Gary Carter: Hall of Fame Catcher (The Mets Years Part Three: 1987-1989)

 

After the Championship: In 1987 Gary Carter was 33 years old, age as well as a dozen years in the major leagues behind the plate began catching up to him. This would be his last productive season. His average fell to .235 on the season & he wasn’t leading the team in power numbers anymore. Carter did hit 20 HRs (4th on the club) with 18 doubles while driving in 83 runs (5th best on the club).

He was behind the plate for 135 games, posting a .991 fielding % (4th best in the league) with 874 put outs (2nd in the league) throwing out 27% of base runners. 

On Opening Day, he began the year with two hits, in the Mets 3-2 win over the Pirates. On April 12th, he hit his first HR of the season, a two-run shot off the Braves Randy O'Neal in the Mets loss. Two days later he homered in the Mets 4-1 win at Philadelphia, starting a stretch where he drove in runs in three straight games. He would do that twice in the month.


Four RBI Game: On April 20th, Carter had the first of four- four RBI games on the season, it came in a 9-6 loss at Pittsburgh. Carter would have 19 multi-RBI games on the year as well.

Carter slumped in May as his average fell to .228. In June he started the month with a nine-game hit streak. 

On June 7th, Carter tied up a game with the Pirates with an 8th inning fielder's choice. The Mets won the game on a Lee Mazzilli walk off hit. Carter then hit four HRs thru the month driving in 12 runs. He hit safely in 19 of 22 games heading into July.

Multi HR Game: On July 1st, in a 9-6 win over the rival Cardinals, he had the first of two multi-HR games on the year. His first HR came in the 6th inning off Bill Dawley & the second a two-run shot off Ricky Horton. Carter would have another multi-RBI game against St. Louis at the end of the month.

Four RBI Game: On July 16th, Kid hit a three run HR off the Reds Bill Landrum & collected an RBI single as well while driving in four runs in a Dwight Gooden shut out.

Multi HR Game: On August 5th, he hit two HRs in a 13-3 romp over the Phillies at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. The first was off Kevin Gross & the second off Michael Jackson.

Grand Slam HR: On August 30th Carter hit his eleventh career grand slam HR, coming off the Giants veteran Rick Reuschel in a 5-3 Mets win in San Francisco. It was his 18th HR of the season & his only grand slam of 1987.

The Mets began September 4.5 games behind the Cardinals & would get as close as 1.5 games back in the middle of the month. In a series with the Cardinals, he collected just one hit driving in one run as the Mets lost two of three.

But he drove in two runs in a big win over the Cubs the next night bringing the Mets back to 1.5 games out of first.

On September 23rd, with the Mets down 3-2 to the Expos at Shea, Carter hit a two-run single off Jeff Parrett leading them to a 4-3 victory. Carter drove in three of the Mets four runs.

The Mets were two games behind the Cards with five games left to play, including three in St. Louis, but they lost three of the five to end the year three games back. In the final game of the regular season Carter hit a two run HR against the Cardinals to finish off his year.


1988 NL Eastern Champion Season: On Opening Day, Carter collected a hit in the Mets 10-6 win. 

Multi HR Game: In the third game of the year, Carter blasted a pair of HRs in the 8-5 win over the Expos in Montreal. Both HRs were solo shots, coming off Neal Heaton & Andy Mcgaffigan.

He hit another HR the next day in Philadelphia driving in the Mets only run in a 5-1 loss. 

On April 15th Carter hit a solo HR helping Dwight Gooden in a 3-0 shutout to start a big series against the Cardinals. 

The next game, with the Mets down 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th inning, Carter hit a two run HR off Todd Worrell putting the Mets ahead. Howard Johnson went back-to-back leading to the victory. Carter had back-to-back HR games helping the Mets swept the series. 

Four RBI Game: On April 18th, Carter hit his third HR in four games, while driving in four
runs in a 10-7 loss to the Phillies. 

In the month of April, he batted .333 with 7 HRs & 15 RBIs.

Four RBI Game: On May 16th, Carter had his second & last four RBI game of the season, coming in a 7-4 Mets win at San Diego. After collecting an earlier RBI single, he homered off Greg Booker breaking a 4-4 tie in the 8th inning leading to the win.

In that game he hit career HR #299, one shy of a milestone. But then he fell into a slump, as he went more than 230 at-bats before hitting another HR.

1988 All Star:
 Even though he had poor numbers at the half, the popular Carter still was elected
to start the All-Star Game in Cincinatti. Dwight Gooden also was his batterymate once again. Gooden took the loss in the 2-1 AL win. Carter went 1-3 with a single off Jeff Russell in the 7th inning.

300th Career HR: On August 11th, in a 9-6 win at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Carter finally hit the 300th career HR. In the 2nd inning of an afternoon game, Carter connected off Al Nipper, crossing the plate with a sigh of relief & his big smile.


On August 14th, Carter hit a two run HR off Montreal's John Dopson bringing the Mets to within a run. They would win the game at Shea with a walk off sac fly line out by Tim Teufel scoring Howard Johnson. Carter hit two 
HRs that month while driving in eight runs. 

At the end of August, he showed signs of slowing down, with some of the poorest numbers of his career that late in a season. He was batting just .243 with 10 HRs & 43 RBIs after 111 games. During the final month of the season, Carter only hit one HR & had RBIs in just two games. That season Mackey Sasser & Barry Lyons were seeing more action behind Carter at catcher.

Mets Clinch NL East: On September 22nd, 1988, the Mets clinched the NL Eastern title, their second in three years. Carter had two hits in that game. 

Overall, in 1988, Carter played in 130 games (119 at catcher) batting .242 with 110 hits 11 HRs 16 doubles 46 RBIs & 39 runs scored. He struck out 52 times with 34 walks posting a .301 on base % & .659 OPS. 

Defensively he posted a .990 fielding %, making nine errors (2nd in the NL) allowing 136 stolen bases, most in the league, with nine passed balls.


1988 Post Season: In the Mets 3-2 win in Game #1 of the 1988 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Carter once again proved to be a post season hero. Earlier, he had singled off Orel Hershiser in his first at bat. He later grounded out & struck out. 

In the top of the 9th, inning with the Mets down 2-0. Gregg Jeffries singled & scored on Darryl Strawberry's double. Kevin McReynolds then drew a walk. 

Carter then hit a two run double off Dodger reliever, Jay Howell putting New York ahead 3-2. The Mets Randy Meyers shut L.A. down in the bottom of the 9th as New York went on to a 3-2 victory. 

In the Mets Game #2 loss Carter was 0-4.

Game #3 was played at Shea Stadium, with the Mets taking an 8-4 win. Carter collected two hits, including a 6th inning, RBI single off Hershiser, bringing the Mets within a run. Wally Backman tied it with a base hit & the Mets five run 8th inning sealed the win.

In Game #4, the slow running Carter was credited with a 6th inning RBI triple, as he collected two more hits keeping his series average at .313. 

In the 9th inning Dwight Gooden served up a two-run game tying HR to Mike Scioscia which turned the series around, as L.A. won three of the next four games upsetting the Mets & going on to win the World Series. Carter collected just one hit in the last three games.

Overall in the Series he hit .222 (6-27) with a double, triple, walk & four RBIs. He struck out three times as well.

Final Mets Season: By 1989 Carter was 35 years old, 15 years of catching behind the plate caught up to his beaten-up body. He was spending more time on the DL & was limited to just 50 games (47 behind the plate) due to the injuries. 

Barry Lyons became the main catcher (76 games) & Mackey Sasser (62 games) the back up. 

On September 19th, in a 5-2 win at Wrigley Field, Kid hit his final Mets HR, the 89th in a Met uniform.

Five RBI Day: On September 23rd, in a 13-6 win over his former Expos team, Carter had the last big day as a New York Met, as he collected three hits & drove in five runs in the win. He started the scoring in the Mets six run 4th inning, with a two-run single off Mark Langston. In the 6th he cleared the bases with a three run double off Andy Mcgaffigan. It was his first five RBI game in three years.

On September 30th, the fans gave him a nice ovation as it was pretty clear his days were numbered in New York. Gary went 0-5 in a 7-2 win over the Pirates as he was behind the plate for the last time as Mets #8.



The 1989 Mets finished second, six games behind the Chicago Cubs. Carter batted .183, with two HRs 8 doubles 15 RBIs, a .241 on base % & .515 OPS in 50 games. As pieces of the 1986 Championship team kept going away, the Mets released Carter that winter. 

Mets Career Stats: In his five-year Mets career, Carter made his mark on many Mets all time stats. He played in 600 Mets career games (42nd most) with 566 behind the plate (5th most as a Met catcher). He hit 89 Mets HRs (21st all time) & drove in 349 runs (both 22nd all time) with 31 sac flies (tied with Keith Hernandez for 10th) with 73 doubles, 219 walks & a .249 average.


Post Mets Career: In 1990 Carter played for the third place, San Francisco Giants as back up to Terry Kennedy batting .254 with 9 HRs & 27 RBIs playing in 91 games (80 behind the plate). 

Return to Shea: On May 8th, he returned to Shea Stadium as a visiting player to a big ovation. In the 7th inning he singled off Sid Fernandez & also drew a walk in the 4-1 Mets win.

In 1991 he returned to his hometown area of Los Angeles signing a one-year deal with Tommy Lasorda's Dodgers. Carter caught 68 games behind main backstop Mike Scioscia & played in ten games at first base as well. 

Overall, he appeared in 101 games & was reunited with Darryl Strawberry who was also a Dodger. He batted .246 with 6 HRs & 26 RBIs for the second place Dodgers who won 93 games.

In November he was placed on waivers & picked up by the Expos, where he began his career. In 1992 Carter was greeted warmly & finished out his career in Montreal. For the Expos he played in 95 games batting .218 with 5 HRs & 29 RBIs.


Final Game vs Mets: On September 20th, Carter was behind the plate catching his last game at Shea Stadium in the Mets 1-0 win over Montreal. Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, Howard Johnson & Dave Magadan where all who remained from the 1986 Championship team. 

Carter went 0-3 that day & only played in two more games before retiring. That season his Expos finished in second place just behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Hall of Fame Career: In his 19-year career Carter was a.262 hitter with 2092 hits, 324 HRs (124th all time) 1225 RBIs (146th all time) 371 doubles, 848 walks & 106 intentional walks (131st all time). He had 726 extra base hits (176th all time) with 99 sac flies (315th all time). Carter posted a .335 on base % & .773 OPS.

He struck out 997 times, grounded into 180 double plays (178th all time) in 2296 games played (116th all time).
 
He ranks sixth all-time in career HRs by a catcher with 298. 

Catcher: Behind the plate he is fifth all time with 2056 games played. He made 11785 put outs (7th all time) 1203 assists (24th all time) with a 991 fielding %. He threw out 810 base runners caught stealing (23rd all time) 35% & allowed 1498 stolen bases (5th most).

Carter turned 149 double plays at catcher (10th all time) while making 121 errors in 13109 chances.

Retirement: After his playing days, Carter was an analyst for the Florida Marlins television broadcasts from 1993-1996. 

Honors: In 2001 Gary Carter was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame. While the Mets have not retired number 8 it has remained unused since Carter's election to the Hall of Fame. 

Cooperstown: In 2003 he was selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, getting inducted with (short time) former Met Eddie Murray. 

Trivia: Carter is the only member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to don the Expos logo.

2004: Carter was on hand at Shea Stadium when Mike Piazza was honored as the All-Time HR leader among catchers. Also on hand were Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Pudge Rodriguez & Lance Parrish.



In 2005 he managed the Gulf Coast Mets & the St. Lucie Mets in 2006. He also managed the Orange County Flyers of the Golden Baseball League as well as the Independent League Long Island Ducks.


Carter later managed the NCAA Division II Palm Beach Atlantic University team in his near his home in Florida. 

Family: Gary & his wife Sandy resided in Palm Beach Gardens Florida. Together they had three children.

He has also authored the book Dream Season recapping his year with the Mets. 

Manager Drama: In both 2004 & again in 2008 Carter openly spoke out about managing the New York Mets. He was criticized by some, including Keith Hernandez for speaking openly while managers Art Howe & Willie Randolph were still holding the manager positions.

That same year he was inducted into The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & had his uniform #8 retired by the Montreal Expos.

Brain Cancer: In 2010 he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. On February 3rd, opening night of Palm Beach Atlantic University's baseball season, Carter came out to greet the club he had managed. He rode in a golf cart greeting the players and smiling the whole time as he asked the team for a win, never mentioning his condition. 

He watched three innings of the game from a private box with former Palm Beach County residents & ex major leaguers Jeff Reardon & Tommy Hutton.

Passing: Less than two weeks late, on February 16th, 2012, Kid passed away at the age of 57.


TOM SEAVER:
 “No one loved the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. No one enjoyed playing the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. He wore his heart on his sleeve every inning he played. He gave you 110 percent and played the most grueling position on the field and that was something special.”

KEITH HERNANDEZ: Keith broke down several times, speaking of Carter upon his passing. " I always remember his knees being iced, every single day. He was in constant pain & discomfort. You had to be inspired by that" He always wanted to win so badly & that wasn't something you could totally understand until you played with him. This game is full of followers & you couldn't have had any better person to follow onto a baseball field than Carter." 

MOOKIE WILSON: “The one thing I remember about Gary was his smile. He loved life and loved to play the game of baseball.”

DARRYL STRAWBERRY: (Darryl had kept close contact with the Carter family as his health worsened.) He said he respected Carter as a man even more than the great player he was. "In all trueness and fairness, I really wish I could have lived like him, I really do. I really wish that I could live my life like him, as a player and as a person. I wished I would have known what he knew. Because what he knew was real.''

DWIGHT GOODEN:
 who won the 1985 Cy Young Award, with Carter as his main catcher, credits him with a lot of his own success. Gooden described Carter as true gentleman & a true leader. He said even with Carters' battle with cancer, he encouraged Gooden on his own personal abuse issues, saying they must both battle their problems.


On Opening Day 2012 the Mets honored Gary Carter & his family in a pregame ceremony at Citi Field. A banner reading Kid 8 was unveiled in the outfield & the team wore a commemorative patch on their sleeve all season.

Honored in Canada: In 2014 the Mets & Blue Jays played two exhibition games at Olympic Stadium in Montreal where Carter's legend was honored.

In a pre-game ceremony, Expo legends- Steve Rogers, Warren Cromartie & Tim Raines were on hand with Sandy, Gary Carters wife & their daughter, as a banner was unveiled in his honor on the outfield wall. 


Mets Honors: In 2016 at Citi Field, The Mets honored Carter, as his family was on hand at the ceremony for the 30th Anniversary of the Mets 1986 World Championship Team.

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