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 Web site. “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.
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 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.
“His nickname ‘The Kid’ captured how Gary approached life,” the Mets said 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.”
He was especially pumped during the biggest moment of his career. The powerful Mets were down to their last chance in the ’86 Series when Carter stepped up with two outs. No one was on base and New York was trailing Boston 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning in Game 6.
Carter said he had just one thought in mind: “I wasn’t going to make the last out of the World Series.”
True to his word, he delivered a clean single to left field off Red Sox reliever Calvin Schiraldi. Kevin Mitchell followed with a single and when Ray Knight also singled, Carter scampered home from second base.
As Carter crossed the plate, he clapped his hands, pointed at Wilson on deck and clapped again. Moments later, Bill Buckner’s error scored Knight for an amazing 6-5 win. Carter rushed from the dugout to join the celebration at home plate, catcher’s gear already on.