John Johnson: The Kid Passes On

1985 was the first baseball season when I truly became a fan of the sport. 

My team was the New York Mets.  I became a fan through the legacy fandom passed on
by my Uncle John, who used to take me to Shea stadium.  That summer we constantly exchanged stories about the team, the pitching, and hated St Louis Cardinals, and one very special catcher–Gary Carter. 

I remember that summer being the first when I really understood box scores and baseball standings.  As Fall approached, I anxiously counted the number of wins the Mets needed to overtake the Cardinals.  Realizing as the days of the regular season dwindled the Mets were going to run out of time..there only chance to clinch the NL East was a sweep the last weekend.  Time ran out…a 98 win season just wasn’t  enough.  And disappointment filled me realizing that only one team can win the
championship…and even in a season as long as baseball, there was still such a
thing as having not enough time.

Time running out on the 1985 season was the first thing I thought about today
when I heard that one of the bedrocks of the Mets team in 1985 and 1986, Gary Carter, died tragically yesterday of brain cancer at the age of 57.

The next season–1986–the Mets exploded our of the gate to run away with the NL East.  I followed every game that season.  1986 was, to steal a phrase from this website, a season of “recovery”….the unfinished business of a season where they got oh so close but time ran out.  Gary Carter was right in the middle of so many of those 108 wins that year.  He was the steady presence in the battery raising the game of Doc Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Bobby Ojeda, and Rick Aguilera.  He was a constant home run threat to drive in Lenny Dykstra, Wally Backman, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry.   The stats speak for themselves…24 homeruns, 105 RBIs. 

But the memories stick with me more…I always remember that swing…a little vertical but full extension to drive the ball out of Shea.  And I remember Gary with a smile on his face, circling the bases, with that giant Red Apple popping out of the hat in right field signifying another home run. 

The Mets won the NL East by 21.5 games that year, and capped the season off with a World Series victory.

Time almost ran out on the Mets in 1986 when they were with in one strike of
losing the World Series in the epic game 6 to the Boston Red Sox.  The story is
well known– two outs, two strikes, bottom of the 9th–the curse of the Bambino hanging in the balance.  It is easy to forget the player that started the 9th inning rally?  That would be Gary Carter.

When our childhood heroes die, there is a certain profound loss.  Just like the
1985 season taught me about running out of time, the loss of Gary Carter served as another reminder of how little time we may have.  Thank you Gary for that sweet swing, for the 300 plus homeruns, and the irrepressible smile and approach to the game that earned you the nickname “the kid”.  You left an indelible mark on my childhood memories of the game I still love as an adult.


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