Thursday, February 16, 2012

Gary Carter: He'll always be The Kid

Gary Carter died today. He was 57, and had been diagnosed with brain cancer last May. If you grew up in Montreal, Gary Carter WAS baseball, the catcher of our late, much-missed major league team, the Expos through a large stretch of the 1970s and 80s.

I was probably too young to appreciate the subtleties of what made him great on the field, but I do remember, vividly, the energy he brought to the game. He loved to play, loved the city that embraced him for so many years, loved the people who hung out beside the dugout at Jarry Park and, later, the Olympic Stadium, hoping for a wave, a smile or, if they were lucky, an autograph.

In an age of spoiled athletes who all too often forget where they come from, Mr. Carter remained rooted to the city where he came of age, remained connected to the fans who looked up to him for so long. He was the standard-bearer for how a professional athlete should conduct himself both on and off the field. When he was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he did so as an Expo - so far, the only one. Two weeks before he died, he insisted on attending the season-opener for the college-level team he coached. In so many ways and at every stage of his life, he was the very definition of class.

It's never fair when a life so vital is cut down so soon. You have to wonder about the cruel twists of fate that take the best among us and subject them to a cruelly painful, soul-destroying demise. Years ago, my wife lost her uncle to this insidious disease. He was a strong, vibrant man who we barely recognized by the end, and even today what he went through simply makes no sense. We named our daughter after him, and every time I look at her, I think that maybe the spirit of those we've lost continues to live on in the vibrancy of those who follow in their footsteps. In the unexplainable, we look for signs of hope.

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Beverly said...

Thanks for sharing this, Carmi. I had just read about his being at the college to greet the players just before his death. I hope that some of the young players who are playing today will follow his example.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

I was gonna leave our link to his obituary but realized u wouldn't be able to read it... I did copy a quote that Carter said awhile back:" In memory of his mother, Inge, Carter tried to be "the best person I can be," he said. "She is like this bird on my shoulder. When it comes to the final judgment day, I want to see her again. I want to be reunited with her in heaven."

The obituary was one of the most heartfelt, I think the writer had a deep liking for him.. he gave the feeling that Carter was one of the most genuine, kind hearted person.. he cared about his fans and spent time talking to them after games, his love for his parents...His Dad had passed 17 days after he told him he made the Hall of Fame... I remember watching many of his games. Passionate player and man.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I remember watching Gary Carter when he was a Met. And they were good!