Thursday, February 16, 2012

My First Favorite

Carter Mets celebration

I'm no sports geek, at least not as much so as people might expect. I have friends (Aimee) who I pale in comparison to...but I would readily admit that I do get "geeked" about sports. I'm not a sports geek but I'm nowhere near being above getting geeked. When I was a small boy I was "geeked" about Gary Carter. It was an easy enough affection. He was the star on one of only two Canadian MLB teams. He was batting in over 100 RBIs a year, and he tagged people out at the plate like a boxer wearing a chest protector. He smiled a lot, I mean a lot, and he was a nice guy...a really nice guy. He wasn't the first ball player I remember, but he was the first favorite ball player that I ever had, and my first favorite to make the Hall of Fame. He died today after a long battle with cancer. I found out at the dinner a Facebook status update from a good friend. In one of those strange experience/association deals that we all tend to make after big events, I'll always connect the day Gary Carter died with JP's simple status update. "RIP Gary Carter...

Carter Gooden

He was a Montreal Expo first, and then a NY Met...always #8...the number I eventually adopted in any sport that allowed me that privilege. In basketball I actually wore #44 so that simple addition provided me with the number I desperately wanted (4+4). The battery combination of Carter and Gooden sealed my love of baseball in stone. To say that I was enamored with blue pinstripes (not the Yankee kind) and the #8 would have been an understatement. I was so smitten with Carter that I couldn't have cared any less when Bill Buckner shattered Red Sox Nation with the least timely error in baseball history. The Mets went on to win the World Series and Gary Carter was my inextinguishable hero.

Carter Expo Met

I'm young enough still that the number of sports deaths that has affected me with any kind of profoundness are few...Len Bias...Ernie Harwell...Sparky Anderson...very few. Someday there will be a landslide of childhood heroes gone, but for now there are few. Gary Carter was my first favorite, and the first I allowed to carve out a piece of my boyhood. He's also the first I remember that took a small part of me with him when he went.

Rest in peace Gary. Somewhere out there in the ancient universe is the wispy memory of a little boy in faded blue Chuck Taylors and a fraying, sun bleached Expos cap...his limp ball glove slipped over the cracked grip on his bike, riding down the road to round up a game...the number 8 written in marker on the back of his ratty t-shirt...a wide smile on his ruddy, sunburned face. He loved you very much. He'd almost forgotten how much until just now.

Thank to Mel for this. It was hard to watch through tears. Geek? Yeah, maybe I am.


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