MMO Flashback: 25 Years Later: Gary Carter Debuts In Style
Originally posted on April 9, 2010, here is a wonderful post by Ed that will evoke some great memories of Gary while we keep him in our prayers.
In 1984, the Mets surprised the baseball world by winning 90 games and finishing in second place in the National League East. After seven consecutive losing seasons, the Mets were a competitive team again. The young pitching staff, led by a teenaged Dwight Gooden and featuring Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez, was starting to blossom and appeared destined for stardom.
However, despite the resurgence of the 1984 Mets, they were still outscored by 24 runs and felt the need to upgrade their offense during the offseason. One area where the team lacked offensive punch was at the catcher’s position, where Mike Fitzgerald and Ron Hodges shared duties. General Manager Frank Cashen noticed that the Montreal Expos were looking to rebuild after a disappointing 1984 season and were willing to trade All-Star catcher Gary Carter. The deal was done during the offseason and the Mets instantly became a World Series contender.
In 1984, Mets’ top two catchers (Fitzgerald and Hodges) combined to hit .234, with 3 HR and 33 RBI. They also only scored 25 runs between them. If the Mets wanted to show that the 1984 season was not a fluke, they had to have an offense that matched the up-and-coming pitching staff. In addition, they needed a veteran catcher who would help mold the young pitching staff and provide leadership and a defensive presence behind the plate. The Mets satisfied all those requirements on December 10, 1984, when they sent Hubie Brooks (who had become expendable when the Mets acquired Ray Knight during the 1984 season), Mike Fitzgerald and two highly-touted prospects (pitcher Floyd Youmans and outfielder Herm Winningham) to the Expos for three-time Gold Glove winner Gary Carter, who led the National League with 106 RBI in 1984, to go with a .294 average and 27 HR. Little did the Mets know that the trade would pay off instantly.
Twenty-five years ago today (April 9, 1985), the Mets opened up the season at Shea Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals finished the 1984 season in third place, directly behind the Mets in the standings and figured to be one of the Mets’ main competitors for the 1985 NL East Division title. 1984 NL Rookie of The Year Dwight Gooden started the opener against Joaquin Andujar and neither pitcher was particularly effective. However, the Mets did hold a 5-4 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning and Doug Sisk was on the mound trying to secure the Mets victory.
Before becoming a target for the Shea Stadium boobirds, Doug Sisk had two excellent seasons as a reliever in 1983 and 1984, registering a 2.24 ERA in 1983 with 11 saves and a 2.09 ERA in 1984 with 15 saves. However, Sisk was entering his third inning of work when manager Davey Johnson allowed him to start the ninth inning and the Cardinals’ hitters were facing him for a second time. Perhaps fatigue was a factor or perhaps the Cardinals became familiar with Sisk’s pitches after he went through their lineup, but the usually dependable Sisk was anything but dependable in the ninth inning. Two singles and a hit batsman loaded up the bases for the Cardinals. Needing to retire one more batter to close out the game, Johnson left Sisk in the game and then had to watch his decision backfire when Sisk walked Jack Clark to force in the tying run. It was then that Johnson removed Sisk (enter the aforementioned boobirds) and replaced him with Jesse Orosco, who was able to induce an inning-ending goroundout from pinch-hitter Tito Landrum. When the Mets failed to score in the bottom of the ninth inning, the game went into extra innings. It wouldn’t be long before the Flushing Faithful had something to cheer about.
After squatting through ten innings on a cold April day, Gary Carter moved into the on-deck circle as Keith Hernandez stepped up to the plate to face former Met Neil Allen. It was Allen who was one of the key components in the trade that netted the Mets their first baseman at the trading deadline on June 15, 1983. The matchup of the two players traded for each other resulted in a strikeout, with Keith Hernandez heading back to the dugout and Gary Carter coming up to the plate.
Although Gary Carter was one of the premier offensive catchers of his era, he had never hit a home run or driven in any runs in his career against Neil Allen prior to 1985. All that changed with one swing of the bat, as Carter sent the frozen fans into a frenzy with a home run into the Cardinals bullpen. The walkoff blast gave the Mets a 6-5 victory and showed Mets fans that the days of slap-hitting catchers at Shea Stadium were over.
Gary Carter went on to hit a career-high 32 HR for the Mets in 1985, to go with 100 RBI, but the Mets ultimately fell short in their quest to win the NL East title, as the Cardinals ended up not only winning the division, but winning the National League pennant as well.
As all Mets fans know, the trade for Carter paid off royally the following year, as the Mets captured their second World Championship. The title might never have happened had Carter not started the famous tenth inning rally in Game 6 of the World Series with a two-out base hit.
Carter played his final game with the Mets in 1989, after injuries and declining production effectively ended his five-year stay with the Mets. However, before his Mets career ended, Carter was named co-captain (joining Keith Hernandez) in 1988. This would be one of many honors bestowed upon “The Kid” by the Mets and Major League Baseball, as Carter would be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame on August 12, 2001, followed by his eventual enshrinement into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Montreal Expos retired Carter’s number in 2003. Although the Mets have not yet done so, it should be noted that Carter’s #8 has not been issued to a player or coach since he was enshrined into Cooperstown in 2003.
Gary Carter was an 11-time All-Star, won five Silver Slugger Awards and was rewarded for his defensive excellence with three Gold Gloves. He was a complete catcher whose knowledge of the game and leadership skills were second to none. He also helped mold one of the best pitching staffs in Mets history and was one of the key players in their run to the 1986 World Series title. His affable personality and winning attitude made him a hit with the fans, but it was a long hit in his first game with the Mets in 1985 that endeared him to the Shea Faithful forever.
Twenty-five years ago today, on April 9, 1985, the man known as “The Kid” came up to bat in the bottom of the tenth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals, hoping to show that the Mets’ 1984 season was not a fluke. With one swing of the bat, he not only won a baseball game for the Mets, but he won the hearts of Mets fans forever. Carter brought out the kid in many a Mets fan that year and gave them hope that a new era of success was about to take place at Shea Stadium.
About the Author: Ed Leyro
Ed Leyro was hatched in the Bronx, but spent most of his youth in Queens at Shea Stadium. Apparently, all that time spent at Mets games paid off as Ed met his wife (The Coop) for the first time at Citi Field during its inaugural season. Guess the 2009 season was good for something after all. In addition to his work at Mets Merized Online, Ed also owns, operates and is head janitor at Studious Metsimus, where he shares blogging duties with Joey Beartran. For those not in the know, Joey is a teddy bear dressed in a Mets hoodie. Clearly, Studious Metsimus is not your typical Mets blog.
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