By Ed Coleman
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The memorial tribute to the late Mets catcher Gary Carter was something to behold on Friday night in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. At times sad, at times humorous, at other times gut-wrenching, overall it was a wonderful testament that celebrated the life of a terrific father and husband, a great athlete, and a quintessential leader both on and off the field of play.
Family, friends, former teammates and opponents packed the Christ Fellowship Church to pay tribute to the Hall-of-Fame catcher. A fellow Hall-of-Fame backstop – Johnny Bench – spoke glowingly of Carter, as did his former Montreal teammate and current Miami Marlins broadcaster Tommy Hutton.
Wally Backman said that when Carter came aboard for the 1985 season after the trade with the Expos, the stage was set.
Reliever Jesse Orosco will always be remembered for embracing Carter on the mound after the final out of the 1986 World Series against the Red Sox. Friday night, it was tough for Orosco to recall that memorable moment.
Gary Sheffield came to know Carter well when he was a Florida Marlin and the retired catcher was a broadcaster for the team. Sheffield said that Carter reminded him of a big locomotive – but not in the way that you might think.
But it was former teammate Darryl Strawberry who perhaps spoke most eloquently about Carter. Strawberry commented that he and his fellow Mets knew what kind of player they were getting when Carter was traded to New York from Montreal – but they had no idea how quality a person they would welcome as a teammate.
The one thing that Straw constantly marveled at about Carter was how consistent he was in being a good person and teammate.
Carter had great faith and exhibited it – but Strawberry recounted that he was never preachy.
We are all young and dumb sometimes, and prone to do stupid things. Strawberry laughed and said that there were many candidates on that ’86 team that would qualify for that distinction. But Carter had it right even back then, and even if some of his teammates didn’t realize it then, they do now.
And Straw well remembered the last time he saw his gravely-ill teammate.
Gary Carter was, above all things, a good man. He showed us all how to live life and how to face death. He will be sorely missed. And not easily forgotten.
C U soon