Gary Edmund Carter was born April 8, 1954 in Culver City California just outside of Hollywood.. At seven years old he was already a football, Punt Pass & Kick winner for his age bracket. On a sad note, the next year he lost his mother to leukemia & would be a lifelong charity raiser for the cause. At Sunny Hills High School he was an All American quarterback, member of the National Honor Society & captain of his baseball team.
He originally signed a letter of intent to play football for UCLA but then was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the second round of the 1972 draft. He chose to play baseball instead of a football career. In 1973 he hit 15 HRs at the AA level at Quebec, returning to hit 23 while driving in 83 runs the next season at AAA Memphis.
He got the nickname “the Kid” at his first Expos spring training camp in 1974. Former Mets; short stop Tim Foli, outfielder Ken Singleton and first baseman Mike Jorgensen started calling him Kid because he was trying to win every sprint &trying to hit every pitch out of the park.
That season he got a September call up, debuting on September 16th, 1974 against the New York Mets in his first MLB game. He went 0-4 that day against Met pitchers Randy Sterling & Tug McGraw. He would see action in nine games that year and get 11 hits in 27 at bats good for a .407 average.
In 1975 he became a full time player, playing both the outfield (92 games) & at catcher (66 games) behind Barry Foote. He made his first All Star game as an outfielder that season, but did not get an at bat. He came in as a defensive replacement in the 9th inning & caught Rod Carew’s fly ball for the last out. He hit .270 with 17 HRs, 20 doubles & 68 RBIs getting named the Sporting News Rookie of Year & a member of the Topps All Star Rookie team. In 1976 he got injured running into a wall in the outfield and was limited to 91 games batting only .219.
The next season Norm Sherry helped him make the transition to full time catcher & Carter became one of the N.L.’s best defensive catchers in the game, eventually taking the title from Johnny Bench. He would win three Gold Gloves, & make eleven All Star teams. Hewas an expert at handling balls in the dirt & helping pitchers call a great game. He set a record with only one passed ball in over 150 games in 1978.
Between 1977 and 1982, he led the NL in games behind the plate every season. He would be tops in the league in putouts eight times, most chances six times, assists five times, and double plays three times. From 1975 through 1983 he led the league in throwing out base runners three times (1976-1981-1983) & was in the top three in the league in that category seven times. He led the league in fielding twice (1980 & 1983) coming in the top three nine different times.
At the plate he was known as one of the league’s best clutch hitters. He would hit ten career grand slams, and win five Silver Slugger awards (1981, 1982, 1984, 1985, and 1986). The Expo teams of the late 1970’s were real good, and very under rated. In 1977 Carter hit 31 HRs (7th in the league) and hit over 20 for the next three seasons. He drove in 84 runs, and would drive in over 70 runs the next two seasons as well. He would also hit over 25 doubles for eight straight seasons, including three over thirty plus.
In 1979 he tore a ligament in his thumb missing the last week of the season. Due to his absence the Expos lost out winning the division, falling short to the Pirates that week. The next year Carter, returned as did the Expos again, losing out to the Phillies on on the last day of the season. In the month of September, Carter hit over .360 & with seven HRs & drove in 22 runs. He finished the year with 29 HRs (4th in the league) 25 doubles & drove in 101 runs. His 101 RBIs were fourth best in the league & it was the first of four times he would drive in over 100 runs. Both of the years the Expos finished second, they were beaten out by teams who went on to win the World Series.
In the strike shortened 1981 season Carter became the fifth player to hit two HRs in an All-Star Game earning him the game’s MVP honors. This season He led his Expos to the NL Playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s history. He hit .251 with 16 HRs (7th in the NL) 20 doubles & 68 RBIs (4th in the NL).
Post Season: In the NLDS he batted .421 (8-19) with two HRs three doubles & six RBIs in the NLDS beating the Phillies. In Game #2 he hit a 3rd inning two un HR off Dick Ruthven leading the Expos to a 3-1 victory. The post season win would be the only one in the Montreal Expos history. In the NLCS Carter hit .438 (7-16) but Carter didn’t drive in any runs although he scored three runs. Montreal lost the Series to the eventual 1981 World Champion Dodgers.
1982 was another big year for the Kid, hitting 29 HRs (7th in the NL) 97 RBIs (9th in the NL) and batting .293 with 32 doubles. He would hit 30 plus doubles for the next three seasons. In 1983 his numbers fell off a bit playing in 145 games with 17 HRs 79 RBIs and a .270 batting average.
He came back with a roar in 1984, leading the league with a career high 106 RBIs. Carter also had career highs in batting average (.294) hits (175) total bases (290) and games played (159). In the All Star Game he got to catch the Mets' rookie phenom Dwight Gooden for the first time. It was a scene Met fans would soon be thrilled to have on a regular basis. In that game Gooden struck out the side & Carter and won his second All-Star Game MVP Award.