Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Kid, Gary Carter and the 1986 World Series

Gary Carter has sadly passed away this afternoon of brain cancer at the young age of 57.  Enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, Carter was an important piece not only for those Montreal Expos teams back in the late 1970's and early 1980's, but for the Mets teams during their run of good fortune from 1985-1988.  His teammates never seemed to have anything bad to say about Carter and he was known as a power hitting catcher who was not only durable, but slick fielding (to the tune of three Gold Gloves).  I, for one, remember him for one Series, and one series only.

Lazy singles are excruciating.
What I remember about Carter was the 1986 World Series.  Being a Red Sox fan, I have a lot of memories of that World Series, most of them bad.  Al Nipper pitching Game 4 (ugh).  Roger Clemens asking out of Game 6 before the eighth inning started.  Bob Stanley, Calvin Schiraldi, Bill Buckner.  The list goes on and on.  To add to the misery, Gary Carter managed to singlehandedly win Games 4 and 6 for the Mets.  I readily admit that I cried after watching Game 6 and the juxtaposition of my tears with Carter's happy hand clapping as he crossed the plate in the 10th inning of Game 6 is something that is burned into my memory, probably forever.   

Game 4.  I can't believe that Al Nipper of all people is starting this game.  Back in 1986, the Red Sox had three pitchers - Clemens, Bruce Hurst and the coked up Oil Can Boyd.  Al Nipper was serviceable, but no one in their right mind thought that Nipper pitching in the Series was a good idea - except for Lou Gorman and John McNamara.  I still remember listening to the strategy on TV that day.  After winning Games 1 and 2 in New York, the Red Sox felt that they could afford to throw away a game at Fenway Park by throwing Nipper out.  This way both Hurst and Clemens would be on their regular rest for Games 5 and 6.  What a ludicrous idea in retrospect since we weren't talking about a 162 game season anymore, we were talking about a seven game series.

Carter played a wonderful game.  He teed off in the Fourth Inning on an Al Nipper change up for a two run homer to give the Mets the initial lead, 2-0.  He then led off the Sixth inning with a double that briefly got by Dwight Evans in Right Field.  When he tried to score on a fly ball to left field by Ray Knight, he was unceremoniously tagged out on a close play by Red Sox catcher, Rich Gedman.  I still can't believe that Nipper was out there, though.  Later in the 8th inning, Carter again hit the ball over the Green Monster, this time off of Bobby Crawford for his second home run of the game.  Lovely.

Game 6.  Carter started off slowly in this game, flying out, grounding out and striking out in his first three at-bats of the game.  What was a plodding game soon became very interesting as the Mets came up to bat losing 3-2 in the bottom of the Eighth.  After a seeing eye single was followed by a two sacrifice bunts (the first one leading to Lenny Dykstra being called safe at First Base), Carter tied the game with a sacrifice fly to Left Field to tie the score 3-3.  Damn you, Calvin Schiraldi!

Then that fateful 10th inning...Red Sox hero Dave Henderson led of the top of the 10th with a home run that all but ensured the World Series MVP and a post hanging up in my bed room.  A single by Marty Barrett made the score 5-3 going into the bottom of the tenth.  Both Keith Hernandez and Wally Backman lifted lazy flyballs for the first two outs of the inning. 

I could taste the World Series win.

Then with a 2-1 count, and just one out away from immortality, Carter lifts a little rainbow to left center field.  I contort my neck hoping that the pain will move Greenwell or Henderson closer to catching the ball.  I was wrong.  I was a fatalist at the time, so I saw Carter on First Base clapping his teammates on and instead saw Kevin Mitchell hitting a three run home run even though Carter was the only guy on base.  Schiraldi strikes again!  Carter's single, and his reaction after that as he rounded the bases seemed to breathe new life into the Mets.  If that hit was by someone else, I'm not so sure that the Mets would have continued the comeback.  It seemed like Carter willed his team to victory.  I don't need to go into details, but that hand clapping still haunts me to this day.

So Carter goes on to save the day in both Games 4 and 6.  I hated him at the time, but as time passed, I respected his toughness and his ability to be clutch when it counted the most.  He always seemed to save his best performances for the post season and my team happened to be the victim back in 1986. I now watch those games (and games from the 1981 post season) with awe. 

Baseball lost a great player and a great man this afternoon.  RIP.

No comments:

Post a Comment