It was rather fitting that Channel 9 had a theme song for the Mets in 1985, called “Catch the Rising Stars.”
The country sounding tune was a intended for the young Mets like Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, but in reality the Mets wanted you to catch their brightest star Gary Carter.
The Hall of Fame catcher died today after a about a nine month bout with brain cancer. Although he played on the Mets for just five years – and mainly as his prime was fading – his impact was felt throughout, not only the organization, but all of Mets Nation.
“No one loved the game of baseball more than Gary Carter,” said fellow Hall of Famer Tom Seaver in a statement released by the Mets. “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.”
The loudest cheers at the Rangers games tonight were for Carter, who received a standing ovation from the crowd when his passing was announced, while the Montreal Canadiens paid tribute to his time playing north of the border.
All of this for one of the best catchers of his generation. Carter was the final piece to the puzzle, acquired in December, 1984 for four players, to make the Mets into a champion.
“The genesis of the trade was that we wanted to add a big bat to the lineup,” said former Mets GM Frank Cashen in a statement. “He did that right away, but perhaps more importantly was the way he handled our young pitchers. He was the perfect guy for so many reasons.”
“I relied on Gary for everything when I was on the mound including location, what pitch to throw and when,” Doc Gooden said in a statement. “Even when I didn’t have my best stuff, he found a way to get me through the game. He was just a warrior on the field.”
When he came to the Mets, he made the Mets stable of young talented pitchers into stars. He elevated Gooden’s game in 1985, so he had one of the best seasons in the history of baseball and forced Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez to pitch inside, something the young pitchers were shy to do the year before.
Then there was his presence at the plate. Carter made the Mets lineup complete. With George Foster making the Jason Bay signing look good, the team needed a right handed hitting cleanup hitter. That was Carter, who provided protection for Keith Hernandez and took pressure off of Darryl Strawberry, allowing the mercurial right fielder to develop.
With the trade, the stage was set and Carter shined on the biggest. On opening day in 1985, Carter hit a walk off homer off former Met Neil Allen to star off his career and let’s not forget his walk off hit in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS or his two home runs in Game 4 of the World Series at Fenway Park.
And let’s not forget the rally in the 10th inning of Game 6 at Shea Stadium.
“I didn’t want to make the last out and I always maintained the theory – it’s not over ‘til it’s over,” Carter would say back in 2004. “I just went up there with the feeling of confidence and doing the best I possibly could and I was able to come through. Then Kevin Mitchell followed and then Ray Knight. Before you know it the ball went through Buckner’s legs and we had won Game 6. To me, I just go up there and remember my career. It was never a grind. It was an enjoyment. It’s amazing to think 18 years and how quickly it passed. I just went up there and said there was no way we should lose this World Series. I did everything to keep us alive.”
All during that time, Carter was the Met who had the biggest smile in the biggest market. If he was on your team, you loved him and if you rooted for another club, you hated him.
Simply put he was the symbol of the Mets in the 1980s and not a rising star but the one the shined the brightest.
He will be missed.