1987 Topps Gary Carter
1986 was a banner season for Mets fans, and photographers at Topps did a wonderful job of capturing many of the plays at Shea with several in-action photographs on the cards they turned out the following year.
The Play on the Card
So let’s get our Sherlock Holmes hat on and utilize the Internet, particularly baseballreference.com to see if we can determine a) who the non-Carter players shown on the card are; b) the date the play occurred; c) who the (not pictured) pitcher was; d) the identity of the runner and whether he was safe or out; and e) if the Mets won the particular game shown?
1. The picture is from a day game, and as Carter is wearing the home team uniform, we’re looking for a day game played at Shea in 1986 against the Phillies.
2. The Mets and Phillies played only three day games at Shea in 1986: the weekend of April 19 and 20, and Sunday Sept. 21. The other six home games against the Phillies were all night games.
3. The on deck batter looking on in the background is wearing No. 15. Baseball Reference shows that Rick Schu wore No. 15 that season for the Phillies.
4. The batter is a right-handed hitter and his two-digit uniform number ends in a six. Luis Aguayo wore No. 16 for the Phillies that season. Uniform No. 26 was worn for most of the season by Jeff Stone who was a left-handed batter and Chris James, who appeared in only a handful of games for the Phillies in 1986. No. 36 was not issued by the Phillies in 1986.
5. The player in the hole, who appears in the Phillies dugout, as is shown between Carter’s legs, appears to be No. 20, who was Mike Schmidt.
6. The April 19 game Luis Aguayo played (Chris James did not), but Gary Carter played left field for the Mets that day until the ninth inning when he switched behind the plate. In the ninth inning, no one tried to steal against Dwight Gooden, who pitched a complete game that day, winning 3-2. We can conclude that the play cannot be from the April 19 game.
7. The box score of the April 20 game shows that the Phillies only attempted one steal during the game. In the top of the first, Gary Redus singled off Mets starter Sid Fernandez and with Gary Carter catching, was thrown out trying to steal with Luis Aguayo at the plate.
Further, Rick Schu batted third that day, and would have been in the on deck circle at the time, and Mike Schmidt was in the hole, batting clean up for the Phillies. This is almost certainly the play shown on the card. The Mets won the game 8-0.
8. For completeness sake, in the Sept. 21 game, although Milt Thompson was caught stealing second by Gary Carter in the fourth inning, Rick Schu and neither Luis Aguayo nor Chris James appeared in that game.
Before we conclude our case by hanging our deerstalker Sherlock Holmes hat back on the wall until our next baseball card mystery case together, young catchers should note how far forward Gary Carter was as he threw the runner out, jumping and striding to the point that his front foot is aside home plate.
The Kid, as Carter was affectionately known, left us far too soon, passing away on Feb. 16, 2012, seven years ago today. However, looking back at this card, he continues to bring back fond memories and instructing the next generation of catchers how to play the game.