Friday, February 17, 2012
Saying Goodbye to The Kid
It's been almost 24 hours since I found out Gary Carter passed away from complications from Brain Cancer. I found out while driving home from work at about 6 PM. I was shocked... not so much because I didn't know he was sick (I had been half expecting it since it was revealed he had brain cancer last year)... but more so because it hit home in a way that very few celeberties deaths have ever hit me.
Gary wasn't my favorite baseball player... hell he wasn't even my favorite Mets' catcher (Hi Mike Piazza) ... but Gary held a special place in my heart due to the fact he was the first real SUPERSTAR to go to the Mets in their rise from basement dwellers of the late 70s and early 80s. I know that is strange to hear from me, since my favorite baseball player of all time is Keith Hernandez who was traded from the Cardinals to the Mets in 1983, but Keith's star was a little dimmed at the time and he didn't have the "SUPERSTAR!!!!" tag on him like Gary did in 1984.
I still remember getting the paper the day after the trade. I was fourteen years old and was a rabid Mets fan. Back in '84 there was no 24 HR sports radio or internet and I was not the type to watch the news at night, so I didn't even know about the trade until Newsday came the next day. I was totally taken aback. I had watched Carter win the 1984 All-Star Game MVP award with his home run and it never occured to me he could be a Met. I liked Hubie Brooks (who went to the Expos along with Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winning ham and Floyd Youmans) a lot and thought he was going to be a great player, but to get Carter... wow.
I remember certain moments from Carter's career like they were yesterday. Of course two of the largest were his first game as a Met (the 19th inning homerun off of Cardinals closer Neil Allen) and his rally-starting at-bat with two outs in the 10th inning of Game Six of the '86 World Series (which overshadowed the almost equally as important Game Four Carter performace when he hit 2 home runs over the Green Monster).
There isn't much more I can say about Gary Carter than what has been said in the last 24 hours. He was a great baseball player, as well as a great role model. He was a great big boyscout on a team that partied hard in the '86 Mets. He was a family man who played the game right and led life right. I remember hearing how Carter was a guy the other teams hated, but once he was on YOUR team, everyone though he was great.
As a Mets fan, I obviously don't have a lot of great winning memories to pull out of the hat... so of course 1986 is highest on the charts. Carter was a huge... HUGE part of that. I remember sitting on the edge of my couch, watching the 10th inning of Game Six an dafter Hernandez made out, I was totally deflated. I kicked the tv off and stormed out of the room. But only seconds later I stormed back in and turned the TV back on. I didn't want to see them lose, but I couldn't stay away. I paced back and forth, in an aggressive stride as Carter battled and get on base with a solid hit. I paced back and forth for the rest of the inning and when it was over I exploded in a way I have rarely been able to explode. The joy I felt was incredible... and it wouldn't have been there is not for Gary's great at-bat and hit to start it all.
Gary's passing is something else to me. It's the death of a small part of my childhood. That sounds dramatic... maybe in an Emo way... but Gary, along with Mex, Doc, Straw, Nails, Mookie, El Sid, Darling and the rest was a huge part of my childhood. Especially in 1985 and 1986. I averaged watching about 145 games a year. Missed very few. Went to a few games a year but mostly watched on Sportschannel (HBO) and on Channel Nine. It was a great part of it... watching those games and learning so much about baseball... about life. The ups and downs of the game are like the ups and downs of real life... in were you have to learn to handle them both correctly and get balance between the two. Never be too up... never get too down.
Gary was a huge part of that. I'm miss him for a lot of reasons.
Rest in Peace Kid.