So you may have been wondering why I have yet to write about Gary Carter. I have been thinking about it. I wasn’t really sure what angle to take, or how to start the story.
Should I lead off talking about Sandy Lahm Carter, who I first met in the 6th grade at Laguna Road School in Fullerton? Or should I start by mentioning all the home runs Gary hit at Union Oil Field during his Little League career?
Perhaps I should begin with the fact that he was a finalist three times in the National Punt, Pass & Kick competitions and won the National age group honor at the age of 7.
I guess I could tell about his football career at Sunny Hills when he led our team to a great season his junior year and was rewarded with over 100 scholarships, leading to a full-ride commitment by UCLA, hoping he would become their 4-year star, prior to blowing out his knee as a high-school senior.
Or I could mention how he invited Brian and his friend Jason and I down to the field before a Dodger’s game late in his career to take photos and give the kids something to remember.
But instead I will just say that Gary will always be an inspiration.
My sister Gigi who was in the same class as Gary (1972, Sunny Hills) considered him to be a bit of an egotist with a very strong personality. That was Gary back then, and for good reason. But I found Gary to be a very gifted individual with a fabulous spirit and a never-say die attitude. It served him well. Not only did he have immense talent, but I always felt he was just a bit naïve, and down- right fun-loving.
Gary had a great career; One of the best catchers of all-time. He played for the Expos and the Mets and later with the Giants and Dodgers. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2003 as a Montreal Expo, along with Tim Raines and Andre Dawson.
Gary died in 2012. He was 57 years old. He died of incurable, inoperable brain cancer.
How in the world does Gary Carter get brain cancer? One of the most gifted athletes I can ever imagine. Known as “the Kid” even at retirement, why does death take someone with so much energy and vitality at such a young age?
In his years after high school, Gary Carter became a very strong Christian, and was often chastised by his hard-partying teammates. As sportswriter Tom Verducci wrote, “He was the same off camera as on: optimistic, faithful, kind-hearted, and philanthropic. It drove some people nuts that Carter played every day with the joy as if it were the opening day of Little League”.
That’s what I remember about Gary. Little league. He was a pitcher back then of course, with the strongest arm in the league. He would strike everybody out, and then come up in the bottom of the inning and hit a home run. He must have won 3 free snow-cones every game!
Gary was an inspiration. SSOMG puts Gary in the select company of a very small group of athletes that could be considered inspirational in not only how they played on the field, but how they lived off the field. We will remember “the Kid”. May we all take something of his lead, and remain a kid long past retirement from the game.