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Baseball Hall of Famer Gary Carter remembered for smile, love of game (+video)

Gary Carter, who backstopped the New York Mets to a World Series championship in 1986, passed away Thursday. Former managers, teammates, and young players remembered his passion.

By Ben WalkerAssociated Press / February 17, 2012

In this 1988 file photo, New York Mets' Keith Hernandez, left, and Gary Carter are happy-looking ball players as they come off the field at Shea Stadium in New York after clinching the National League East title. Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said Thursday, Feb. 16, that Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter has died.

Peter Morgan/AP/File

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New York

In a rough-and-tumble clubhouse filled with dark secrets and constant conflict, there was always one sunny stall.

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Those New York Mets could count on Gary Carter to deliver — a smile, a spark and ultimately a championship.

The effervescent Hall of Fame catcher whose single for the Mets in the 1986 World Series touched off one of the most improbable rallies in baseball, died Thursday.

Carter became ill last May, two weeks after finishing his second season as coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said Carter died at a hospice in the West Palm Beach, Fla., area.

"Nobody loved the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. Nobody enjoyed playing the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. He wore his heart on his sleeve every inning he played," Mets Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver said.

Carter's bubbly personality and eagerness to excel on a ballfield made him a joy to watch at the plate and behind it.

Even his Hall of Fame bronze plaque at Cooperstown shows him with a toothy grin and bears his boyish nickname — the "Kid" forever.

"I am deeply saddened to tell you all that my precious dad went to be with Jesus today at 4:10 p.m.," Carter's daughter Kimmy Bloemers wrote on the family website. "This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write in my entire life but I wanted you all to know."

Carter was an 11-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. His bottom-of-the-10th single in Game 6 of the 1986 Series helped the Mets mount a charge against the Boston Red Sox and eventually beat them.

With curly, blond locks flaring out from beneath his helmet, and a rigid, upright batting stance, Carter was immediately recognizable. And anyone who watched Carter recognized his zest.

After Carter's diagnosis, the Mets began playing a highlight reel of his accomplishments on the video board during games at Citi Field and posted this message: "Our thoughts are with you Gary. From your millions of fans and the New York Mets."

"His nickname 'The Kid' captured how Gary approached life," the Mets said Thursday in a statement. "He did everything with enthusiasm and with gusto on and off the field. His smile was infectious. ... He was a Hall of Famer in everything he did."

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