Saying Goodbye to the Kid

A long, long time ago Gary Carter represented youth, hope, power, confidence and swagger. If ever there was a personality that vaulted the expansion Expos into the major leagues it was The Kid. I remember Carter breaking in with the Expos of Gene Mauch and hanging around through the heart of the 70s and the downturn in the early 80s.

When he first arrived Carter caught some and played him in the outfield. The club had another young catcher (Barry Foote) and he was young too. There was a problem, but the new arrival didn’t see it that way.

One post-game interview with Dave Van Horne and Duke Snider put it all to bed. Carter was asked if he felt the outfield was his future and the Kid said “no”, going on to explain that the situation now (this was 1975) could change down the line. It did, and in a quick hurry. Foote’s bat left him and injuries started piling up, and the Expos sent him along to the Cubs around 1977.

Carter was a terrific catcher, great thrower and could handle a pitching staff expertly. If not for a Steve Rogers “middle-in” fastball that rode into the heart of the plate Carter may have been part of a WS winner in 1981. He could peg second base and was excellent covering home plate. However, most of Carter’s HOF value came via the lumber, with tremendous power and durability. He lacked foot speed (the GIDP’s killed us in the late 70s, Ellis Valentine and Warren Cromartie gathered them like flies on honey) but he was an outstanding hitter for power. I don’t think we can name 10 catchers in MLB history who hit in the heart of the order for as long as Gary Carter.

His personality did him good (lots of endorsements) and bad (lost a season because the veterans played a trick on him in spring training, 1974) but I don’t think you’ll find an Expo fan alive who isn’t pretty solemn about today’s news.  When I was a kid, Kid Carter was one of my heroes. I can’t believe he’s gone. Thank you kid Carter, for all of those wonderful memories. Rest in peace.

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28 Responses to "Saying Goodbye to the Kid"

  1. russ99 says:

    Nice tribute to a great player, LT.

    Loved Carter with the Expos, hated him with the Mets. It was like two different people, IMO.

    One of the all time greats, and a part of why 70′s baseball was so much fun.

  2. jake70 says:

    Nice write-up LT. When I was eleven years old, I got a new tape recorder, the first thing I taped on it was Carter’s Speedy Propane commercial….”sinker slider!” Boy I was devastated when he got traded to NY. Loved watching Dave and Duke on CBC call games with Carter in the line-up. I hate Mondays has a deeper meaning for Expos fans in the day – did Carter not come up in the bottom of the ninth that game, everyone everywhere wanted the home run but not to be. RIP Kid.

  3. nathan says:

    Think that stunt was in 73. He made the team in 74.

  4. D says:

    Thanks for the write-up LT. I’m glad he won one with the Mets. I know from your previous articles that you’re a big fan of his.

  5. Lowetide says:

    No, he was a late callup in 1974. Maybe early September but they didn’t have him in 1974 summer.

  6. TemujinBC says:

    57

    57???

    Are you kidding me? How cosmically unfair.

    What a player. What a loss.

  7. Chunklets says:

    Lovely writeup, LT. I didn’t really start following baseball until the 80s, and Carter was probably my second favourite player in my early days, after Willie McGee.

    It’s a sad day.

  8. Cobbler says:

    Very fond memories of the Expos and Carter. I remember emulating him on the field when I was young, even though I never caught a game in my life.

  9. nathan says:

    nathan:
    Think that stunt was in 73. He made the team in 74.

    LT,

    Yes. He was called up late in 74.

    But I doubt the sources including wikipedia that say his first Expos training camp was ’74. The Montreal Gazette story today says his first training camp with the Expos was ’73. So does the HOF web site. And also Turner’s book that retells that story.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/02/rip-gary-carter-saying-goodbye-to-the-kid/253224/

    “I’ve always been named The Kid, and then when I went to my first big-league spring training in ’73 I was a vivacious and enthusiastic young kid that had great strives of wanting to get to the major leagues. And so they nicknamed me the young, 18-year-old kid. And the tag has just stayed on ever since. And until the day I die I’ll be nicknamed The Kid.”

    -Gary Carter, 1982, from Dan Turner’s The Expos Inside Out

    “At his first spring training in 1973 a bunch of us older guys were sitting around drinking beer in a bar one night and he came in and asked us what we were having. So we told him and he kept ordering rounds, only each time he’d order a zombie for himself. After a while he got sick and then he passed out with his head on the table. We left him there and they sent him back down.”

    -Ron Hunt, from The Expos Inside Out

  10. Lowetide says:

    ’73? Hmmm. I guess you’re right, but off the top of my head I’d say there was no damn way Gene Mauch would have kept a kid out of A ball (Carter would have played A ball after being drafted in 1972 and ’73 would have been the season they would send him to AA).

    Who did they have catching? Boccabella, plus Morales the pinch hitter but I can’t remember the other guy. 1973 was the year I saw the Foli-Jorgenson-boccabella triple play so I’m pretty sure about that part of it.

    So they would have had Foote in triple A in ’73 and Carter AA. That’s the year? I’ll give on this, but secretly believe my memory is correct. :-)

  11. spoiler says:

    No such thing as a permanent perm, despite the term. Wish it wasn’t true. This is one perm that should have been around a lot longer. I hope he didn’t suffer and that his last days were spent in some comfort with his friends and family. Thanks for delighting us, Gary. You were one of the special ones. My favorite memory is a non-playing one: choosing the Expos for the Hall entry.

  12. nathan says:

    Lowetide,

    Here’s the skinny on Foote’s ’73 and ’74. The next Johnny Bench said Mauch. That ’73 training camp event may have been a factor in which young ‘un came up in ’73.

    http://cardboardgods.net/category/teams/philadelphia-phillies/barry-foote/

  13. spoiler says:

    Geez, I read now that it wasn’t his choice; sorry had thought it was. Still, seeing an Expo’s cap inducted into the Hall was something.

  14. nelson88 says:

    Classy tribute for a classy gentleman.

    I was also an expos fan growing up and in my little league days fancied myself Gary Carter at the plate. Great ball player with an infectious personality and smile.

  15. nathan says:

    The ’79 home plate collision is my ultimate Gary Carter memory.That Sept. was pure magic until then. His homer helped them win that game. But that ended the run.

  16. Lowetide says:

    I remember all the missed opportunities.. Blue Monday, Bahnsen to Schmidt. I guess it’s the nature of sports. and if they’d won in 1981 names like Ray Burris and Jerry White would be more famous today. But they didn’t win it.

  17. nathan says:

    Remember them all right up to the ’94 heartbreak. First one was special. Bought my first transistor radio Labour Day ’79 and was glued to it all month long. Fryman vs. Telkuve. fridge vs. rail.

  18. hunter1909 says:

    Sorry for your loss, of a great Expo. Right now, Carter’s up somewhere, playing with Ruth and Gehrig and laughing his head off.

    @ LMHF Number One: I also believe Eberle’s as good or better than any new oiler since the dynasty. By this I mean Weight, Guerin(who wasn’t drafted but made his career as an oiler), anyone really aside from Chris Pronger, who mention because he was good enough to openly ignore MacT’s on ice instructions.

    Eberle? I think Mike Bossy, Jari Kurri, or Glen Anderson for the clutch aspect of his game. Eberle’s so good even Flames fans like him, which reminds me of Bossy, who you couldn’t hate either.

    Oiler’s high end talent is nothing short of astonishing.

    But, when all is said and done Taylor Hall is going to win oilers a cup, guaranteed. I just can’t help looking forward to that day.

  19. BlacqueJacque says:

    Who?

    What?

    When?

    That’s a weird looking hockey stick.

  20. Schitzo says:

    For us young’ns, what’s the story of his first training camp?

  21. Lowetide says:

    Carter had made the team based on merit, and everyone kind of knew it was going to happen. The veterans took him out drinking and he missed curfew. Mauch saw it as a sign of immaturity and sent him down for more seasoning.

    The veterans did it because Carter’s cocky attitude rubbed them the wrong way.

  22. cabbiesmacker says:

    Dawson, Rogers and the Spaceman were my favorite Spos but you had to love Carter’s enthusiasm. I’ll never think of him as a Met.

    Was surprised to read that of all the pitchers he hit well Carlton was #1.

    RIP.

  23. Wolfie says:

    57 is just too damn young. Those Expos days sure are fading fast… God I miss watching that team. RIP Gary.

  24. Schitzo says:

    Lowetide,

    Thanks LT. Before my time, but obviously a player who left an impression.

  25. LMHF#1 says:

    Hunter – I’ll be sticking with loudmouthhemskyfan until I’m done with writing about hockey on the internet. Wouldn’t be right as I would still be a loudmouthhemskyfan.

    On Eberle, I just really want to see him get his due. He’s been underestimated by nearly everyone for his entire career and I don’t know why they’re aren’t taking every chance to highlight the positive play of a guy who wanted to be an Oiler so bad.

  26. hunter1909 says:

    LMHF- Great news to hear you’re keeping the name. You’re one of the top oiler analysts around, buddy. Better than any of the local press, imo.

    Incredibly, Eberle will always have to prove himself on this team. He wasn’t a first overall pick, like others which might well end up lottery day adding another 1st overall genius.

    SHAMELESS PLUG FOR BLOG: i posted my points predictions re: the oilers race for 29th, up to the 29th of February. The Sabres are falling like a rock.

  27. Bruce McCurdy says:

    I’m a Cards fan, but the Expos were always my #2 team for their entire history, and I used to see more of their games than any team, Wednesday nights with Dave & Duke. I was lukewarm about Gary Carter at first, seemed more of a cliche than a human being, but he was one of those guys that was so consistent in his outlook that in time I not only accepted, but respected, that he was real. And FOR real. What a ballplayer he turned out to be.

    My memory slips a little with age — I’ll be 57 myself later this year, & stories like this always stop me in my tracks — but I recall after the mid-season strike in that star-crossed ’81 season that they returned to action with the All-Star game, and Carter hit two dingers, got the MVP award, and all seemed well with the world.

    Too bad he couldn’t have saved one of those dingers for Blue Monday.

  28. Rube Foster says:

    I remember Carter making an amazing block of home plate and a fantastic tag on Dave Parker’s all world throw in the 1979 All-Star game. I also remember Carter wearing god aweful ugly white cleats in that 1981 All-star game, funny what you remember…
    Carter was a stud catcher in an era that had very few catchers who could swing the bat. He was the face of the Expos franchise and will always be fondly remembered by a generation of Candian baseball fans who grew up on Expos baseball.

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