Ask a New Yorker, and they’ll say that Gary Carter was one of the leaders and best players of the NY Mets 1986 World Series winning team. Which is true.
But before the Mets acquired Gary Carter in a trade in 1985, Carter played eleven years, and most of his best years, for the Montreal Expos. He was a great player, the best catcher in baseball for a time.
Last week, Gary Carter died of brain cancer at the age of 57.
I’m not sure that New Yorkers realized just how great an athlete and man that Carter was. He was an extroverts’ extrovert, always smiling and always wiling to talk to a reporter. But ( and this I’ve only learned this week ) he was also always willing to speak to the fans, including the young kids, to whom baseball players are gods. He treated the batboy the same way he treated the owner of the team.
When Carter was called up to the Montreal Expos in 1974, they were the only major league team in Canada. They had the vast country to themselves. There were Expos fans in Saskatchewan. They drew huge crowds at the concrete,lifeless Olympic Stadium. Prime Minister Trudeau once remarked that he was happy that he never had to run against Carter in an election.
The Expos fans were cheated out of what could have been a World Series appearance when there was a players strike. The crowds grew thin. Eight years ago, the Expos left Montreal.
Through pure coincidence, I attended both the first game that the Montreal Expos ever played, in 1969, and the last game they ever played, in 2004. Both were at Shea Stadium. With a few others, I cheered for the Expos to win their last game. They lost, 8 to 1.
Carter’s death has caused a flood of memories in Montreal. There is a lot of traffic on the Montreal Expos Facebook page, for a team that’s been gone eight years.
The Montreal City Council just passed a resolution. They will name a street or other public place for him.
A few nights ago, the Montreal Canadiens hockey team gave a tribute to Montreal’s adopted son. I hope you like it.
Je me souviens.