The same kind of optimistic approach might serve him well during what must be the scariest time of his life.
After getting an MRI on Friday, Carter learned from doctors that he has four "very small" tumors on his brain. They don't know yet if the tumors are malignant; Carter will find out more Thursday, when specialists at Duke University Medical Center examine him.
The New York Daily News, which first reported the story, says the 57-year-old Carter "had been complaining of headaches and forgetfulness in recent days."
There's never a good time to hear news like this, but it's even tougher for baseball fans considering that Harmon Killebrew died this past week. Hopefully the update on Carter's condition will be encouraging. Lee Mazzilli, a former teammate with the New York Mets, obviously is concerned:
"You hope that it's not what you think it is," said Mazzilli, who works in corporate sales and sponsorships for the Yankees. "It breaks your heart. But I think if anyone has an optimistic outlook, he has one."
"The last time I saw him a couple months ago, he looked well. He was Gary," said Mets first base coach Mookie Wilson, a teammate of Carter's in the 1980s. "He seemed himself. No indication anything was wrong.
"Whatever the situation may be, of course I wish him well. And I hope things turn out for the best."
What Mookie (pictured above, on the left) said. Carter released a statement saying he and his family thank folks for their thoughts and prayers. He also asked for privacy while they figure this out.
An 11-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2003, Carter hit 324 home runs and has the fourth-highest career WAR among catchers. He probably is best known for being a leader on the 1986 Mets; their famous rally against the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 of the World Series started with Carter's sharp two-out single in the bottom of the 10th inning.
During an Answer Man Q&A in August, Carter reminisced with The Stew about that magical Series:
"You know, I wasn't going to make the last out of the World Series. I had dreamed that dream so many times of setting the tone and imagining what it would be like to be there, and coming up there with the bases loaded and two outs and a two-strike count and coming through with a big hit. I lived the dream. As a kid, growing up, that's all I ever thought about — one day, being on that stage. It's such a fond memory and it's hard to believe that next year will be the 25-year anniversary of that World Series."
The Kid broke into the majors with the Montreal Expos and finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1975. Those very good Expos teams — with Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, Tim Wallach and others — never tasted the World Series. But Carter did hit two homers to lead the NL to victory at the 1981 All-Star game, which restarted the season after a long players strike.
He joined the Mets, with the franchise on the rise, in a trade for Hubie Brooks before the 1985 season — a key deal for GM Frank Cashen.
Carter played his last game in 1992 — going back to the Expos after brief stints with the Dodgers and Giants — and tried coaching and managing in the minor leagues with mixed results. He recently completed his second season as head coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University, where he seems content.
Carter has had a knack for bringing smiles to faces, and he's been a good ambassador for baseball. It's time to send him positive feelings in return.
(Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Carter signed in New York as a free agent, and that Joe McIlvaine brought him the Mets, but he was Cashen's assistant.) Thanks to @Michael_D_Cole for the head's up.)