The Empire State Building website has this really cool feature that allows visitors to customize the Tower Lights according to the occasion they wish to celebrate, or in my case memorialize. Then you send it out via e-postcard.
So, when I heard they were dressing the New York landmark in Mets colors to honor the late Gary Carter, it gave me an idea.
And so the picture you see on the left is the postcard I sent to an old friend of mine from back in the day. The biggest Mets fan I’ve ever known.
He’d seen his share of forgettable seasons in his young baseball rooting life. But things began changing in ’83 when Darryl Strawberry made his debut. And when Frank Cashen acquired Keith Hernandez in a trade that June, every baseball fan worth his salt could see what was cooking. And then it was a hot shot manager by the name of Davey Johnson coming on board in ’84 and guiding the Mets to 90 wins, 17 of which were delivered from the right arm of a young flamethrower named Dwight Gooden.
But the Mets didn’t really start to make sense as favorites until the day they traded for Gary Carter. I remember my friend calling me up to let me know the Carter signing had officially relegated the Yankees to second class citizens in a town with strong National League roots. I didn’t take it personally, of course. This was baseball, and all the talk that went along with it.
Sure I didn’t love the fact that the Yankees had Mattingly and Winfield and the Mets seemed to have everything else. But I had to admit it. That Mets team was some kind of fun. And Carter was just the kind of player to move those perennial doormats into the penthouse but quick.
They tagged him with the moniker ‘Kid’ because that’s how he played every time out there. You watched him play and you knew full well he could have taken the field at first light and busted it until dusk, and his only complaint would have been that there were not enough hours in the day.
I remember going to a dozen Mets games in ’85. I hadn’t switched allegiances by any stretch. The fact of the matter was that I was a Queens boy surrounded by Mets fans, and I couldn’t get enough of Dwight Gooden. I happen to believe his 24-4 record in 1985 was the most dominant season a starting pitcher has ever turned in. I was there for four of those wins.
When Gary Carter came along, my Yankees may as well have been playing ball in Greenland. I never liked the guy when he was busy winning one big game after another in New York, but that was because he was doing it in the wrong colored pinstripes.
So I sent my Mets friend this postcard and I attached a note reminding him of that phone call, and that time when baseball was the thing. The only thing that really seemed to matter. Back when the Mets were taking the town by storm and the best catcher in the game was leading the way.
Pitchers and catchers will not feel the same without him.