Sunday, February 19, 2012

Not The Last Out

If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.   John 15:19

Gary Carter was determined not to be the last out.  But according to the people controlling the videoboard, he already was.

With two outs in the bottom of the 10th in game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Carter was all that stood between the Red Sox defeating the Mets and being World Champions for the first time since 1918.

As Carter walked to the plate, this message could be seen on the videoboard: 
"Congratulations, 1986 World Champions, Boston Red Sox."

"I was our last hope," he said, "and as I took my place and looked out at Schiraldi, all sounds shrank back, and I felt a presence in me, or perhaps besides me, a calming certainty that I wasn't alone. I was not alone, and I was not, so help me, going to make the last out of the World Series. I felt certain of that."

Carter is not the lasting imagine of that game; but without him that image would have never happened.  He did not make that last out.  He started an incredible rally (he had started one in the 8th inning as well) that culminated in the Mets winning the World Series in Game 7.

Carter was a Mets as well as Expos hero.  Beloved by two teams.  He was also disliked my teammates on both teams, for reasons that might not seem fair.  He had the courage to be completely different.  Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Daryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra and other former teammates are all now infamous for their bad behavior during that time.  Carter was ridiculed and chastised for being decent and moral.     

Strawberry and others would ostracize him for not sleeping with groupies and for not taking drugs.  He once even stated he would enjoy having his wife come along on some away games.  This was not the wrong thing to say because teammates needed this time to bond.  It was wrong in their eyes because this was the time for the team to engage in behavior their wives would not want to see.

"He rubbed a lot of people the wrong way," Warren Cromartie, an Expos outfielder, once told me. "Gary was just ... different.

"There was a lack of respect for Gary Carter. He was clearly an overwhelming minority -- or I should say an underwhelming minority."  (1)

"He was too religious, too good, too square -- Tim Tebow with more talent and without social media." said writer Tom Verducci.

"His whole life is baseball and the Lord, and of course his family," said Reardon, Carter's Montreal Expos teammate. (2)

That enthusiasm for one's faith and family just never sat well with much of his team.  They never understood his love for life, especially when not taking part in these extra curricular activities.

"My enthusiasm for my family -- and for baseball, and other things, too -- strikes some people as a bit too much. My happiness crowds people a little." (3)

How could a man enjoy his job AND his family?  This behavior made people suspicious.  Writer Jim Murray said of him, "Gary Carter is the type of guy who, if he saved a child from drowning, the mother would look at him and say, 'Where's his hat?'" (4)

I respect as I wrote before, someone like Tom Brady for caring so much about something that as children we feel is everything to us.  Then we grow up and find out it doesn't mean near the same to the actual players as it does us fans. 

Carter had that same drive and appreciation for what he was a part of.  Mike Schmidt said seeing Gary Carter get elected into the Hall of Fame and what it meant to him, made Schmidt appreciate his own Hall of Fame election all the more. 

But Carter also seemed to have a peace and joy about him as well.

That child like enthusiasm earned him the nickname "Kid" even though the older players didn't usually mean it as a compliment.  As in "kid calm down, stop running so hard its just a practice."

So what was it that made Carter so joyful and so different?  I think a key to that can be found in his opening statement when named Manager of Palm Beach Atlantic University.  Carter's stated mission on the day he was hired:  "My primary goal is to help these young athletes become better Christians and prepare them for life, not just baseball."

Carter was different.  And often unappreciated for it by immature teammates trying to hide their own insecurities. 

Biographer of the 1986 Mets, Jeff Pearlman, wrote, "They saw an uncompromised figure and didn't much care for the vision of it."   (5)

Gary Carter died just a few days ago of Brain Cancer.  People that get caught up in whats "fair" would say this was not the fair ending.  That it is not right he should go ahead of former teammates that abused their bodies and squandered their gifts.

But Carter, unlike many of those former teammates, was ready for this.  As much as we can be.  Maybe looking back now his actions serve as a call to prepare themselves.  Ourselves.

Being different is exactly what we are called to do. 

If you watch one clip of Carter playing, I would make it the one below.  The very last at bat of his career.  At the plate trying to help his team gain the lead in a meaningless game.  But the "Kid" didn't have that switch.  Nothing is meaningless if it gives joy to those watching.  And Gary Carter had the joy of a Little Leaguer.  His whole career and beyond.  Quite a nice way to be different.   

(1)  Jeff Pearlman:  "News of Gary Carter's Inoperable Brain Cancer Hits Especially Hard" January 23, 2012

(2)  Tom Verducci   "Gary Carter: The Light of The Mets"  February 16, 2012

(3)  A Dream Season, by John Hough Jr.,

(4)  Tom Verducci "Gary Carter: The Light of The Mets" February 16, 2012

(5)  The Bad Guys Won  by Jeff Pearlman
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