Carter was drafted by the Montreal Expos as a shortstop in the third round of the 1972 Major League Baseball Draft. Carter got his nickname “Kid” during his first spring training camp with the Expos in 1974.
The Expos converted Carter to a catcher in the minor leagues. In 1974, he hit 23 home runs and drove in 83 runs for the Expos’ triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Blues. Following a September call-up, Carter made his major league debut in Jarry Park in Montreal in the second game of a double header against the New York Mets on September 16. Despite going 0–4 in that game, he finished the season batting .407 (11-27). He hit his first major league home run on September 28 against Steve Carlton in a 3–1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Carter split time between right field and catching during his rookie season (1975), and was selected for the National League All-Star team as a right fielder. He did not get an at bat, but appeared as a defensive replacement for Pete Rose in the ninth inning, and caught Rod Carew‘s fly ball for the final out of the NL’s 6–3 victory. In that rookie season, Carter hit .270 with 17 home runs and 68 runs batted in, receiving The Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award and finishing second to San Francisco Giants pitcher John Montefusco for the National League Rookie of the Year award. That year, he was voted the Expos Player of the Year for the first of four times (he also won in 1977, 1980 and 1984).
Carter again split time in the outfield and behind the plate in 1976 while a broken finger limited him to 91 games. He batted .219 with six home runs and 38 RBIs. In 1977, young stars Warren Cromartie, Ellis Valentine and Andre Dawson became full-time outfielders. By June, starting catcher Barry Foote was traded, opening up a regular starting position for Carter behind the plate. He responded with 31 home runs and 84 RBIs. In 1980, Carter clubbed 29 home runs, drove in 101 runs, and earned the first of his three consecutive Gold Glove Awards. He finished second to third baseman Mike Schmidt in NL MVP balloting, whose Phillies took the National League East by one game over the Expos.
Carter caught Charlie Lea‘s no-hitter on May 10, 1981, during the first half of the strike shortened season. The season resumed on Sunday, August 9, 1981 with the All-Star Game. Carter was elected to start his first All Star Game over perennial NL starting catcher Johnny Bench who had moved to play first base that year, and responded with two home runs and being named the game’s MVP. Carter was the fifth and most recent player to hit two home runs in an All-Star Game.
MLB split the 1981 season into two-halves, with the first-place teams from each half in each division meeting in a best-of-five divisional playoff series. The four survivors moved on to two best-of-five League Championship Series. The Expos won the NL East’s second half with a 30–23 record. In his first post season, Carter batted .421, hit two home runs and drove in six in the Expos’ three games to two victory over the Phillies in the division series. Carter’s average improved to .438 in the 1981 National League Championship Series, with no home runs or RBIs, and his Expos lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau, then prime minister of Canada, once remarked of Carter’s popularity saying “I am certainly happy that I don’t have to run for election against Gary Carter.” However some Expos were put off by Carter’s unabashed enthusiasm, feeling that he was too taken with his image and basked in his press coverage too eagerly, derisively naming him “Camera Carter”. Andre Dawson “felt [Carter] was more a glory hound than a team player”.
Carter hit a home run in the 1984 Major League Baseball All-Star Game to give the NL a 2–1 lead that they would not relinquish, earning him his second All-Star game MVP award. Carter’s league leading 106 RBIs, 159 games played, .294 batting average, 175 hits and 290 total bases were personal highs.
The 1984 Expos finished fifth in the NL East. At the end of the season, the rebuilding Expos chafed at Carter’s salary demands and traded him to the Mets for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans.
New York Mets
In his first game as a Met on April 9, 1985, he hit a tenth-inning home run off Neil Allen to give the Mets a 6–5 Opening Day victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Mets and Cardinals rivaled for the National League East championship, with Carter and first baseman Keith Hernandez leading the Mets. The season came down to the wire as the Mets won 98 games that season; however, they lost the division to a Cardinals team that won 101 games. Carter hit a career high 32 home runs and drove in 100 runs his first season in New York. The Mets had three players finish in the top ten in NL MVP balloting that season (Dwight Gooden 4th, Carter 6th and Hernandez 8th).
A rivalry also developed between the Mets and Carter’s former team, the Expos. On July 30 while facing the Expos at Shea, Montreal pitcher Bill Gullickson threw a pitch over Carter’s head. Gooden did the same to Gullickson in the bottom of the inning. The Los Angeles Times speculated that Carter caught the ball as if he knew where the pitch was going to end up.
1986 World Series Champions
In 1986, the Mets won 108 games and took the National League East by 211⁄2 games over the Phillies. Carter suffered a postseason slump in the NLCS, batting .148. However, he hit a walk-off RBI single to win Game 5. Carter also had two hits in Game 6 which the Mets won in 16 innings.
The Mets won the 1986 World Series in seven games over the Boston Red Sox. Carter batted .276 with nine RBIs in his first World Series, and hit two home runs over Fenway Park‘s Green Monster in Game Four. He is the only player to hit two home runs in both an All-Star Game (1981) and a World Series game. Carter started a two-out rally in the tenth inning of Game 6, scoring the first of three Mets runs that inning on a single by Ray Knight. He also hit an eighth-inning sacrifice fly that tied the game. Carter finished third on the NL MVP ballot in 1986.
300 career home runs
Carter batted .235 in 1987, and ended the season with 291 career home runs. He had 299 home runs by May 16 1988 after a fast start, then slumped until August 11 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field when he hit his 300th. During his home run drought, Carter was named co-captain of the team with Hernandez, who had been named captain the previous season.
Carter ended 1988 with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs—his lowest totals since 1976. He ended the season with 10,360 career putouts as a catcher, breaking Detroit Tigers catcher Bill Freehan‘s career mark (9941). The Mets won 100 games that season, taking the NL East by fifteen games. However, the heavily favored Mets lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1988 National League Championship Series. Carter batted .183 in fifty games for the Mets in 1989. In November the Mets released Carter after five seasons, hitting 89 home runs and driving in 349 runs.
Smallthoughts:Old School Tuesday salutes …The Kid Gary Carter.
|September 16, 1974 for the Montreal Expos|
Last MLB appearance
|September 27, 1992 for the Montreal Expos|
|Runs batted in||1,225|
Career highlights and awards