For a ten-year span (1977-1986), Gary Carter was the National League's premier offensive and defensive catcher.
Carter was called up by the Montreal Expos late in the 1974 season. In 1975, he made the All-Star team as a rookie, clubbing 17 homers and splitting time between catching and playing outfield. Carter struggled in 1976, batting .219 with 6 home runs, but in 1977 he rebounded with a vengeance, hitting 31 homers and driving in 84 runs. By this time, Carter was a full-time catcher. In 1979 Carter made his second All-Star team. It was the first of ten consecutive All-Star appearances for Carter. In 1980, Carter won the first of his three Gold Glove awards, while hitting 29 home runs, and driving in 101 runs. (It was much more difficult to drive in 100 runs then).
Carter's Expos made the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1981 season, and Carter batted .429 in the postseason. Carter had two unassuming seasons before driving in a career-high 106 runs in 1984.
After the 1984 season, the New York Mets acquired Carter for Hubie Brooks, catcher Mike Fitzgerald, and several prospects. The up-and-coming Mets believed Carter was the acquisition that would put them over the top.
They were correct, though the postseason path was blocked by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985. Carter hit a career-high 32 homers, drove in 100 runs, and did a superb job of handling the Mets' young pitching staff. In 1986, Carter drove in 105 runs despite missing a month with a thumb injury. The 1986 New York Mets ran away with the National League, winning 108 games. Carter batted only .214 in the postseason, but contributed several big hits—winning Game 5 of the NLCS with a 12th-inning single, and hitting his only two home runs of the postseason in Game 3 of the 1986 World Series, when the Mets trailed 2 games to none. Carter's hits helped the Mets to an eventual, dramatic seven-game victory.
In a sense, it was the last hurrah of Carter's career. A terrible second-half slump in 1987 left Carter with only a .235 average and 20 home runs. In 1988, he only hit 11, but one of them was the 300th of his career. By 1989, Carter had lost his starting job with the Mets, when he batted .183 in 50 games.
Carter spent the last three years of his career as a traveling backup catcher, first with the San Francisco Giants, then the Los Angeles Dodgers, and finally back in Montreal where his career began. When he retired at the age of 38, Carter had amassed 2092 career hits, 324 home runs, and driven in 1225 runs.
After retirement, Carter worked as a broadcaster, and later as a minor-league catching instructor for the Mets. He was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003. He died of brain cancer on February 16, 2012, at the age of 57.
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