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Hall of Fame catcher Carter dies

February 17, 2012

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— Gary Carter was nicknamed “Kid” for good reason.

His smile, bubbly personality and eagerness to excel on a ballfield made him a joy to watch at the plate and behind it.

Even his Hall of Fame bronze plaque at Cooperstown shows him with a toothy grin — the Kid forever.

The star catcher, whose single for the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series touched off one of the most improbable rallies in baseball, died Thursday. He was 57.

Carter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last May, two weeks after finishing his second season as coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said Carter died at a hospice in the West Palm Beach, Fla., area.

“I am deeply saddened to tell you all that my precious dad went to be with Jesus today at 4:10 p.m.,” Carter’s daughter Kimmy Bloemers wrote on the family website. “This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write in my entire life but I wanted you all to know.”

Carter was an 11-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. His bottom-of-the-10th single in Game 6 of the 1986 Series helped the Mets mount a charge against the Boston Red Sox and eventually beat them.

With curly, blond locks flaring out from beneath his helmet, and a rigid, upright batting stance, Carter was immediately recognizable. And anyone who watched Carter recognized his zest.

“Nobody loved the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. Nobody enjoyed playing the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. He wore his heart on his sleeve every inning he played,” Mets Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver said.

After Carter’s diagnosis, the Mets began playing a highlight reel of his accomplishments on the video board during games at Citi Field and posted this message: “Our thoughts are with you Gary. From your millions of fans and the New York Mets.”

“His nickname ‘The Kid’ captured how Gary approached life,” the Mets said Thursday in a statement. “He did everything with enthusiasm and with gusto on and off the field. His smile was infectious. ... He was a Hall of Famer in everything he did.”

Carter played nearly two decades with the Mets, Montreal, San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He led the Expos to their only playoff berth and was the first player enshrined in Cooperstown wearing an Expos cap.

“Gary was one of the happiest guys in the world every day,” Mets teammate Mookie Wilson once said.

Carter was known as much for his effervescent personality as his talents. He earned his nickname as an eager teen in his first major league camp and the label stuck for the rest of his career, and beyond.

“An exuberant on-field general with a signature smile who was known for clutch hitting and rock-solid defense over 19 seasons,” reads his Hall plaque.

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