Keidel: Gary Carter Touches Home Plate

By Jason Keidel
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Perhaps you can park your Linsanity for a few moments while we shift our eyes from someone who’s had a good week to someone who had a great life.

As with Whitney Houston and other entertainers of great acclaim, we measure our lives by the smiles they put on our lips and the joyous trips down memory lane, a path lighted by their gifts, to a place where not only they were great and young, but perhaps we were, as well. And if we weren’t, we could reach those high clouds while tethered to their talents.

Someone I respect once told me that if you believe in God, act as if He’s watching, and later discover that there is no God, then you’re still way ahead of the game. You needn’t be religious to understand the wisdom in those words.

So it was with Gary Carter, who died about two hours ago. No need to parse the particulars; doctors have that covered. All we need to know is that we lost a hero in a sport and a world with a dearth of decency. Carter never caved into the me-first mantras, groin-grabbing theatrics, and visceral narcissism that define the modern player. And we thank him for it.

And it was altogether fitting that he was fitted for a mask, as he never sought the camera or the credit, all of his deeds far more muted while he doubled as catcher, captain, and pitching psychologist for an eclectic pitching staff.

Gary Carter played a man’s game with a child’s glee, hence his handle, “The Kid.” And as much as Mets fans worshipped at the altar of No. 8, I think you had to be a Yankees fan to feel his full impact. For this fan, when it got too gory in the Bronx I quietly watched the glory in Flushing. Many of us who pledged to pinstripes secretly nudged the dial two clicks, from WPIX to WOR, from Phil Rizzuto to Tim McCarver, to see what good baseball was really like.

It’s hard to hate a team or a player when they can’t play. Indeed, the mid-‘80s Mets were everything the Yankees weren’t – stable, selfless, prosperous, and wildly talented. Like a young, wild horse in need of a good jockey, the Mets – renowned for playing hard and partying harder at night – needed someone of Carter’s heft and reputation to keep the bar-brawling Mets in check.

Every time we talk about that team there’s a sense of a charmed but also cheated existence, as all of us in New York City who were alive and lucid at the time realize that team had the studs to win three or four World Series rings, yet they got just one. No one, however, disputes Carter’s effort or eminence. Indeed, the Mets don’t even get that one ring if Carter doesn’t swat a line drive to keep the inning alive on a chilly night in Queens. The next bad thing said about Carter will be the first, and that testimonial sparkles beyond the sheen of a baseball diamond.

Religion is a keenly personal matter and, in her statement, Carter’s daughter said that her father is now with Jesus. The existence of one deity or another is above my pay grade. But if there’s a good God out there, I have no doubt he’s now got Gary Carter behind the plate.

Feel free to email me:

  • eileen

    well written about a well lived , faithful life. I hope Carter will serve, with Lin and Tebow,, as examples to our young people. they sorely need role models!
    RIP Kid

  • Kurt Spitzner

    May he rest in peace.

  • Joe

    People who have lived lives like Gary Carter remind us that God is alive and well. Even though I have never been a Mets’ fan, I can truly appreciate the love and inner strength he showed especially in his last hours on earth. May you rejoice forever in His Presence. My prayers are with Gary and his family.

    • Neil

      Agreed! Gary’s testimony was much bigger than his stat sheet. I will forever remember the time that I spent with him, and the way that he showed me what it means to love Jesus. Thanks Gary for a life well lived!

  • Annemarie

    Great tribute Jason…very well-said. Even if you bleed pin stripes, we were all Mets fans during that amazing world series in ’86. From everything I’ve read, heard or seen, Gary Carter was a wonderful man, who was taken way too soon. God rest his soul.

    • JK

      Thank you, Annemarie. I can’t say I was ever a Mets fan, heh, but it was impossible not to admire Gary Carter.

      Thanks again.

  • Jonathan Carr

    I never comment on articles and wasn’t the biggest Gary Carter or Mets fan, but this was a heck of an article. Extremely well written.

    • JK

      Much obliged, Mr. Carr. Thank you.

  • Jonas Altman-Kurosaki

    A true baseball hero has passed. This is a well-written and well-deserved tribute to the Kid. It isn’t often that a player’s fire and passion are so contagious that he becomes the heart and soul of every team he’s on. The 1986 Mets had many leaders and a whole lot of fight, but it wasn’t until Carter and Hernandez came into town that that culture was instilled in the team. Carter’s passion for the game continued long after his playing career, some times so much that it got him in trouble, and will certainly live on long after his death. May he rest in peace.

    • JK

      Indeed, Jonas. Carter was, forgive the cliche, the glue for many loose ends. As someone who didn’t root for but was raised on those Mets teams, I found Carter was a man I could secretly admire.

  • Louie


  • Robert Richardson

    I can’t believe there are no comments here yet, so I will speak. Gary Carter was one of the classiest athletes to ever play any game ever and in New York City. I say all this as as a “blue bleeding” New Yorker. RIP bro, you died too young and I will always have fond memories of you.

    • JK

      Thanks, RR. Perhaps comments were posted but delayed through some snag in cyberspace. Your responses are always appreciated, no matter when they appear.

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