Editors Note: This interview was conducted on August 4, 2004 and NYSD is reprinting it after the passing of Gary Carter today.
Back in 1989, I was a freshman in college and went to an early April game at Shea Stadium. After New York lost to the Phillies, my buddies and I waited by the player’s entrance for the Mets to come out. Car after car sped out of the lot – Darryl Strawberry almost hit someone – but we waited. Finally, when it looked like there was no one left and we were going to leave, a car stopped and Gary Carter rolled down the window. He signed autographs and answered some questions for the faithful who waited.
I mentioned that story to Carter after I interviewed him last week at Keyspan Park. He smiled and said, “It seems that those times haven’t changed. I was outside for 20 minutes earlier tonight doing the same thing.”
That is what the Hall of Famer is about. He is a man who gets it. Besides the stellar numbers, the Kid takes care of his many fans, which many players do not these days. The former catcher didn’t have to do this interview, but he did and it gave me a great thrill to interview one of my favorite players from my youth. So here is the NY Sports Day interview with Gary Carter as we discuss his time with the Mets, Montreal and his future in managing.
NY Sports Day: Are you going to be managing Brooklyn next season?
Gary Carter: I don’t know that. The reason is that it was asked me if would I be possibly available. But that doesn’t mean that’s where it’s going to be for next year. (The Mets) are just trying to get all their ducks in a row and they will make the decision. They know that I am interested in managing and it’s going to be somewhere. I just can’t say exactly where.
NYSD: So when you start managing, what skipper in your past will you style your managerial style after?
GC: I think everybody has their own style. I like Dusty Baker and all the managers I played for were all instrumental in providing an opportunity for myself. The biggest thing is that each one was different. Gene Mauch was a hard-nosed disciplinarian. Bob Kehoe, my minor league manager, was a great guy and was wonderful. He was a different type of manager than Mauch was. Each guy I learned different things from.
To be a manager, there is a lot that goes on because you are handling 25 guys and 25 different personalities. I think it’s also important to surround yourself with very good coaches. This organization has a bunch to choose from. I don’t know who they would want to be with me or whatever. My whole purpose is to help the organization to win. That is really what the bottom line is. If it eventually works out to be at the Major League level, the game has changed.
All I would want from any player is to go out and play hard; keep it fun; try to be enthusiastic and make it so that each game is a new game. You try to avoid the slumps and tough times, but a lot has to do with the makeup of the team. I think the manager has a lot to do with the make-up of the team. You want to create some discipline, but you also want to be able to create a winning atmosphere. Keep everybody up. That is very difficult for 162 games or down in the minor leagues it’s 140 games. It is basically a situation that day in and day out, you want to stay on top of things and keep all the players inspired. I think that is really the biggest part for the manager. And then you have attending to the press, the fans and everybody else. If you got a good pitching coach, you allow your pitching coach to handle the pitchers. If you have a good hitting instructor and all the other coaches – there is about six coaches on the Major League level – and you allow them to do their jobs. If they do their jobs, it makes it a lot more easier on the manager.
NYSD: Back when you were playing with the Mets, can you give me your top five moments?
GC: First of all would be winning the ‘86 World Series. Second one would be my very first game in a Met uniform and hitting a walk off home run against the Cardinals and Neil Allen. I would also have to say that ‘88 was also a very special year. Unfortunately losing out to the Dodgers who went on to win the World Series. That was another year we should have won, but ‘88 was a great year. I would have to say my last at-bat at Shea Stadium where I got a double off John Franco when he was with the Reds. I got a standing ovation because there was speculation that I would probably be gone at the end of the year. And probably my return to Shea honoring me for being inducted into the Hall of Fame- that coinciding being inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.
NYSD: When you started the rally in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. What was going through your mind at that particular at-bat?
GC: What was going through my mind was that I didn’t want to be a trivia question – that’s kidding. I didn’t want to make the last out and I always maintained the theory – it’s not over ‘til it’s over. 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.
NYSD: In the ‘86 playoffs you won Game 5 off Charlie Kerfeld. You were in a really bad slump. Did you do anything different in that at-bat compared to the rest of the series?
GC: No and I didn’t think I did anything different that entire series. It was just one of those things. Facing a guy like Mike Scott, who was tough as nails and cheating his ass off, I couldn’t hit him. They had a couple of other good pitchers. Nolan Ryan. Bob Knepper was throwing good. The relievers were outstanding. It was one of those series. When they walked Keith Hernandez to pitch to me, I got a little bit of vengeance by being able to come back and drive the ball up the middle.
NYSD: When you were in Montreal, what was your favorite moment being a Montreal Expo?
GC: There were a lot of great moments. When we won the second half (in 1981) and clinched it at Shea Stadium, knowing we were going to the playoffs for the first time playing the Phillies. Also the ‘81 All-Star game, when I chosen by the fans. I got my first starting role. That’s an individual thing. There is nothing better when you win. I remember us being in a pennant race in ‘79 and ‘80. To me that’s what it was all about. When we finally got to the playoffs; played the Phillies – beat them – and then lost it to the Dodgers, it was frustrating. Montreal gave me my opportunity. My very first game was against the Mets. I remember my first hit was off Jon Matlack and my second hit was off Tom Seaver. Everything else was golden after that. Once you get to the Big Leagues, that’s everybody’s dream and once it happens you want it to continue. You want it to continue forever. Sometimes all good things come to an end.
It ended in ‘92 for me, but that’s why am anxious to get back in the game full time. I love it. I have a great passion for it and would love to see the kids of today be successful.
NYSD: What was your reaction when you got the call from Jack O’Connell from the Hall of Fame?
GC: Overwhelmed, thrilled, relieved, all of the above. It was six-year wait and finally ended on a good note. I called all my family member and the first one was my father. Unfortunately 18 days later he passed away. At least he knew I was in. My father was my coach and he played both roles after my mom passed away. I was just glad it happened when it did.
NYSD: Do you think that one day your No. 8 will be retired by the Mets?
GC: I don’t know that. I say we may have to win another championship or two. We’ll see.
NYSD: You seemed like a natural for the broadcast booth and you were one after you retired. Why did you stop?
GC: Well, I just didn’t get fulfillment out of it, like I do with coaching. I love working with the players. It seems like they are very receptive of it. I love to see the progress and I love to see a lot of things. The broadcasting was only going to be a temporary thing. I did four years with the Marlins and three years with the Expos. I really wanted to see if that was what I wanted to do, but I didn’t get the enjoyment of coming to the ballpark and strapping the uniform on.
The (other) reason I also did it was my family. It gave me the opportunity to coach my daughter in high school. It also allowed me to stay at home and I didn’t have to move my family. Now I have been out of the game 12 years. I have been fulfilled the last four years as a roving catching instructor and I enjoy it immensely. My kids have grown now. I have been to their weddings. I have been at all their graduations. I saw my daughter play at Florida State and all those things. Now, it’s time to move on.
NYSD: How are your knees? Are you having another operation?
GC: Nine times and I am having my left knee done August 12th and my ankle. I tore a ligament in my ankle July 4th. I am having my right knee replaced. Other than that they are doing wonderful. (smiles).
NYSD: Gary, thank you very much. It’s been a thrill.