‘The Kid’ and The Battle
May 30, 2011 1 Comment
Growing up as a die-hard Mets fan, there are very few memories that you get to hold onto and cherish. I remember vividly where I was when Robin Venture hit his grand-slam single against the Atlanta Braves in the 1999 National League Championship series (the answer: I skipped out on my sister’s bat mitzvah to watch the game in my cousin’s hotel room). Or how about Todd Pratt’s helicopter swing home run to end the 1999 National League Division Series against the Diamondbacks and anxiously waiting for Steve Finley to pull up his pants and realize a ball wasn’t in his glove.
I remember jumping up and down like a lunatic around 9:25 EST at Shea Stadium when Benny Agbayani hit his 13th-inning, walk-off home run to win Game 3 against the San Francisco Giants in the 2000 National League Division series. In 2006, the Mets were swept in Pittsburgh by the Pirates, while the Phillies swept the Nationals at home to set up a potential National League East clinching game at home. My good friend Ted and I left school early (2 PM) to drive the 45 minutes to Shea and wait in line for tickets to that nights game (first pitch, 7:10). Staying with 2006, I remember pulling Ted off of a baseball field mid-warm ups to tell him we had two tickets to Game 1 against the Dodgers (a Cliff Floyd and Carlos Delgado home runs later, Mets won). Or smoking a victory cigar after Shawn Green caught the final out to complete the Mets three-game sweep in L.A.
The NLCS that year was the same story. I had a calculus test pushed back three separate times because of Mets games that week. I forbid people to tell me the score of Game 5 in that series because I was at a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert and wanted to watch it on tape delay (I cracked in the 4th inning). Being at Game 6 with my dad, watching John Maine pitch for the second time that post-season and nearly crapping myself when So Taguchi (TAGUCHI!) hit a double off Billy Wagner to make it interesting in the ninth.
I will never, in my entire life, forget the feeling of euphoria when Endy Chavez somehow dislocated his right arm to catch Scott Rolen’s two-run homer to preserve the 1-1 tie. The only time in my Met-fandome did I feel unbeatable was right then and there in my friend Greg Fass’ living room. I also remember the incredible low I felt when Beltran kept his bat on his shoulder sending the St. Louis Cardinals, not the Mets, to the World Series (the Cardinals swept the Detroit Tigers that year).
So, what am I trying to say exactly? Going back to my young childhood, the first VHS my dad ever bought solely for me was the 1986 New York Mets Year in Review tape. Though I wasn’t even born yet (hell, the sister who I ducked out of the bat mitzvah for to watch Ventura’s single wasn’t even born yet), the 1986 Mets quickly became a huge part of me. I felt like I grew up with Mookie, Nails, El Sid, Doc, Straw, HoJo, Wally and Keith. However, one player above all else stood out to me, a young, aspiring catcher:
Gary Carter. The Kid.
He did everything on the field with so much energy and enthusiasm. Even when he was upset at somebody, it appeared that he was smiling and joking around with the guy at the same time. Not to mention, he was the final piece to Frank Cashen’s championship puzzle. He put the Mets over the edge from good team in the early 80’s to dominate powerhouse from 1985-1989. His first year with the team (1985), Carter hit .281 with 32 home runs and 100 runs batted in, good enough for sixth in the NL Most Valuable Player voting. The following year, he hit 24 home runs and drove in 105 runners and despite his .255 average, he placed third in the MVP balloting.
Since Carter, I’ve always loved Mets catchers throughout my lifetime. The only time I was allowed in the Mets dugout (I was three, Dallas Green yelled at me), it was back-up catcher Charlie O’Brien who greeted me and rubbed my head. Todd Hundley will always have a special place in my heart. Mike Piazza was the first superstar to dawn a Mets jersey in my lifetime. Even the back-up catchers have always been fun for me, from Todd Pratt and Vance Wilson to Jason Phillips and Ramon Castro (or, as Fran Healy loved to call him, “Cadillac”).
When he retired, he truly became the first player I followed the five years after hoping he’d get into the Hall of Fame. I would talk every year with my dad about his chances and each year he didn’t get elected, I became increasingly more frustrated. Six years after he became eligible, Carter was finally inducted and to my chagrin, he went in with the Montreal Expos (due to a lack of my childhood knowledge that he played 12 years with the Expos before his five with the Mets). To my knowledge, coaches aside, no active Met has worn Carter’s #8 since his retirement and there is a strong sentiment among the fan base that the number should be formally retired.
The guys that played on that 1986 team are quick to say that the team captain and leader was first baseman Keith Hernandez, but ‘The Kid’ was the heart and soul. In fact, in a recent broadcast, Ron Darling mentioned how the team would actually get a little tired of how much love Carter would spread in the clubhouse.
Now, Gary Carter is in the battle for his life. It has been revealed that Carter has four tumors located on his brain that appear to be cancerous. Doctors said they believe Carter is suffering from Grade 4 glioblastoma, which directly effects your central nervous system and your brain. The tumors are inoperable, but doctors feel they can shrink the size of the tumors through treatment. Carter himself has said he will do everything he can to battle the disease and doesn’t plan to go down without a fight.
As a human being, you hate to hear bad news happen to the best of people. As a Mets fan, it hits directly in your heart that one of your heroes, one of your immortals, is battling such a tragic disease.
Without that 1986 Year in Review Mets tape I wouldn’t know fully who Gary Carter was, who he still is.
Without Gary Carter, I am not a Mets fan.
Greg Kaplan is a writer and co-founder for Home Field Advantage