughest parts of growing older. And it is even tougher when it is someone like Carter.
I grew up on baseball, and he was my first favorite player – and therefore more than likely my first favorite athlete ever.
My favorite baseball card growing up was Carter’s 1984 Topps:
For whatever reason, I loved the catchers. My favorites were Johnny Bench, and Carlton Fisk, and Gary Carter.
I moved around a lot growing up. I was never in one place long enough to have a team to cheer for, and so I developed affinitites for certain players instead.
I followed Carter from Montreal to New York, without missing a beat.
He was one of those players that your dad would tell you to emulate: he worked hard, he was always smiling, he ran out every ball. I remember reading a biography of him in like fourth grade, and while I remember nothing else from it, I do recall him talking about how much he simply loved playing baseball, and that he felt so blessed that he was able to do it for he living.
In 1986, he won the World Series with the New York Mets, and even though years later I wrote a song about Bill Buckner, I cheered for Carter and the Mets that night.
The video is of course nowhere to be found on YouTube, but I remember as if it was yesterday: Carter running up and jumping into the arms of Jesse Orosco:
He was always smiling.
His nickname was the “kid”.
Over his 19 season career, he played in almost 2,300 games – along the way collecting over 2,000 hits and over 1,200 runs batted in. Phenomenal offensive numbers for a catcher.
Behind the plate, he led the team. Catchers are the field generals in baseball, and he commanded his field and his pitcher like no one else in the game – before or since.
In 1992, he retired from baseball. He was inducted into MLB’s Hall of Fame in 2003.
Last spring he went to the doctor complaining of headaches. Less than a year later he was dead.
His former teammate, Bob Ojeda, put it best: “He is gone too soon for us to understand.”
Rest in peace.