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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gary Carter

Gary Carter died on Thursday. He was only 57. So young. It was a tragic and sad loss.
Many of you will have no idea who Gary Carter was. Some of you will know of him, but not really know what he was about. I urge you to read the article below.  It details what kind of man,  and player, and leader he was. In life and in baseball, he was the man.

 I knew everything about him. His death, on many levels has multiple meanings and memories for me.
First, the memories. 
Growing up, baseball was my life. I played it, I watched it and I thought about it 24/7. The Montreal Expos were a very big part of that. Many players came and went over the years and I have fond memories of many of them, but none of them even approached Gary Carter. He was the Montreal Expos of the 1970's and early 1980's. I can mostly trace the time I stopped watching baseball, and the Expos, with the day the Expos traded him to the New York Mets. It was a Wayne Gretzky moment for a Montreal Expos fan.

  It is not the main reason I stopped watching baseball, but it marked a time and a direction that baseball was heading that just made me lose interest. Baseball became all about the money at that point.

Gary Carter was a professional baseball player. First and foremost that is what he was. It was how he supported his family and everything he got and achieved after that was a direct result of him being a successful professional baseball player. He did perform to earn a living. I don't deny that and I am not under any illusions about that.

 But Gary Carter didn't appear to play baseball for the money. He played because he loved to play. He also played because he was a very driven person, and wanted to be the best he could be at something he loved. And he was very good at it. After Johnny Bench, he could be argued as the greatest catcher of all time. Certainly he was in the top 5. Not many who know baseball would argue with that. He was a tremendous catcher, who could also hit for average and power. He was also a team leader, which is something most great catchers are. In addition he was a fan favorite who gave of his time on the field before games and in the real world when he wasn't playing baseball. If you were to draw up the perfect player,  Gary Carter was it.

 "All I wanted to do was play the game of baseball"

 What kind of player was Gary Carter?
It is safe to say that without him, the Expos would have never been anything or made the playoffs and certainly, the Mets would not have won that 1986 World Series. He was the man. He was the player that every team  needs if they want to win. He was a born winner. He made his team better.
 A big part of my experience with baseball, and the Expos involved listening to the games on the radio,  watching the games on tv and going to almost all the home games. That meant time with my father, and in some instances, the whole family. My mother and sister also went, but they were never really interested. My mother knitted and my sister read a book or colored in that book,  when she wasn't sleeping through the whole game. My dad and I however were very into baseball in a big way. For as long as I can remember, the first thing we did was play catch in the backyard of our house. I was so young when that started that I can't remember when it did start. It was the one thing we always shared in common.  The love of baseball. Even though we spent many years as adults where we didn't see each other (10 years in a row a few times), when we did, we still talked and watched baseball.
Part of that experience, at the games,  was getting to go on the field once a year and meet all the players, in a mini Expos uniform that I had. I have many pictures of that in a book of pictures my mother kept. Gary Carter was one of those players I met in that time. My dad was kind of a big shot season ticket holder, so we had very good seats and many players would sit right beside us during games when they weren't in uniform. My dad also knew the general manager and the president of the team,  so we had access to things that most did not.
Gary Carter signing autographs for all the fans

Most of you who are reading this blog know that Gary Carter died of brain cancer. In most cases, brain cancer is not treatable and is a terrible thing to watch happen to a loved one. My mother, who died in November 2010,  also had brain cancer and was taken. My father died a couple of months later.
With the passing of Gary Carter, another chapter in my life fades away. The good times of the 1970's, with my parents and the baseball I loved so much, is now mostly closed.
I still miss playing baseball and watching baseball with my father and I miss enjoying players like Gary Carter playing baseball. It was a different time,  a time that has now passed away, with the passing of Carter and both of my parents.

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