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Gary Carter earned the nickname “The Kid” at Expos training camp in 1973 at the age of 19.
“I tried to impress everybody that spring, you know, being the first in line for sprints,” Carter said. “Running hard to first base all the time.”
A few big leaguers began calling him the kid – and the nickname as well as the style of play stuck with him throughout his 19-year career. The 11-time All-Star was an enthusiastic and resilient backstop for the Expos, Mets, Giants and Dodgers who helped his teams behind the plate and in the batter’s box.
“He’s a horse,” said Mets Manager Davey Johnson. “He’s in great shape. You try to rest him during the season, but he won’t stand for it.”
Born on April 8, 1954 in Culver City, Calif., Carter played baseball, basketball and football in high school, but rejected dozens of college scholarships to sign with the Montreal Expos. Used primarily as an outfielder during his 1975 rookie season, Carter came in second in Rookie of the Year voting before earning the full-time catching job in 1977.
“I was out of position. I was running into walls and hurting myself,” said Carter about his experience in the outfield.
A three-time Gold Glove Award winner, Carter set a record for fewest passed balls in 1978 and paced all National League catchers in total chances (1977-82), putouts (1977-80, 1982), assists (1977, 1979-80, 1982) and double plays (1978-79, 1983).
“He was a human backstop back there,” said former teammate Keith Hernandez. “Early, before his knees went bad, you couldn’t steal on him in Montreal. When he wasn’t able to throw because of his knees, that never affected his performance. He was running on and off the field after three outs. This guy played in some pain and it was hustle, hustle, hustle.”
Carter was traded to the Mets in 1984. He led his team to a World Series Championship, hitting .276 with two home runs and nine RBI in the Fall Classic. His two-out, 10th-inning single ignited a three-run rally that resulted in a Mets’ win to even the series. New York went onto win the Fall Classic in seven games.
Slowed by injuries, Carter played for the Giants and Dodgers before returning to Montreal to end his career in 1992. He had a career .262 batting average, belted 324 home runs and knocked in 1,225 runs to earn four Silver Sluggers.
“It is a grueling position (catching),” said Carter. “I can look back at it and say it’s worth it to be enshrined in Cooperstown. I don’t have any pain in my knees right now.”
Carter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.