The baseball world learned Thursday the sad news of the passing of baseball Hall of Famer Gary Carter. The former catcher was only 53 years old when brain cancer claimed him.
Any time a person dies it is first and foremost a personal tragedy. Others can eulogize the man far better than I can. What I can do is provide a retrospective to his career. This is something I’ve done in the past here at THT when someone passes on.
Below is a list of Gary Carter’s career highlights. The list includes the greatest and most memorable games he participated in, as well as his personal best and worst moments. Also included are some odd or unusual or memorable moments he happened to be on hand for.
In chronological order:
Sept. 16, 1974: Gary Carter makes his big league debut. He goes 0-for-4 as starting Expos catcher against the Mets. He grounds out against Randy Sterling in his first at-bat. Carter ends the game by grounding out with the tying run on first as Montreal loses, 3-2.
Sept. 22, 1974: In his fourth game behind the plate, a team first tries to run against Carter. In the first inning, Larry Bowa successfully steals on him in the first inning, but the next inning Jay Johnstone is gunned down trying to steal second.
Sept. 28, 1974: Carter belts his first career homer. It leads off the second inning against Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. The Expos go on to win, 3-1.
June 9, 1975: It’s probably Carter’s worst game at the plate in his entire career. Against Andy Messersmith and the Dodgers, Carter goes 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. It’s his only four-K game of his career. LA wins, 4-0.
July 12, 1975: Carter belts two home runs, in the first of 28 career multi-home run games for him.
Aug. 24, 1975: Davey Lopes has successfully stolen 38 consecutive bases, but Carter stops the streak there, in the bottom of the 12th in a game tied 3-3. Carter will score the go-ahead run as Montreal wins in 14. (That said, it’s worth noting that Lopes had consecutive successful steals 36, 37, and 38 earlier in this game before Carter finally gunned him down.)
Sept. 16, 1975: Carter catches all 18 innings of this heartbreaking Expos loss to the Mets. Montreal loses 4-3 on a walk-off walk. It’s the longest game to end like that in the last 60-plus years of baseball.
April 15, 1977: It’s the first ever game in one of the worst ever stadiums: Olympic Stadium (AKA Stade Olympique). The Phillies trounce the Expos, 7-2. Carter goes 0-for-3.
April 20, 1977: Carter has one of the best games of his life, belting three homers in an 8-6 loss to the Pirates.
May 3, 1978: In the bottom of the third against Houston ace J.R. Richard, Carter belts the first of 11 career grand slams. He also gets an RBI double in Montreal’s 10-3 win.
May 9, 1978: As far as WPA is concerned, this is the greatest game of Carter’s career. He enters the game in the sixth inning as a pinch-hitter, and draws a walk. Two innings later, he singles. But his big moment comes in the ninth. With Montreal trailing the Braves 6-4, he comes up with runners on first and two out, and (of course) belts a game-winning three-run homer. That swing by itself is worth 0.736 WPA, and his total WPA on the day is 0.834.
Sept. 5, 1978: It’s a weird game at Wrigley Field as the Expos and Cubs combine to use 45 players, including double-digit numbers of pinch hitters in Montreal’s 10-8 win. Despite all the mid-game replacements, Carter catches the entire game, and goes 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles.
April 29, 1979: Carter is on a roll. Two days ago, he belted two homers in one game, and here he does it again. This time, it’s extra-special because his first-inning shot is an inside-the-park home run. His four RBIs are the difference, as Montreal tops San Francisco, 7-5. It’s the first of two inside-the-park homers for Carter.
Aug. 3, 1979: Carter has a good arm, but it’s never been better than today. The Mets try to swipe bases five times against Carter, and he guns down four runners. It’s the most caught-stealngs he ever has in a nine inning game. Montreal wins, 10-6.
Aug. 17, 1979: Here’s one you don’t see every day. Montreal wins 1-0 over the Braves with the only run scoring on a walk-off walk to Rodney Scott. Carter is 1-for-4 and calls all the pitches in Montreal’s shutout win.
May 10, 1980: Carter achieves a nice milestone, his 100th home run. After being stuck on 99 for over three weeks, he goes deep on Mark Bomback of the Mets in the second inning.
May 31, 1980: In today’s game against the Cardinals, Carter belts his second and final career inside-the-park home run. An inning later, he hits an out-of-the-park homer as well. Both are two-run shots, but St. Louis wins, 8-6.
Sept. 10, 1980: Bill Gullickson has one of the greatest games by a young pitcher. The 21-year-old Expos starter fans 18 Cubs in a 4-2 win for the Expos. Carter not only calls all the pitches, but also hits a solo home run.
May 10, 1981: Charlie Lea tosses a no-hitter for the Expos. With Carter calling pitches behind the plate, Lea walks four and fans eight in a 4-0 win. Carter also singles in a 1-for-4 performance at the plate for Montreal.
Aug. 9, 1981: Carter will be selected to 11 All-Star teams, but will never have a bigger game than in this one. It’s the first game after the 1981 players’ strike, and Carter is the star of the show. He belts two home runs as the NL beats the AL, 5-4.
Sept. 21, 1981: Carter saves the day for Montreal against Philadelphia. The score is 0-0 in extra inning when Carter repeatedly snuffs out Phillies runners. With one out in the top of the 15th in a still scoreless game, he throws out Larry Bowa, who was trying to steal second. A few second later, he tosses out a pinch runner in another would-be steal attempt. The top of the 16th sees a Lonnie Smith steal atempt, and sure enough, Carter guns him down. That’s three consecutive Philly outs notched by Carter’s arm. Montreal hangs on until the 17th inning, when the Expos score on an Andre Dawson RBI single for a 1-0 win.
Oct. 8, 1981: NLDS Game Two: Montreal leads the Phillies one game to none, and Carter helps make it a two games to none advantage with his two-run home run in the third inning. That is the difference as Montreal wins, 3-1.
Oct. 10, 1981: NLDS Game Four: Carter has a fantastic game but it isn’t enough as Philadelphia ties the series two games apiece, 6-5 in 10 innings. Carter hits a home run and an RBI double that ties the score 5-5 but it’s not enough. Fortunately, a Steve Rogers shutout the next day will propel Carter and friends into the NLCS against Los Angeles.
Oct. 19, 1981: NLCS Game Five: It’s a dark day in Montreal baseball as the Expos lose to the Dodgers 2-1 in the final game of the NLCS. Rick Monday belts the big shot, a two-out solo homer in the top of the ninth for the winners. Carter comes to the plate with none on and two out in the bottom of the ninth and draws a walk, but he is unable to score the game-tying run. It’s as close as Montreal will ever come to a pennant.
Aug. 4, 1982: Carter gets a ringside seat for an odd bit of history when his teammate Joel Youngblood gets a pinch-hit single. It’s notable because earlier that day Youngblood got a hit for the Mets in a day game against the Cubs. He was traded that day and became the first person to get hits for two teams on the same day.
Aug. 17, 1982: It’s milestone time as Carter singles for his 1,000th hit. He gets No. 1,001 later in the game against Atlanta, and then in the second game of a doubleheader belts No. 1,002. Montreal wins both contests, 13-7 and 3-2.
Sept. 5, 1982: So what if the Expos get only one hit all game long? They still beat the Braves, 2-1. Al Oliver homers for one run, and Montreal gets its second run in the bottom of the ninth in memorable fashion (or horrible fashion, if you’re a Braves fan). Andre Dawson gets hit by a pinch, steals second, and scores on error. Carter is, of course, hitless on the day.
Sept. 26, 1983: Bob Forsch, who gave up Carter’s second inside-the-park homer, has one of his greatest games. Against Carter and the Expos, Forsch tosses a complete game no-hitter for 3-0. Forsch throws only one bad pitch all game, a second inning offering that hits Carter. Aside from that and a player reaching on an error, Forsch is perfect.
June 9, 1984: It’s a nice day for Carter as not only does he homer in both ends of a doubleheader, but that second shot is No. 200 for his career.
July 26, 1984: Do you remember when Pete Rose played for the Expos? Well, he did, and while with them he tied Ty Cobb’s all-time record for—no, not hits. For singles. Carter goes 0-for-3 with a walk when his veteran teammate makes history in Montreal’s 5-4 win over Pittsburgh.
Aug. 9, 1984: It’s the greatest Game Score by any starting pitcher Carter ever catches. Dan Schatezder fans 11 in 10 innings of shutout ball, allowing just one walk and four hits for a 94 Game Score. Carter goes 0-for-4 as Montreal beats the Cubs 1-0 in 10 innings.
April 9, 1985: Surely, there are worse ways to introduce yourself to your new team. In his first game as a Met, Carter does something he’d never done as an Expo—hit a walk-off home run. His bottom-of-the-10th solo shot against St. Louis’ Neil Allen gives the Mets a memorable 6-5 Opening Day win.
April 28, 1985: It’s the first of several marathon Mets games Carter plays in that feel like they are lost episodes of the Twilight Zone. In this one, the Mets top the Pirates 5-4 in 18 innings. The Mets run low on position players and are forced to using veteran pinch-hitter Rusty Staub in the outfield for the last seven innings of the game. Carter is hitless, but he draws a walk in the bottom of the 18th and the pinch runner who replaces him scores the winning run.
July 4, 1985: For those who thought the Rusty Staub game was too normal, we present the Rick Camp game. This contest, discussed at length here, is the stuff of legend. It’s a 19-inning contest featuring multiple rain delays and won’tt end under 3:55 a.m. Most memorably, Atlanta reliever Camp comes to the plate in the bottom of the 18th with two out and none on and the Mets winning 11-10. After two quick strikes, he improbably belts a 3:30 a.m. pitch into the bullpen for a game-tying home run. He then allows five runs in the 19th, and the Mets hold on to win, 16-13.
Carter is 5-for-9 with a career-best six times on base. Teammate Keith Hernandez hits for the cycle, but that’s overshadowed in the game’s overall weirdness.
Oh, one last detail can’t be left out. After it finally ended, this Fourth of July game had the required fireworks display go off—at 4 a.m. Many residents near the ballpark called the cops thinking they were being bombed.
July 27, 1985: The Mets trounce the Astros 16-4 in a game that is notable for one reason: All 16 Mets runs are unearned. They score in four different frames, but never get an earned run. Carter goes 4-for-5 with two runs, three RBIs, and two doubles.
Sept. 3, 1985: For the second time in his career, Carter enjoys a three-homer performance as his half-dozen RBIs lead the Mets to an 8-3 win over San Diego.
Sept. 4, 1985: Carter is at it again, homering twice in this contest for a total of five in two games. That ties a major league record. He guides the Mets to another win over the Padres, 9-2.
Sept. 6, 1985: Carter’s first game after his recent power explosion is one of the greatest pitchers’ duels he ever takes part in. The Mets top the Dodgers 2-0 in 13 innings on a day when both starting pitchers bring their A game. Dwight Gooden fans 10 in nine shutout innings while Fernando Valenzuela goes 11 innings without allowing a run.
July 11, 1986: The Mets destroy the Braves 11-0, thanks largely to Carter and his personal best seven RBIs. He bops a three-run homer in the first inning, and then a grand slam in the second. He comes to the plate with two runners on in the third inning, but flies out to center ,ending his streak at two straight innings with a home run.
July 22, 1986: It’s the last of the great Twilight Zone Mets games featuring Gary Carter. In this 14-inning contest, (depicted in detail here) due to a series of mid-game replacements and late-game ejections, the Mets run out of position players. For the last four innings they have only seven position players, two of whom are catchers. Mets manager Davey Johnson improvises by using relievers Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco in an odd platoon arrangement. They go to the mound when it gives the Mets a corner-outfield advantage, and go back to the corner outfield slot the batter is less likely to hit to when the other side bats.
As for Carter, he plays third base—a place he manned for one inning back in 1975—while his backup calls pitches behind the plate. Somehow, the Mets win, 6-3 in 14 frames.
Sept. 15, 1986: Carter is behind the plate for one of the great bizarre moments in baseball history. In St. Louis, Cardinals prospect Mike Laga faces the Mets and launches one of the most massive foul balls in history. In fact, his foul ball leaves the park, likely the only time anyone ever did that in Busch Stadium. The fans give him a standing ovation. That overshadows a great pitchers’ duel, as the Cardinals win 1-0 in 13 innings. It’s a great bullpen performance for the Cardinals, as starter John Tudor has to leave after three innings.
Oct. 8, 1986: NLCS Game One: Arguably the greatest NLCS ever begins with Houston’s Mike Scott dominating New York in a 1-0 Astros win. He fans 14 in all, and Gary Carter three times.
Oct. 11, 1986: NLCS Game Three: The Mets go up two games to one with their 6-5 win on a walk-off home run by Lenny Dykstra. Carter is 0-for-4 but scores a run.
Oct. 12, 1986: NLCS Game Four: The Mets remain helpless before Mike Scott: He holds them to one run on three hits for a 3-1 Houston win to even the NLCS. Carter is again hitless.
Oct. 14, 1986: NLCS Game Five: Carter finally has a moment in the sun in the NLCS. The Mets win 2-1 in 12 innings thanks to a walk-off RBI single by Carter in the bottom of the final frame. Carter is just one win from his first pennant.
Oct. 15, 1986: NLCS Game Six: Even though the Mets lead the series three games to two, it feels like a must-win for them, as Game Seven means the invisible baseball demigod Mike Scott will pitch against them.
Sure enough, the Mets win in what may be the greatest game ever. After falling behind 3-0 early, the Mets score three in the top of the ninth to tie it. They nearly go ahead, but end the inning with the bases loaded—and Gary Carter on third.
The Mets go ahead 4-3 in the 14th (thanks in part to Carter, who led off the inning with a single), Houston ties it to keep the game going. When the Mets seemingly ice it with three in the top of the 16th, the Astros score twice and load the bases before the Mets finally get the last out and win the game—and the pennant. Carter has two singles and two walks, and is also thrown out trying to steal in the 15th inning.
Oct. 22, 1986: World Series Game Four: The Mets tie the World Series at two games apiece largely thanks to Carter, who belts a pair of home runs and a double in New York’s 6-2 win.
Oct. 25, 1986: World Series Game Six: When Carter steps to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning, the Mets are clearly doomed. They trail the Red Sox three games to two in the Series, and 5-3 in the game. There are two outs and none on. The situation for New York couldn’t be bleake.
Carter singles to left to keep hopes alive. Then Kevin Mitchell lashes out a single to continue the inning. Next up is Ray Knight, and after falling behind 0-2 in the count, he drives Carter home with an RBI single. A wild pitch then sends home the tying run before Mookie Wilson slaps a slow rolling grounder to first baseman —and baseball history. The Mets win, 6-5 and their season is still alive.
Oct. 27, 1986: World Series Game Seven: Carter and the Mets have done it. They overcome an early 3-0 deficit to win 8-5 and become world champions. Gary Carter is hitless but drives in a run in the sixth inning.
April 10, 1987: Carter’s longest regular-season hitting streak peaks at 16 games. In this span, which dates back to last season, he’s batted .381/.418/.571.
June 28, 1987: For seven innings, it looks like a great game. Not only has Carter belted a home run as the Mets lead 4-0, but more importantly with Carter behind the plate, Mets starting pitcher Ron Darling is pitching the game of his life, allowing no hits so far. Then comes the eighth inning and the wheels come off. Long story short: Darling and the bullpen combine to allow five runs on nine hits as the Phillies get an unexpected win.
Aug. 25, 1987: In the eighth inning of today’s Mets-Dodgers game, Carter does something he hasn’t done in 575 games and 2,439 PA: He lays down a sacrifice bunt.
Sept. 24, 1987: It’s the worst game Carter ever had, at least according to WPA. He is 0-for-5 with a strikeout as the Mets lose 5-3 to Montreal. Carter’s WPA of –0.417 on the day. Most notably, he ends the game by grounding out with the bases loaded.
Aug. 9, 1988: Carter is on hand to see the Cubs enter the 20th century. It’s the first night game at Wrigley Field, as the Cubs beat the Mets, 6-4. Carter gets a double in the game. (A previous contest against the Phillies was supposed to be the first night game, but it got rained out).
Aug. 11, 1988: Carter becomes the 59th man to belt 300 career home runs when he goes deep against Chicago’s Al Nipper in the second inning.
Oct. 4, 1988: NLCS Game One: The Mets topped the Dodgers in all but one of their 12 regular season meetings, and so are heavily favored to win this NLCS. That said, LA’s Orel Hershiser, who ended the regular season by pitching 59 consecutive scoreless innings, takes the mound in this game. He holds the Mets scoreless for eight inning and LA appears on the way to a 2-0 win. Then an RBI Darryl Strawberry double ends Hershiser’s scoreless streak, and a little later a two-run Gary Carter double gives the Mets the comeback win.
Oct. 9, 1988: NLCS Game Four: It’s the most memorable game of the NLCS. The Dodgers win 5-4 in 12 innings, and need Hershiser to pitch in relief to nail down the win that ties the series at two games apiece. Carter hits his only career postseason triple and has an RBI.
Oct. 12, 1988: NLCS Game Seven: One of the most stunning upsets in postseason history ends as the Dodgers top the Mets to take the pennant. Hershiser dominates as the Dodgers win 6-0. Carter is hitless in three at-bats. The team pulls him later in the game in a sign of the times. Carter is 34 years old and nearing the end. 1988 will be his last season as a regular starting catcher.
July 7, 1990: Don’t tell Carter he’s past his prime. Against the Cubs, he enjoys the only 5-for-5 game of his career. He has a home run, scores a run, and drives in four. Also, when the Giants score twice in the bottom of the ninth to win 10-9, the man pinch-running for Carter is the winning run.
Aug. 15, 1990: Philadelphia’s Terry Mulholland is perfect, throwing a no-hitter with no walks while facing just 27 batters. Unfortunately for him, one Giants reaches base on an error, but will be immediately erased on a double play. With two outs in the ninth Carter comes to the plate as San Francisco’s last chance for a hit, but he lines out to third to complete Mulholland’s majestic performance.
July 5, 1991: With a 2-for-4 performance against Atlanta, Carter joins the 2,000 hit club. The milestone shot is a seventh inning single against Tom Glavine.
Aug. 9, 1991: It’s a hell of a way to end a great pitchers’ duel. The Giants top the Dodgers 1-0 in 13 innings on the rare walk-off HBP. The plunked batter is Carter’s old Mets teammate Kevin Mitchell. Carter, for his part, is 1-for-6 on the day.
April 13, 1992: A crowd of 40,907 is at Montreal’s Opening Day to witness something no Canadian has seen since 1984: Gary Carter emerge from the home team’s dugout in Olympic Stadium. Batting seventh, the former star singles in his first at bat back in his old stomping grounds. He finishes the day 1-for-3 as the club pulls him from the game in the seventh inning.
May 1, 1992: Montreal’s West Coast road trip hits an unexpected snag. They’re supposed to start a series in LA today, but it will have to be postponed as the city is in the flames of the Rodney King riots. Carter and the Expos will play the series later in the year. For now, they experience an odd four consecutive days off of baseball.
Aug. 5, 1992: Gary Carter, at the age of 38 years, three months, and 27 days, hits his first triple since 1988. In other words, it’s his first triple since the 1988 NLCS.
Sept. 27, 1992: Carter can claim to be one of the select few great players fortunate enough to end his career with an impressive performance in his final game. Montreal beats the Cubs 1-0, with the only run scoring on Carter’s RBI double. He is immediately removed for a pinch runner, which means immediately after driving in the game’s sole run, he gets to run off the field and hear the cheers of the home crowd in Montreal. Video of the hit here.
There are far worse ways to end a career.
So long, Kid.