It's not often I write non humorous items in this space but I do need to be somber for a day to remember Gary Carter as he passed yesterday afternoon at 57 years after a 1 year battle with brain cancer.
Gary was THE catcher in baseball during my coming of age in the 1980s and of course joined my favorite team, the Mets, via a 1984 trade. I remember cheering for him when we went to see the games at Shea and I always remember that smile.
Gary was my idol growing up. I wanted to catch because he caught, I wore #8 because that was his number. I even wanted to hit home runs like he did, but, we'll some people have talent and some of us blog.
But above all was that smile. I remember how much he loved to play the game. It's funny as I hear countless former Major Leaguers recount their memories of Carter that they repeat his love of game over and over, yet it was something I picked up as a small kid just starting out in the game.
The posts on Facebook started yesterday afternoon and continue today. But one story in particular resonates with me because it reminds me of one of my own and shows what a great person Gary was and how he always had time for his fans. A friend of mine tells how, as a kid, he took a picture of various Carter baseball cards and sent it to Gary (remember when you could just mail things to your favorite players and not have to follow them on the Twitter?) Anyway he gets a letter back a little later and in it is the picture with an autograph and some new cards, also autographed.
My story is similar. I remember sending a birthday letter to Gary one year (maybe '85 or '86). I don't think I said anything other then I was a fan and Happy Birthday, but in the mail a few weeks later came a 5x7 color picture with an autograph! Do you know what that means to a 10 year old kid? And it wasn't just a signed name. He wrote "Thanks for the birthday wishes, Gary Carter" I sent a similar letter the next year with the same results (different picture).
I only wish I had enough foresight to save those as I got older. I would have really liked to go back and looked at them last night. Instead, we put in the DVD of game 6 of the '86 World Series and showed our kid about The Kid. I hope when he gets older and starts playing ball (or doing whatever he does) that my son will display the same love and excitement and enthusiasm that Carter showed all of us over the years.