By Ann Liguori
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They didn’t come any better than Gary Carter. On and off the field, Carter was a true gentleman.
In the clubhouse of the 1986 World Series Championship Mets, which I covered for ABC Radio Sports, amongst the ‘blood and guts’ collection of talent that included Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Wally Backman, Bobby Ojeda and Howard Johnson, to name a few, Carter was a leader in that feisty clubhouse, a hero to many, maintaining his cool and positive energy, despite the ups and downs and scrutiny that come with playing under the microscope in the Big Apple.
Carter’s goodness shone brightly for this reporter and to everyone who came in contact with him. He was always available for interviews. He always talked about baseball with passion. You could literally ask one question and Carter would go on and on about any subject, providing enough interview material to fill a book. Sure, he mentioned his faith a lot. But I thought it was all good, hoping his faith would rub off on some of the more cynical individuals who often smirked when he spoke. I couldn’t believe anyone would have a problem with a guy who had so much passion for the game, so much enthusiasm, was courteous and a leader who elevated others.
Even if the Mets had a bad loss, you could always turn to Carter for perspective and thoughtfulness.
Since his premature passing last week at the age of 57, the out- pouring of love, respect and appreciation for him has been non-stop. Doc Gooden was quoted on the Wall Street Journal Daily Fix blog as saying he “relied on Gary for everything when I was on the mound including location, what pitch to throw and when. 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.”
Darryl Strawberry: “What he added to the team was character. His approach to the game was contagious. It spread to the rest of us. He helped each of us understand what it took to win.”
In a statement issued by former Mets Manager Davey Johnson last week, Johnson said,”… the world of baseball lost a Hall-of-Famer and I have lost a treasured friend. Anyone lucky enough to have been part of Gary Carter’s world will agree…nobody loved life in a bigger way than Gary…He seized every opportunity to savor what mattered most to him: his close-knit, loving family; meaningful, enduring friendships; an unbridled passion for baseball; and the fulfillment he felt from making a difference in his community.”
In this day and age, with the pace of life in top gear, let us take the time to remember Gary Carter and his goodness. Yes, he was an 11-time All-star. Yes, his 10th inning single against the Boston Red Sox initiated the comeback rally in Game 6 of that intriguing World Series. Yes, he had an amazing career. Yes, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. (It bothered me that he went into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Montreal Expo, not as a Met, a Hall of Fame decision based on his 12 years as an Expo.)
But in addition to his resume of accomplishments as a catcher, Carter was a ‘Hall of Fame’ person. He helped so many people through all his charity work. For years, I played in his charity golf tournament in Florida, which benefitted the Leukemia Society of America. And I know his Foundation helps thousands including the Caring Bridge Foundation.
Thanks to Gary Carter for all the lives he touched with his goodness.