February 16, 2012
Former Expo Carter diesLoses battle with brain cancer at 57
By BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Warren Cromartie nicknamed him “teets” for his ever-present ‘look ma, no cavities” smile, flashing all his teeth, but the back molars.
Most of his teammates called him “Kid” for his bubbly, school-yard enthusiasm.
And 11 years after his career was over they called him a Hall of Famer.
Whatever you called Gary Carter, he was a durable, productive, receiver — the best catcher I ever saw on an every day basis.
And now Carter, 57, is gone.
Carter lost a battle to brain cancer Thursday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
When the Montreal Expos were Canada’s team — making their only visit to post-season play in 1981 — Carter was the face of the franchise.
He played 12 years with the Expos mostly behind the plate after running into outfield walls so often that the Expos traded catcher Barry Foote in 1977 so he could catch full-time.
Carter gave great TV and radio interviews.
Broadcaster Duke Snider would start a post-game interview with a probing “Well Kid ...”
Carter would reply “Alls I gotta say Duker is ...” and finish talking five minutes later.
Carter was scheduled to receive the Arthur and Milton Richman “You Gotta Have Heart” award Saturday night at the Baseball Writers Association of America New York chapter’s annual dinner in Manhattan.
His daughter, Kimmy Bloemers, was scheduled to accept the honour in her father’s absence.
Carter was diagnosed with four brain tumours on May 21, after suffering from severe headaches and forgetfulness. Two recent falls resulted in a torn rotator cuff.
A deeply religious man who lost his mother at an early age, Carter was popular with fans for his gregarious, hand-waving to call pop ups to hitting .429 as the Expos beat the Philadelphia Phillies and Steve Carlton before losing to Rick Monday and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
Once for a feature story in 1983 we asked and asked and asked players and Expos personnel about Carter’s faults.
“Once I saw him drinking Pepsi,” said one. It was when Carter’s 7-Up commercials with his daughters played coast to coast.
Another player recalled a time when the bus was leaving the Sheraton in Manhattan for Shea Stadium and Carter had the wrong time.
How late was he I asked?
“He showed an hour early,” said the player long since faded from memory.
In the spring of 1984 at West Palm Beach Al Oliver was entertaining writers and saying how he was headed for Cooperstown since he had more hits than Lou Gehrig.
After Oliver headed for the field, Pete Rose, rolling his eyes listening to Oliver, yelled across the clubhouse.
“Hey Kid, there’s a difference between you, I and Al,” Rose said. “He thinks he’s going, We know we’re GOING.”
Well, Rose was right about Carter.
We remember when the Expos dealt Carter to the New York Mets for Hubie Brooks, Floyd Youmans and Mike Fitzgerald, the elegant Dave Anderson wrote a piece the next day in the New York Times. He never used Carter’s name once.
He referred to him only as The Pennant.
With the Mets Carter and Keith Hernandez, Howard Johnson, George Foster, Mookie Wilson, Ron Darling, Ed Lynch, Sid Fernandez, Rick Aguilera, Roger McDowell and others finished three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985.
The next year the Mets won the NL East, beat the Houston Astros in a classic six-game NLCS and won the World Series beating the Boston Red Sox in a memorable seven games.
Game 6 is the one which Sox fans remember. Boston took a two-run lead into the bottom of the 10th when closer Calvin Schiraldi set down the first two Mets he faced.
One more out and Boston would have its first Series since 1918.
Carter lined a 2-1 pitch to left for a single and Kevin Mitchell did the same. A strike away from winning it Schiraldi gave up an 0-2 single to Ray Knight, with Carter scoring.
Bob Stanley took over and threw a wild pitch tying the game and then Wilson hit his dribbler which went through the legs of first baseman Billy Buckner.
While Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry were staying out late, the clean-living, born-again Carter always made curfew.
Scribe Grantland Rice, who died in 1954, never saw Carter play, but his words would have fit Carter as he wrote:
“For when the one great scorer comes to write against your name, he writes — not that you won or lost but how you played the game.”
Carter played the game well and played hard.
Sympathies to his family.