Gary Carter, the Hall of Fame catcher who was a key component of the 1986 New York Mets World Series team, died last Thursday after a nine-month battle with brain cancer. He was 57.
“On behalf of everyone at the Mets, we extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to Gary’s family –— his wife Sandy, daughters Christy and Kimmy and son D.J. His nickname ‘The Kid’ captured how Gary approached life,” Mets co-owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz and Wilpon’s son Jeff said in a statement. “He did everything with enthusiasm and with gusto on and off the field. His smile was infectious. He guided our young pitching staff to the World Series title in 1986 and he devoted an equal amount of time and energy raising awareness for a multitude of charities and community causes. He was a Hall of Famer in everything he did.”
Jamaica resident Tito Zelaya said he was a young Mets fan in the 1980s and Carter was among his baseball idols.
“He was a great personality .... I had Gary Carter baseball cards growing up and when I was 10 they won the World Series. He was a great guy,” he said.
Born in California, Carter excelled at baseball and football and planned to enroll at UCLA for football, but was drafted by baseball’s Montreal Expos in 1972.
After 11 seasons with the Expos, Carter was traded to the Mets in 1985.
Darryl Strawberry, Carter’s Mets teammate and the owner of Strawberry’s Sports Grill in Douglaston, said Carter was one of the club’s leaders.
“His approach to the game was contagious. It spread to the rest of us,” Strawberry said. “He helped each of us understand what it took to win.”
Carter was a big contributor to the Flushing club’s 1986 championship season and hit two home runs in Game 4 of the 1986 World Series, although the Mets would lose the game.
In Game 6, Carter began a two-out rally in the bottom of the 10th inning that led to an improbable Mets victory highlighted by Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner’s misplaying a slow ground ball that went under his legs.
The Mets would go on to win the championship-clinching Game 7, and the image of Carter flipping off his catcher’s mask and leaping into the arms of Mets closer Jesse Orosco was one of the most memorable from the series.
Carter played five seasons for the Mets and retired in 1992. He was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2003.
Carter asked the Hall of Fame that his plaque show him wearing a hat with half of the Expos logo and the other half with the Mets insignia, but the Hall inducted him as an Expo.
He was diagnosed with brain cancer in May and his daughter, Kimmy Bloemers, routinely updated Carter’s condition on a private family website that some sports reporters were given access to.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
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