It was inevitable. But it doesn’t make it any less sad. Gary Carter, the Hall of Fame catcher who put the Montreal Expos on the map and helped the New York Mets win a World Series died today at the age of 57.
Carter had been battling brain cancer for the past nine months. While there were some ups and downs during his battle, his prognosis had turned grave of late. He made his last public appearance two weeks ago at a Palm Beach Atlantic University baseball game, greeting the players he would have coached this season if not for the state of his health.
But for as tragic as the past year has been for Carter and his fans, he will always be remembered as one of the greatest catchers who ever lived. He posted a career line of .262/.335/.439 while hitting 324 homers and driving in 1225 runs. He was a three-time Gold Glove winner, but that probably underrates his defense, as being in the same league as Johnny Bench — who was probably the best ever — made many forget that Carter was fantastic himself.
He had his best years with the Expos, making the All-Star team as a right fielder/catcher at the age of 21 in 1975 and later leading them through their most productive era as a franchise. He then went on to New York and similarly led the Mets through theirs, culminating in a 1986 World championship. In 1992, after brief stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles, he returned to the Expos for one final season.
Good travels, Kid. Wherever they may take you.
See also: Carter by the numbers
As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.
The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.
Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.
Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.
The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.
Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.
Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.
Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.