Gary Carter was one of the first baseball players I was ever aware of. Very sad indeed. R.I.P. Gary.
I remember a few years back, when a colleague of mine and I were discussing which Hall-of-Famers we’d even seen play. As I was considering catchers, the first two who quickly came to mind were Bench and Fisk—and then I remembered having seen Carter play in L.A. during his time as a Dodger. Carter is also, I believe, the first such Hall-of-Famer (whom I saw play) to pass away.
I’ll also never forget a story in a local paper about the 1980 All-Star Game, titled something such as “A Tale of Two Gar(r)ys.” The story was about Gary Carter, a young catcher who claimed (echoing a sentiment often attributed to Ringo Starr) that he’d be happy to be on the team just as a reserve—irrespective of whether got to play. Carter did make the team and did get to play, as a backup to perennial starter Johnny Bench. The following year, Carter was the starter, hit two homers, and was named MVP of the ’81 (post-strike) All-Star Game, the first of four consecutive starts (and of 7 starts in his next 8 years on the NL team).
The story was also about Garry Templeton, who the previous year infamously declared, “If I ain’t startin’, I ain’t departin’”; and in 1980, after Bill Russell ultimately won in a close vote for starting NL shortstop, Templeton got his wish and was NOT selected as a reserve—even though he was batting .327 with 23 steals at the break. He went on to make just one more appearance in the Midsummer Classic, as a non-starter with the Padres in 1985—and he never quite lived up to his billing as THE player to watch for the ‘80s, a lead-pipe cinch for Cooperstown. (Interestingly, the man whom the Cards traded Templeton for, Ozzie Smith, wound up departin’ for 15 All-Star games from 1981 to 1996, also startin’ in 11 games, 10 of those consecutive—and, along with Carter, is now enshrined at Cooperstown.)
R.I.P., ‘Kid’! Baseball today needs more players with your spirit, enthusiasm, and overall approach to the game!