I’ll be honest. I’m too young to have really watched Gary Carter play ball. He played professionally from 1974-1992. My baseball loving life began later in the 90’s. However, anyone with an appreciation of the game knows of Gary Carter. And any sports fan knows Gary Carter passed away yesterday much too young.
Cancer had a grip so tight on Carter, he really never had a shot. He fought valiantly, but ultimately he succumbed to the disease. I don’t have the words to memorialize him as many others have done. Some great writers have paid tribute through their writing. Some TV personalities have done a fantastic job of remembering the “Kid.” And countless videos have offered a touching reminder of the man behind the plate. For me, what I can do is write about Gary Carter in his games against the Padres.
As I mentioned, Carter played from 1984-1992. He played for four different teams, Montreal; New York; San Francisco; and Montreal again. Each was a National League team, thus offering Carter the chance to play against San Diego. And he did more than play. He dominated.
In 171 career games against the Padres, Gary Carter hit .272/.352/.455. He was always knocked (usually subtly) for his batting average, but his OBP is what impresses me the most. As a catcher, Carter had a knack for getting on base, and that’s rare. He struck out just 59 times against 72 walks. He also had power. In those same 171 games, Carter hit 27 home runs against San Diego. He drove in 101 runs, and he scored 79 runs himself.
Carter’s first game against the Padres came in a double-header played on June 8, 1975. He wasn’t called-up during the 1974 season until after the Expos had already played the Padres for the season. In the double-header, Carter started both games, the first in right field and the second at catcher. He went a combined 3 for 8. It was just the beginning of a career that would see Carter own the Padres. Of the teams Carter faced at least 100 times, he had an OPS+ higher than that he had against the Padres against just three of them. He was dominant against the Padres, and it seems right to honor his achievements against them as we celebrate his life.
The truth is, Gary Carter actually struggled against the Padres in his first three seasons. He had plenty of games in which he went 0 for 4 or 1 for 4. It wasn’t until August 9, 1977, at Stade Olympique Stadium in Montreal that Carter hit his first home run against San Diego. With the game knotted up at zero in the bottom of the second, Carter came to the plate with no one on – Andre Dawson had singled ahead of him but was thrown out trying to steal. Carter then connected on a pitch from Dave Friesleben. That put the Expos on top, but they would eventually lose 8-3. It was a home run that seemed to jump-start his offense against the Padres. It took him three seasons of games against the Padres before the first home run, but he would go on to hit 26 more.
Gary Carter’s love of baseball will forever live on in memories like these. His first home runs, his first hits, his career records against specific opponents. These are the memories and stories we can hold on to even in death. Ultimately, in a Hall of Fame career spanning 19 seasons, career stats against the San Diego Padres are meaningless. But they offer a small part of the story of Carter’s baseball life. They remind us of his skill, his passion, and his determination. These stories, no matter how small or insignificant, paint the background to the picture of a man whose life was more than just baseball. These stories are a reminder of Carter’s on-field contributions. As the baseball world mourns the loss of a legend, memories are what comfort us.
Cancer took away the man, but the legacy remains. It’s a battle fought by so many in this world, one that one day we will win. Carter fought it on his own after the disease was already pressing down on him. However, we can fight it before it strikes. Donate to cancer research. I recommend the V Foundation, but really any organization that is making strides and working towards a cure is great.
If you’d like to donate to the V Foundation, click here.