Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Sports

He will always be the 'Kid'

NEW YORK — Gary Carter was nicknamed "Kid" for good reason.

His smile, 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 — the Kid forever.

The star catcher, whose single for the Mets in the 1986 World Series touched off one of the most improbable rallies in baseball, died Thursday. He was 57.

Mr. Carter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in May, two weeks after finishing his second season as coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said Mr. Carter died at a hospice in the West Palm Beach area.

He 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 historic comeback against the Red Sox.

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

"His nickname the Kid captured how Gary approached life," the Mets said 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."

Mr. Carter played nearly two decades with the Mets, Montreal, San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He led the Expos to their only playoff berth and was the first player enshrined in Cooperstown wearing an Expos cap.

Rays third-base coach Tom Foley, who played with him in Montreal, said Mr. Carter's nickname was well-earned.

"This is one guy that just loved the game," Foley said. "He was always in an upbeat mood, he loved to come to the ballpark, he beamed with enthusiasm every day. That's why they called him the Kid. This is very sad. He was way too young.''

"Gary was one of the happiest guys in the world every day," Mets teammate Mookie Wilson once said.

Mr. Carter was known as much for his effervescent personality as his talents. He earned his nickname as an eager teen in his first major-league camp and the label stuck.

He was especially pumped during the biggest moment of his career. The Mets were down to their last out in the '86 Series when Mr. Carter stepped up. No one was on base, and New York was trailing Boston 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th in Game 6.

He said he had just one thought: "I wasn't going to make the last out of the World Series."

True to his word, he delivered a clean single to left. Kevin Mitchell followed with a single, and when Ray Knight singled, Mr. Carter scored from second.

As Mr. Carter crossed the plate, he clapped his hands, pointed at Wilson on deck and clapped again. Moments later, Bill Buckner's error on Wilson's grounder to first scored Knight for a 6-5 win. Mr. Carter rushed from the dugout to join the celebration at home plate, catcher's gear already on.

"I 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. He was just a warrior on the field," former Mets ace and Tampa native Dwight Gooden said.

Mr. Carter was elected to the Hall in 2003 on his sixth try. He had joked that he wanted his Cooperstown cap to be a half-and-halfer, split between the Expos and Mets. The Hall makes the call on the logo.

"It's nice to know that even though my body feels like an old man now, I will always be a kid at heart," Mr. Carter said on his election.

Time staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

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