Tuesday, June 30, 2009
#70 Gary Carter
Who was this player?
Gary Carter, catcher, Montreal Expos
Hall of Famer, Class of 2003.
1980 was the season that Gary Carter moved out of the shadow of Johnny Bench as the best catcher in baseball. The season before, the young Expos were narrowly edged in the NL East race by the veteran Pittsburgh Pirates. Many pre-season predictions felt the Expos would win the division in 1980. That year, Carter was named to the All-Star Game, won his first Gold Glove and finished second in the NL MVP voting, hitting 29 HR and driving in 101 RBI. The Expos, however, were edged out again in the NL East race, this time by the Phillies, losing the division on the final weekend.
As a 7-year old, Carter was the inaugural national champion of the Punt, Pass & Kick competition in 1961. He also originally signed a letter of intent to play football at UCLA before signing with the Montreal Expos in 1972. Nicknamed "Kid" and later "Camera" by his teammates, he made his major league debut in late 1974. The following season, he was selected to the All Star Game (catching the final out) and was runner up in the Rookie of the Year voting. However, that season, he did so as a right fielder as Barry Foote was being used behind the plate for Montreal.
He was moved behind the plate for good in 1977, where he would remain for the rest of his career. The Expos, led by Carter, made the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1981 season. 1981 was a banner year for Carter as he won another Gold Glove, his first Silver Slugger and was elected to start for the National League in the All Star Game. Carter was named MVP of the game when he hit two home runs in the NL's 10th straight win. The Expos, despite finally winning the NL East, lost the NLCS in five games in heartbreaking fashion to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite yearly predictions of their dominance, the Expos never returned to the postseason. Carter, however, continued to receive individual honors, winning the All Star Game MVP again in 1984.
By 1985, the Expos were being dismantled, and Carter, even after leading the league in RBI, was traded to the New York Mets. In his first game as a Met, he hit a dramatic opening day home run and the Mets challenged for the division title. The following year, the 1986 Mets ran away with the NL East and Carter was their star cleanup hitter. He had a dramatic single in Game 5 of the NLCS that gave the Mets a 3-2 series edge. The Mets would win the NCLS. He also began the historic Mets rally that led to an improbable win in Game Six of the World Series. The Mets would win in seven games. They would return to the postseason in 1988, but the Mets never regained the dominance that was predicted of them. Carter had an injury-filled 1989 season and was released by the Mets the following year. He became a journeyman the next three seasons, closing out his 19-year career in 1992 by returning to Montreal.
In retirement, Carter wrote a book and was a broadcaster for the Marlins. He remained an active spokesman for the Leukemia Society of America, a disease that claimed his mother when he was eight. Carter orginally intended to enter the Hall of Fame as a Met, but he was overruled by Hall President Dale Petrosky who made Carter the Expos only Hall of Famer to date. Carter recently began a second career as manager of the independent Long Island Ducks.
Why I love this card
The first baseball card show I ever went to featured Mickey Mantle signing autographs for $10 in 1981 or 1982. My Dad took me to see "The Mick." While that was impressive, I distinctly recall holding up the line so that I could purchase this Carter card from a vendor for ten cents. I never got this card in 1980 and was thrilled when I found it at that show. After all it was a great deal!
I know that this card is a Spring Training shot, but I think the photo they used of Carter here was two or three years old at the time. While it is a great photo, the patch on Carter's right sleeve commemorates the 1976 Montreal Olympics. I am assuming the Expos wore them that season, but did they wear them all the way until 1979? The uniform database wasn't much help, so if anyone knows, I would be most appreciative.