It's always a sad day when a Hall of Famer leaves us, but Gary Carter's passing on Thursday was particularly sobering.
For the first time since Kirby Puckett's death in 2006, we were dealing with a death that had come much too soon.
We were dealing with memories that hadn't yet yellowed and with a career that many of us had cheered and covered. A few more decades of Carter taking the stage in Cooperstown every summer were supposed to be on the horizon.
Instead, the tumors in Carter's brain meant that we had to eulogize the man and the player much earlier than we should have. But in a testament to his character and his career, we had no shortage of good things to say about him. Here's a sampling of some of the better writing from Gary Carter's obituaries.
Joe Posnanski, Sports Illustrated: "Everyone assumed Gary Carter was going to play college football. He had twice been a Punt, Pass and Kick finalist — he would always say that he should have won the second time, but he slipped on the ice in the bitter cold of Green Bay — and he had a scholarship and holding place waiting for him at UCLA. He looked the part of the star quarterback; he would say that his dream was to be the next Joe Namath."
Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated: "There was, despite resentment from inside his clubhouses, nothing phony about Carter, and nothing given easily to him. He was the same off camera as on: optimistic, faithful, kind-hearted, philanthropic. It drove some people nuts that Carter played every day with the joy as if it were the opening day of Little League."
Ian Denomme, Eh Game: "It was his first 11 years in Montreal that made him a perennial All-Star and the face of baseball in Canada at a time when the Expos were still young and the Toronto Blue Jays were a couple years away from existence. Carter was part of an impressive core of Expos players in the late 1970s and early '80s that included Tim Raines and Andre Dawson who helped the team reach the National League Championship Series in 1981. Their Game 5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers will forever be known in Montreal and across Canada as 'Blue Monday' thanks to a two-out, ninth-inning home run by Rick Monday that won the series for L.A.."
Stu Cowan, Montreal Gazette: "I also remembered Carter starring in a TV commercial for a soft-drink company with his daughter Christy, in which he simply said: "J'aime le 7UP." It might have been the only French the American knew, but he made the effort. It also was a brilliant marketing move and a smart PR move by Carter. Most importantly, it helped connect him with all Quebecers."
Tim Brown, Yahoo! Sports: "It was not terribly surprising to learn that on that Saturday night in late October 1986, the scoreboard had given up on the Mets, indeed some Mets had given up on the Mets, but Carter had not. His single with two out in the ninth inning sent that Game 6 of the World Series winding in the direction of Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner, and the series off toward something special and the last truly great baseball moment in the lives of anyone who ever gave a damn about the Mets."
Bob Klapisch, Bergen Record: "He was too young to leave us, only 57 — decades stolen. We were supposed to grow old with Gary, reliving that '86 World Series until we got sick of it. Except no one ever tired of the miracle. Game 6 represented all that was beautiful and crazy and precious about October in New York."
Jason Fry, Faith and Fear in Flushing: "Once upon a time, comparing Keith's Goofus to Gary's Gallant, I declared myself a Keith person. And I am. But you can declare for the one without diminishing the other. I was always drawn to Keith's ferocity and brains and his success despite all-too-evident foibles. But that's not to say I didn't beam in response to Gary's buoyant curtain calls, or admire his unflappable stoicism crouching behind the plate in pain and dust, or see his victories over Charlie Kerfeld and Calvin Schiraldi as little parables, lessons that hard work and self-confidence would be rewarded. And as I've gotten older and grayer and thicker myself, I've come to grasp that the truest measure of who we were will be how others remember us. Living your life like Gary Carter? We should all have such courage of our convictions."