Farewell, Gary Carter

Gary Carter, the Hall of Fame catcher who spent 1991 with the Dodgers, passed away from brain cancer at the too-young age of 57.

Carter was the subject of one of my earliest posts at Dodger Thoughts: January 7, 2003.

I’ll get back to the 2003 Dodgers soon, but I am cutting in to comment on the two players elected to the Hall of Fame today – both ex-Dodgers – Eddie Murray and Gary Carter.

Both are completely deserving, although Carter had to wait until his fifth year of eligibility. Carter is at a level just below Mike Piazza as a hitter, and since Piazza will retire as the greatest hitting catcher of all time, that’s saying something. And Carter was much better defensively. Murray played at a high level of excellence for close to 20 years. The Dodgers acquired Murray toward the end of his career, not too differently from their newest first baseman, Fred McGriff. McGriff is a Hall of Fame candidate but is a level below Murray.

I covered about two dozen major league baseball games as a reporter, and only three at Dodger Stadium. But one of my most memorable experiences involved Murray and Carter. To put it in context, Murray retired with a terrible reputation with the media; Carter retired on quite different terms.

I had patiently waited 30 minutes in the Dodger locker room before a game to interview Carter and had just begun to interview him when Murray directed me to leave the locker room. There is a rule that reporters have to leave the locker room x minutes before the game starts. I had never seen this rule enforced until Murray tried to. Carter, realizing how long I had waited and knowing I wasn’t asking a lot, let me finish the interview.

The rule is there for a reason, and I don’t begrudge its existence. I will easily give Murray the benefit of the doubt that he was probably doing what he thought was right for the team. At the same time, I was doing my job in a professional manner and it would have been nice if he had tried to work something out with me instead of trying to kick me out, no questions asked.

I am confident that no doubt some unfair and/or inappropriate things were written about Murray during his career. However, I also tend to believe that he was similarly flawed in his dealings with reporters, and that whatever was written about him in Baltimore or anywhere else, he deserves some responsibility for his reputation as a curmudgeon with the media.

The postscript to this is that today Ken Daley, the Dodgers’ main beat reporter for the Daily News, wrote an article very critical of Carter, based on incidents that occurred the same year:

Daley implies that he didn’t vote for Carter for the Hall of Fame for these reasons. I think the moral of the story is that unless you have a situation like Pete Rose or Joe Jackson, it’s best to judge HoF candidates on their on-the-field merits as much as possible.

All my best wishes to Carter’s friends and family.

  • Anonymous

    It’s interesting to note that a decade hasn’t changed the conventional wisdom about the merits of the players you cited in this 2003 article.  Fred McGriff just a notch below HoF level; Piazza still the best-hitting catcher of all time.  If anything, his star shines even brighter than Carter’s if you believe his achievements were without the help of PEDs.  And since I’ve only heard his name attached to rumors, rathe than anything substantive, I feel he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

    RIP Gary.  There’s an entire generation of Mets fans that would be lamenting the curse of Pat Zachry or some such other scapegoat had he not come along and solidified the 1986 team into a champion.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t remember any particular games that year though I went to quite a few at the end of the season. Per this LA Times story 
    http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-me-gary-carter-20120217,0,6528145.story
    the memory of his mother (who died of leukemia when he was 12) was always with him.

    RIP Gary, it was nice having you as a Dodger.   

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    Very sad about this. Always liked him, long before he (too briefly) became a Dodger.  May he rest in peace.  Also: Scr*w cancer, man. 

    • KT

      My sentiments exactly…well said UD

  • http://twitter.com/NormWeldon Norm Weldon

    I didn’t know Gary, but I did work with his dad, Jimmy, in 1978.  His dad was a funny guy.  I remember a spring training game against the Dodgers, while Gary was an Expo.  The batteries in Jimmy’s transistor radio were dead, so I went out and got a crummy little radio I kept in my glove compartment and traded it to him for a corned beef sandwich. I enjoyed the sandwich, and Jimmy enjoyed hearing Gary hit a sacrifice fly in his only at bat.

  • Anonymous

    Cousin Daryl and I were at a game in ’91 when Kid hit a hr in the bottom of the 9th to tie up a game they eventually won in 10, IIRC. I looked at Daryl just before the pitch and asked if he thought Carter had another 1 in him. Place went nuts. RIP

  • http://web.me.com/kakitadoug/geekblog/Blog/Blog.html DougS

    Very sad, but not unexpected. When I came across an article that said that Carter was not responding to treatment, it was a sign that he probably didn’t have much time left. That seems to be how it goes.

    And what underdog said, too. From family experience, I can guess at what the disease — and the treatment — must have done to him, and what it must have done to his loved ones to see it happen to a man who always projected such strength, vigor and joviality.

  • Anonymous

    RIP Kid

  • Anonymous

    Yes Adam, that be the one. Last hr he hit that season as well. I guess my question was pretty much on! But of course the site won’t allow me to reply to a reply again. Boo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713935344 Jason Ungar

    RIP Gary. He was always one of my favorite non dodgers (until he became one) for reasons I have no idea why. He just was

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • Anonymous

    RIP.  What I remember most about his career was the base hit he got to beat the Dodgers in game one the the NLCS. He was a really good ballplayer and by all accounts a really good guy.  Just off the top of my head, putting together a best of LA Dodger team I would say Piazza & Carter would be the catchers, Hodges & Murray at first, Kent & Gilliam at second, Reese & Wills at short, Cey & Ken Boyer at third, Rickey Henderson & Dick Allen in left, Snider & Kirk Gibson in center, Sheffield & 
    Frank Howard in right.  Tough to narrow down the pitchers, but I don’t think a person could go too wrong with Koufax and Marichal as starters.  Hoyt Wilhelm in the bullpen.  If they keep going Kemp & Kershaw could break into that line-up  

  • http://twitter.com/JasonNatparkman Jason Krueger

    Jon, I was so saddened to hear of Gary Carter’s death, today and I kept coming across how real he was. It is a sad time for his family, but he left tremendous mark in the game. 

    Jon I was wondering is there anyway Vin has comments about Gary or have you heard him say anything anywhere?