Gary Carter dies at 57; baseball Hall of Famer
Gary Carter, who was raised in Fullerton and played for the Montreal Expos, Mets, Giants and Dodgers, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in May. A catcher, he had a key hit in the 1986 World Series and was known for his exuberance.
Gary Carter tags Jim Rice out at the plate during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. (Peter Southwick / Associated Press)
Nicknamed "Kid" for his grit and youthful exuberance, Carter was an 11-time All-Star who hit .262 with 324 home runs and 1,225 runs batted in during 19 seasons playing for the Montreal Expos, Mets, San Francisco Giants and Dodgers.
His goal to become a major league manager unfulfilled, Carter was coaching at Palm Beach Atlantic University near his Florida home last May when he experienced headaches and forgetfulness and was diagnosed with brain cancer.
"Nobody loved the game of baseball more than Gary Carter," Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver said Thursday. "Nobody enjoyed playing the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. He wore his heart on his sleeve every inning he played. For a catcher to play with that intensity in every game is special."
Former Expos pitcher Steve Rogers, who is now a players union special assistant, played with Carter in Montreal. "Gary and I grew up together in the game, and during our time with the Expos we were as close as brothers, if not closer," Rogers said. "Gary was a champion. He was a 'gamer' in every sense of the word — on the field and in life. He made everyone else around him better, and he made me a better pitcher."
Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, who was Carter's teammate with the Dodgers in 1991, remembered him as "not only an incredible ballplayer but an incredible person."
"I always admired him when I played against him," Scioscia said, "and it was a pleasure to play with him."
Born April 8, 1954, in Culver City, Carter was raised in Fullerton. His father, Jim, was an aircraft worker, and his older brother, Gordon, played two years in the Giants' minor league system.
Carter told Sport magazine that a turning point in his life was the death of his mother when he was 12. Inge Carter suffered from leukemia and died when she was 37.
"I took it very personally, very hard," Carter said. "One thing it did was turn me off God for a while and onto sports. I really feel everything good I did on a field was for my mother."
Carter excelled on many athletic fields, collecting 11 varsity letters at Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton and earning more than 100 college scholarship offers in baseball, football and basketball.
Though a knee injury forced him to miss his senior football season at Sunny Hills, Carter, a quarterback, was set to attend UCLA on a football scholarship until the Expos selected him in the third round of the 1972 draft and signed him for $40,000.
Carter reached the big leagues two years later. In 10 years with the Expos, the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder with the dimpled chin, curly brown hair and ever-present smile hit .272, averaged 21 homers, 26 doubles and 80 RBIs a season and was a seven-time All-Star.
Carter was a rare player who would stand outside the park and talk to fans at length. In spring training, he set aside time to pose for pictures and sign autographs.
He was so accessible to and talkative with the media that once, according to Sports Illustrated, as a sportswriter approached Carter in the clubhouse, a teammate cried out, "Gary, at least wait until the guy asks a question."
A trade to the New York Mets before the 1985 season thrust Carter from the relative obscurity of small-market Montreal into the limelight of the nation's biggest media market, where Carter was scrutinized like never before.
Some thought Carter went too far out of his way for good press. Some teammates, resentful of the many endorsements and speaking engagements Carter garnered, thought he hogged the spotlight.
"It was jealousy more than anything else," Carter told The Times in 1993. "They felt this guy was too good to be true, but I was the same as a rookie as I was the last day I took my uniform off."
The Mets made Carter baseball's highest-paid player with a $2.07-million salary in 1986, and Carter delivered with a superb season in which he hit .255 with 24 homers and 105 RBIs and finished third in National League most valuable player voting.