Gary Carter just loved baseball so much. Someone gave him the nickname "The Kid" because he wore his joy and enthusiasm for the game on the sleeves of his uniforms. The Montreal Expos. The New York Mets. The San Francisco Giants. The Los Angeles Dodgers. And Palm Beach Atlantic University, where he was the head coach.
No matter where he was or what he was doing, it was obvious that Carter was in love with baseball.
Carter died on Thursday after suffering from brain cancer. His daughter Kimmie Bloemers published an announcement on a family website. The Hall of Fame catcher, the biggest face of the Expos franchise and a leader among superstars on the World Series champion Mets in 1986, was 57 years old. He hit 324 career homers, made 11 All-Star teams and seemed to have a blast doing every bit of it.
Back in May 2011, we passed along the stunning news, which the New York Daily News first reported, that doctors had found small tumors on Carter's brain. His condition was always grave, but occasionally there seemed to be glimmers of hope that Carter could outlast his condition a little while longer. Can anyone doubt that he gave it everything he had? It is sad that Carter was ill and it is sad that he is gone. But with death, hopefully there also comes relief. And some peace.
Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig released a statement:
"Driven by a remarkable enthusiasm for the game, Gary Carter became one of the elite catchers of all-time. 'The Kid' was an 11-time All-Star and a durable, consistent slugger for the Montreal Expos and the New York Mets, and he ranks among the most beloved players in the history of both of those franchises. Like all baseball fans, I will always remember his leadership for the '86 Mets and his pivotal role in one of the greatest World Series ever played."
That '86 Series seemed in the bag for the Boston Red Sox until Carter came up with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6.
In an Answer Man Q&A from August 2010, Carter recalled what was going through his mind with the Mets on the verge of losing the 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."
Carter's hit started the Mets' famous and improbable rally, and set up victory in Game 7. Carter also famously put baseball back in the good graces of the public after a players strike with a two-homer performance to win MVP honors for the NL at the 1981 All-Star game.
And he was a guest on "The Baseball Bunch," a TV show hosted by fellow catcher Johnny Bench that entertained as it taught kids the game. That was Carter, if you paid attention. Baseball has lost one of its greatest ambassadors.
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