“Is it tough?” he said, smiling at a question. “It’s tough physically some days just to get this body up and out of bed. But playing baseball is never tough. It’s great. I love coming to the park every day and preparing as if I’m going to play whether I’m in the lineup or not. For me to stand here and tell you I’ve been anything but blessed would be crazy. There’s no one in the world luckier than me.”
Carter was devout, and no doubt his faith carried him and his family through his last days. There’s nothing lucky or blessed about dying at 57, but if anyone could find a way to look at an ending like that without feeling sorry for himself, it was Carter.
Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, who helped lead the New York Mets to a World Series title in 1986, died Thursday. He was 57. Carter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last May.
As is often the case with someone that upbeat, skeptics wondered if all that enthusiasm could possibly be real. His teammates never questioned it for one second.
Those Mets of the mid-’80s were an often-fractious bunch. Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry got into a fight one year on team picture day. Manager Davey Johnson seemed to do battle with a different star every week. Even during the ’86 World Series, he and Strawberry didn’t speak for two days after Johnson took Strawberry out of Game 6 late. When Strawberry homered in Game 7 to extend the Mets’ lead, both Carter and Knight went to him and told him the same thing: “Go shake Davey’s hand.”
Which is exactly what Strawberry did.
Many will remember Carter as the guy who always had a huge smile, someone who clearly loved his life. But there was also the intense Carter, standing upright at home plate, eyes filled with intensity, especially in big moments such as the one on a late October night in 1986 when he kept his team alive long enough to produce the most startling rally in postseason history.
The words will keep pouring out in the next few days and they will be heartfelt. But no words will capture the way those who played with him and knew him as eloquently as those few seconds when Darling told the world he was standing up for his catcher.
Today, all of baseball is standing up for The Kid. And there isn’t a dry eye in the house.
For more from the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.
com. To read his previous columns for The Washington Post, go to washingtonpost.com/feinstein.