I have to say the news of Gary Carter’s passing hit me pretty hard yesterday. I was getting ready for a gig and I got the first text message from a friend of mine — that’s how we get news nowadays isn’t it? Forget the newspaper or CNN, usually you get breaking news from a tweet or a text these days. But anyway I was getting ready and I heard the news and I literally had to sit down and collect myself. I immediately went back to October of 1986. The Mets were in the postseason, playing The Astros in the NLCS, tied up two games to two. Game 5 was at Shea and as any sports fan will tell you, game 5 is usually the critical game in a 7 game series. They went 12 innings that afternoon. I was working at the local church at the time. My boss Brendan and I finished up our day. We had been listening to the game on the radio while we worked but since it was heading to extra innings and we were done, we clocked out, grabbed a few beers and headed to the faculty lounge (they had a color TV.)
We sat there for a coupla innings and then Gary Carter got a game winning base hit right up the middle. As soon as the ball left his bat he thrust his hands in the air and ran to to first with that huge Gary Carter smile on his face. That win sent us to Houston up 3 games to 2. We won game 6 and then it was off to that historic World Series against The Red Sox.
That was my team. I was twenty years old, kinda clueless with what I wanted to do but, as Tom Petty says, the future was wide open. And the funny part is, I didn’t even really like Gary Carter on that team. There were so many great personalities on that ball club, and so many guys closer to my age, Carter seemed like the older brother, keeping everybody in line and not having any of the true fun. He was a family man. A religious man. He didn’t close the bars down like the rest of the team. And he didn’t use cocaine which apparently was rampant on that team. Ron Darling was talking about Gary Carter recently and he said “He was always a good husband, a good father, a good humanitarian. It took me a while to learn how to do all that.” I guess at 20 years old that seemed kinda boring. Now looking back on it, you have to respect a guy like that. He got the most out of his talent. That team had prodigies like Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry who never reached their full potential as players because they did get caught up in that lifestyle. Partying too hard. Cocaine. Things like that.
So the news struck me. Really hit me hard. And I’m sure it’s because a part of my youth has passed away. But it also reminded me that no matter how much you take care of yourself and focus on your well-being you really never know what’s going to happen. If you’d looked at that ’86 team and thought Whose gonna die first? You wouldn’t have guessed Gary Carter. Too many others driving drunk or using cocaine or going to jail. You never would have said Gary Carter, and yet 57 years old, no, 57 years young and he’s gone. Makes you realize that living your life for today is extremely important. I don’t advocate spending every last penny and being homeless because you gave zero thought to tomorrow, but I do advocate enjoying everyday to its fullest. Because you never know when your planes gonna go down. Or you’ll step in front of a city bus. Or in Carter’s case you wake up one day with brain cancer.
I know that sounds kinda morbid and I don’t mean it to be. I mean it to be optimistic. When I think of Gary Carter, I think of that smile on his face as he ran down to first that day, arms pumped into the sky. He was happy. I think he was a man who enjoyed every moment of his life. At least he seemed that way. And while 57 is not nearly enough time on this planet, something tells me Gary Carter made the most of those years. I’ll miss ya Kid