Saturday, April 8, 2017
Top Five: Gary Carter
Gary Carter would have been 63 years old today.
I say would have been because, sadly, Carter passed away of a brain tumor in 2012. The Hall of Famer -- affectionately known as "The Kid" for his sunny personality and million-dollar smile -- was just 57.
His death -- as death often does -- caused me to reevaluate some things, specifically in my own collection. I'd never been more than a surface-level Carter collector prior to the backstop's passing. I'd pick up cards of his here and there with little vigor or urgency. In the past few years, however, The Kid has quickly catapulted his way into the top tier of my collection, as I've found his cardboard is surprisingly easy (and fun) to hoard on the cheap.
In honor of Carter's birthday, it gives me great honor to showcase my most treasured cards of The Kid in this week's edition of Top Five.
#5 -- 1987 Topps #20 Gary Carter
As far as mainstream media goes, Carter is probably best known for his behind-the-plate presence on the colorful Mets teams of the mid-to-late '80s.
He's seen here gunning down a baserunner in what I've always personally considered one of the shiniest gems of the overproduction era.
#4 -- 1993 Upper Deck #219 Gary Carter
Most tenured baseball fans probably know Carter as the first great homegrown Montreal Expo and a man who would eventually make his way to Cooperstown.
Sometimes lost to history is The Kid's brief return to Montreal for his final season in 1992. Though he was 38 at the time, Carter certainly didn't pull any punches during his swan song, as a whopping three different sunset cards of his feature him in the process of being bowled over at the plate.
My favorite of the PATP trio comes courtesy of '93 Upper Deck, thanks in part to the action shot on the back which features an image snapped just a split-second before the one gracing the front.
#3 -- 1992 Bowman #385 Gary Carter
Bowman, of all brands, produced what is my favorite modern card of The Kid.
Carter was certainly an intense, Hall of Fame-level player (I'm sad I never got to see him play since I was born the year he retired), but most of what I hear about him these days is how kind of a man he was.
No card, I feel, shows that better than this autograph shot, one that features that infectious smile and just about every piece of baseball memorabilia you could imagine.
#2 -- 1976 Topps #441 Gary Carter
Between the iconic '76 Topps design, the hallowed Topps Rookie Cup, and the beautiful Wrigley Field backdrop, this is and will always be one of my favorite cards of The Kid.
But I'll be darned if Carter doesn't seem a bit unsure of himself here on his first solo Topps card. His expression is wary, somewhat nervous. He's wearing the unfamiliar #57, which he only wore during his rookie campaign in 1974, which means this image was a whole two years old by the time it finally made its way into a Topps set.
It's not how I picture Gary Carter when I picture Gary Carter.
#1 -- 1977 Topps #295 Gary Carter
There's the guy we all know and love.
Joyous, confident, and wearing his famous #8: this is when Gary Carter became The Kid. It's one of those select few pieces of cardboard that has always spoken to me because of the sheer perfection of it, and while there are many cards to love from the legendary '77 Topps checklist, this is easily one of the best.
This, above all else, is how I picture Gary Carter when I picture Gary Carter.