The off-season is almost over. Less than three weeks until Washington Nationals pitchers and catchers report to Viera. To celebrate this fact, we here at DistrictOnDeck will commence a countdown of sorts pointing out interesting facts about numbers.
Today we will start with the man who made number eight famous in Montreal, Gary Carter. And with respect to Danny Espinosa, he got a picture on Day 18, so I feel OK leaving out his new number for a picture.
Gary Carter was the heir apparent to Johnny Bench as the best catcher in the National League. His best years came with the Expos and came on the national stage with an MVP performance in the 1981 All-Star Game which was baseball’s return after a short strike. He is perhaps best known nationally for his role with the New York Mets and was part of their 1986 championship season. He was the one who started their two out rally in Game Six. After the Mets, the California native spent time with the Dodgers and Giants before coming back to Montreal for his swan song in 1992. Carter’s return to Montreal was significant because of the fact that his departure from Montreal was anything but amicable but differences were put aside. When he hit a double in his last career at bat and stood on second base with a standing ovation from the Olympic Stadium crowd, it was the perfect ending.
He passed away almost a year ago, and I had written my thoughts on his passing at the time, but they ring true as we remember the greatest 8 in franchise history.
I was born in 1985. That means I (practically) missed all of Carter’s career with the Expos. But, I knew of him. He still is my mother’s favorite player. And, when he came back in 1992, I knew what that meant. In fact, the only childhood memory I have of Carter is him standing on second base with that fist pump and the ovation he got. I didn’t remember it won them the game. I didn’t remember it went over the head of former teammate Andre Dawson. I didn’t even remember that was the last at bat in his career. There is no way you could watch that clip and not think two things. One, how perfect an ending. Two, how can you say Montreal didn’t love baseball. Yes there were empty seats, but that ovation he received could only be given by people who loved the game. Who loved the team. Who knew the game.
I never had the opportunity to meet Gary like so many others but by all accounts he was as good a person as a player, and that’s saying something. I do, however, have a Gary Carter bobblehead. I remember my mom bringing my sister and I to the game with the hopes that one of us would get one. One of us did.
The Expos, for a team with so short a history, did have its glory days. Carter was a big part of that. One of the reasons history will never forget the Montreal Expos is because of Gary.
I remember that when there was the controversy surrounding which cap Carter would be inducted into Cooperstown with, he said he didn’t want to have to explain to his grandchildren what an Expo was. For me, the answer is simple. When my children ask me what an Expo was, I’ll just say Gary Carter.
The best hitting performance coming from the number eight spot in the batting order (again, by total bases) was Larry Parrish. He went 5/5 with five runs, 3 HR, 5 RBI in a 14-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on May 29, 1977. The best performance since the team moved to Washington was by Espinosa. On September 6, 2010 he went 4/5 with a double, 2 HR and 6 RBI in a 13-3 win against the New York Mets.