Growing up in New York City in the 1980s, 1985 was the year that I first began to follow sports. My dad showed me how to read the sports section of the newspaper, and during the summer I found myself checking the stats of the New York Mets and New York Yankees daily. I rooted for both teams strongly that year and was disappointed when both teams finished with over 90 wins, but came in second place. I was eagerly awaiting for things to get better in the following year.
1986 was the year that I really fell in love with baseball, and this was entirely due to the spectacular season of Gary Carter and the New York Mets. Some of my best childhood memories are getting on the #2 or #3 train at 135th and Lenox with my mother, taking it to 42nd street, and transferring to the #7 train to Shea Stadium. The Mets were amazing to watch that year, and Gary Carter’s hustle and enthusiasm was a huge part of it. His child-like exuberance got him the nickname “The Kid”, and emphatic fist pumps were symbolic of how the Mets played baseball that season. This season is so engrained in my memory that 26 years later, I still remember the lineup.
Batting first was center fielder Lenny Dykstra or Mookie Wilson, and at second, and batted second, was Wally Backman or Tim Teufel. Keith Hernandez played first base and batted third, while Daryl Strawberry batted fourth and played right field. The Kid played catcher and hit fifth, while Ray Knight played third and hit sixth. Kevin Mitchell hit seventh and played left field, while Rafael Santana hit eighth as a shortstop.
Gary Carter was the co-captain of this team with Keith Hernandez, and his leadership was invaluable. I remember an exhibition they played against the Boston Red Sox in August. Yes an exhibition game in August. It was called “Jimmy Fund Night” to raise money for the charity. Carter hit a couple of bombs or so off the green monster, and it was as if he was testing it out for October. And of course in October Carter played a huge role in one of the most memorable World Series ever. The Mets were down three games to two, down two runs, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Gary Carter was coming to bat, and being a deeply religious man who never curses, told his teammates, “There’s no way I’m making the last [bleeping] out of this game.” Carter would promptly single, which started the Mets comeback rally, and they would go on to win the game, and eventually, the World Series.
Throughout that entire season the Mets had many comeback miracle victories that Gary Carter played a role in. In many ways, he was the heart and soul of the team. I remember seeing him hit several home runs at Shea Stadium, and they always ignited the crowd and team. In many ways he represented what is great about baseball. A guy who had fun playing the game like a kid in the back yard, and gave each game everything he got. He would catch a Saturday night game, and then refuse to not start the next Sunday afternoon game. Gary Carter was instrumental in me becoming a huge baseball fan, and is a well deserving hall of famer. Baseball could use more players like him, and he will sorely be missed.