NEW YORK — Darryl Strawberry needed all of one game to know what new teammate Gary Carter meant to the New York Mets.
“Right there you just knew inside your gut as a player that sits on that bench, you knew we had just turned the corner,” Strawberry said Thursday. “We were on our way to becoming the team that was going to win the championship because of the Carter presence in the lineup.”
The Mets unveiled a memorial logo in honor of the ever-smiling Hall of Fame catcher who died in February from a brain tumor. Opening Day was a fitting occasion to pay tribute to the player many considered the final piece to a club that would win the 1986 World Series.
Carter hit a game-winning home run on Opening Day 1985, his first year in New York. If there were any doubts about the player who spent his first 11 years on the Montreal Expos, they were dispelled right there.
“The first couple of days with the ‘Kid’ was probably the most nervous I’ve been because a lot of us as ballplayers did not know who Gary was,” teammate Mookie Wilson said. “We played against him and, to be honest with you, we didn’t like him. And that’s mainly because of the attitude he portrayed as being that guy who was always smiling, always happy. You go up there to hit, he’s always talking to you. You’re just trying to get your job done.”
Carter was an 11-time All-Star and three-time Gold Gove winner.
The current Mets and coaching staff all wore blue practice jerseys with Carter’s name and number on the back during batting practice.
Carter’s wife, Sandy, and their three children stood at the wall in left-center and pulled down a blue drape to reveal a black symbol shaped like home plate with “Kid” above an “8”.
The players wore a similar patch on their right sleeve.