Hall of Fame Day Brings Back Fond Memories
On January 6, 2015, the National Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed four new members — Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio. Those four players will be enshrined at Cooperstown in July with all-time greats such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, and many others.
For me, Hall of Fame election day brings back many fond memories of my all-time favorite player, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003 — his sixth year on the ballot. So, who was that player?
Growing up in Brooklyn, NY — and growing up a diehard Mets fan in the 1980’s — there was only one player for me — Gary Carter.
He wore #8, which was my favorite number. We were both born on the 8th day of a month (me in January, him in April). There were many other reasons too — and if you saw him play, you know those reasons.
He had heart. He had class. He worked hard. He was loved by many. He never gave up. He played to win. He succeeded. He was the final piece of the Mets championship puzzle. He always smiled. He was my baseball idol.
At my first-ever game at Shea Stadium as a kid with my dad, “the Kid” signed my program. He made me want to be a catcher in Little League — and I did for awhile — until I learned that I can pitch.
I followed him throughout his career (well, from his Mets days on) and I continued to follow him in his retirement. I always thought he should manage the Mets someday. You know what they say — catchers make the best managers. He would have been a very good Major League manager, too.
For six years, I remember waiting patiently on Hall of Fame day to see if he would finally get that much-deserved call. To me, he was a first ballot Hall of Famer. He was finally elected on January 7, 2003 — a day before my 22nd birthday. Not a bad birthday present!
Sadly, Gary passed away on February 16, 2012 at the age of 57. The Mets wore a patch on their uniforms that season in honor of him. I remember thinking that it was going to be my goal one day to interview former players to learn more about my baseball idol. I did that later that year when Wally Backman’s Buffalo Bisons visited Knights Stadium to face the Charlotte Knights.
For many reasons, January 7, 2003 was a memorable baseball day for me. It’s up there with the first Mets game I ever attended, the time I struck-out 17 batters in Little League, my first game working in baseball, and Opening Day in Uptown Charlotte last season.
All and all, sitting here in the Charlotte Knights press box today thinking about Gary Carter reminds me of so many great times watching and talking baseball with my dad and grandfathers. It reminds me of my early life when my family and I were living in Brooklyn and I could cheer on Gary Carter and the Mets.
My goal in 2015 will be to pick up where I left off in 2012 and continue to learn more about Gary Carter. Stay tuned for interviews later this year.
Here’s looking at you, “Kid”.