Gary Carter was my favorite player when I first started following baseball.
When I was young, before the Blue Jays came along, the Expos were my team. They were the team you could see on TV in Canada. Not every game, like you do now but weekly anyway. It was a different world back then, you couldn't follow the games on your computer.
I've read folks say that the 'golden age' of anything is when you are a 12 year old. When I was 12, Gary Carter was a young catcher. His came in second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1975, he really was robbed, but then he was playing mostly RF and he wasn't a good right fielder. The Expos already had a catcher, Barry Foote, though Foote really wasn't a guy that should make you move Carter off his position.
Carter played the game the way I'd like to think I would, if I had, you know, talent. Seemed happy to be out there. He was always smiling. Always signing autographs. And he was always going as hard as he could. He ran to first on walks. He ran down the line as hard as he could on every play. They called him the Kid because he played the game like a kid would.
His teammates didn't always like that. I've seen several say that Carter always knew where the camera was. That he showed off, hustled for show. And maybe he did. I don't know. I don't care either. I thought that if I played, that's the way I'd do it. I'd be happy to get to play a kids game for a living.
He was the best catcher in baseball for several years. He was terrific on defense. Most seasons he threw out 40 to 50% of the base runners who were dumb enough to try to steal off him. I know catcher ERA isn't much of a stat but year after year Expo pitchers had better ERA's with Carter than with anyone else catching for them.
The Expos played the hell out of him. He played 150+ games in several seasons as an Expo, and, with that wonderful carpet at the Big O, it is no surprise that he ended up with knee problems. But , free agency was something new back then, and the Expos knew they didn't own his future so they might as well get as much out of his present as they could.
The day he was traded to the Mets was a Monday and Monday night football was on. The trade came across and Howard Cosell read it and then he said 'this can't be right, there must be more going to the Expos'. But there wasn't and it wasn't right. We got robbed.
I was thrilled when Carter made it to the Hall of Fame. Even happier when he went in wearing an Expo cap. I guess he wasn't all that happy about it, he would have preferred to go in as a Met but the better part of his career was with the Expos. I saw his plaque when we got to Cooperstown a few years ago.
When I first made a few dollars, back when I was a young teen, one of the first things I bought myself was a Expos Jersey with Gary Carter's number 8 on the back. My youngest boy wears it now, my wife fixed it up for him for Christmas this year. The lettering on it was torn. She did a very nice job, I wish it still fit me.
One of the few autographed baseballs I have is from Gary Carter. I also have a picture with him (and my son) that's the background of my computer now. He was managing in the Golden Baseball League and his team came to Calgary, a few years ago on Father's Day. Carter spent part of the day signing, raising money for the Gary Carter Foundation. I'm glad I got that chance to, briefly, talk to him.
I'm very sad to hear his passing, he was far too young.