Friday, February 17, 2012

Gary Carter, Never The Last Out

Way too early.

That is the sentiment that I've heard repeatedly as the baseball world, and the world beyond, comes to grips with the passing of Hall of Fame catcher, Gary Carter.

And I couldn't agree more.

What did Gary mean to me? As a kid, collector, baseball fan and little leaguer in the late 80's - you knew who Gary Carter was. You knew he was a good guy. How could he not be? The man was ALWAYS smiling. He was an outstanding catcher and clearly deserved his own pages in my "Star" binders. Sure, he wasn't my favorite player. I didn't seek him out or work up trades with friends to build my Gary Carter collection. But he was a great ball player. When I ripped open packs of cards as a youth, Gary Carter's cards would definitely be placed in the GOOD players pile as I sorted and tucked away.   For a kid collector, this was obviously a notable tip-of-the-hat!

SI thought he deserved a tip-of-the-hat, too!

I knew Gary as a Mets player back then. If you recall, I began collecting in the 1986-1987 time frame, so Gary and his "Miracle Mets" teammates were coming off of their historic come-from-behind victory over the Boston Red Sox in the '86 Series.

As a Yankees fan - sure, I enjoyed that. Still do!

Game 6 of the 1986 World Series will forever be remembered as Bill Buckner's worst moment. The moment when the "Curse of the Bambino" received a shock to the heart with two outs in the bottom of the (10th?) inning. The Mets were down by two runs. It must have felt pretty hopeless. Even the officials at Shea Stadium had felt such a premonition of finality that they briefly flashed a congratulatory message to the Red Sox on the stadium's jumbo tron.


If I had been a Mets fan, I would have been furious, unwilling to acquiesce until the final out.   And that's exactly how Gary Carter felt.   He later recalled that he was determined to NOT be the final out of that World Series.   Apparently, he is a good listener when it comes to inner monologues.   Gary lofted a beautiful single into left field and ignited what would become one of the greatest come-backs in baseball history.

Mr. Carter was a tremendous contributor to the game of baseball.   There are copious amounts of memorial posts and articles being churned out right now in the wake of his passing.   Each one contains something new that I hadn't previously known about the man:
  • he had a chance to play football at UCLA

  • when he was drafted by the Expos, he prepared by taking the time to learn French (no provided interpreters back then!)

  • as a rookie, he hit his first career HR off of Steve Carlton and proceeded to hit 10 more off of Lefty over the years, more than any other individual pitcher Gary punished with his 324 career home runs 

These factoids are just the tip of the iceberg and I can't wait to learn more.   The game we love is simply BETTER because a player like Gary Carter graced the field with his presence.   I hope we have more players like Gary in the future.   Actually, I hope the world has more people like the Kid.   It would certainly be an improvement.

When I got back into the hobby last year, I was fortunate to stumble upon a FANTASTIC little shop on the other side of town.   I believe it's simply called, "The Stamp Shop" - specializing mostly in stamps and currency collectibles.   The man who runs the store is a charming old fellow who doesn't mind a meandering conversation about...well, just about anything.   He is only open Friday through Monday becaue, well, that's when he wants to work.   I stumbled upon his shop during my Father's Day "afternoon off" last year and asked if he had any baseball cards.

Cards weren't his focus, but yes, he did.   OH, did he.

He had boxes and boxes, organized neatly by either year, team or price ($1 box, $5 box, etc.).   It was great and I had a lot of fun going through some amazing cards at reasonable prices.   It just so happened that I came across two Gary Carter cards in the  "$5 and under" binder.   Here's the first one:

Love that old-school gear, Kid!
Edmund...see?  Learned something else.

There's that smile!   Gary's rookie card.   For less than $5?   Yes, please.   Sure - it's well loved.   The corners are fuzzy but the colorful zeal of the '75 design still pops.   There's a solid crease in the upper-righthand corner but it doesn't come through on the back and disrupt any of the write-ups.   Gary is listed as a Catcher on this rookie parade of C's and OF's.   Ironically, Carter played most of that first full season witht he Expos in right field.   It didn't affect his performance at all - he made the All-Star team and even saw action when he relieved some guy named Pete Rose in left field.   I love this card and, so far, it's my best card from 1975.  

Here's the other Gary Carter card I picked up and didn't put down that day:
                                                         Always been a fan of the position icons!
Apparently, J-Lo was a 1964 Oriole?

You can't go wrong with the All-Star Rookie cup!   There's Gary again - okay, maybe the smile is more of a grunting smirk as he works to perfect his swing......but you can see the focus in his eyes as he prepares for the season.   Does anybody know the stadium pictured in the background?   I am fairly certain that it is not Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach, the home of the Expos' spring training from '73 - '80.   I always love the old Topps cards with fresh spring training images in the background.   It makes me th ink of sun, breeze, beer and....well, you know the rest.

This card was in much better shape than the '75 and since it was only his second year card (gosh, ONLY - ha!) it went for even less.   The corners are good with no creases and my blogging lamp clearly shows off that "original gloss".   The centering ain't too bad either - beautiful card.   Topps did a great job with the design that year.   You know, I think I like this one slightly more than his '75.   It's certainly a welcome addition to my collection.   I have a few other '76 cards and I can't wait to add more (do you hear me, Eck?!).   Carter had added a whole 5 pounds since his '75 stats.....I'm guessing he enjoyed a few more good meals after his successful rookie campaign.   You deserved it, Kid!

Finally, I also have a Gary Carter card with a piece of memorabilia.   The card explains this terrifically Metropolitan's-Orange swatch as being from a "game-worn jacket".   It's a clean layout and I enjoy its simplicity.   I think the clear shot of Carter's follow-through remains the focus, working well with the nearby square of jacket-y goodness:

Consider this "Call to the Hall" answered!

I picked it up as a whim, probably as an after-thought add-on to lower shipping expenses per card.

And I'm so glad I did.

Thank you for the memories, Mr. Carter and rest in peace.   Your contributions to baseball will live on forever, so don't worry - you'll NEVER be the last out.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Fleer smartly used that SI cover for it's 1999 autograph set.