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I 'Kid' You Not

In TV, they call it a tease. When you see a news update during a commercial break in the tv show that you're watching, the goal is to entice you with just enough information to make you watch the news. Teases are well planned out, from the video you're watching to the description of what you can see, IF you tune in later. Sometimes the teases work. Sometimes they're a little too good.

Monday nights in 1984 were CBS nights in our household, particularly from 9 to 11 pm. There was a sitcom with family appeal Kate and Allie, a humorously written comedy from a proven talent, Newhart, followed by an hour-long crime drama, Cagney and Lacey.

On December 10, Emma McCardle developed a crush on her piano teacher, Dick Loudon got sued for plagarism, and Chris Cagney worried that Sgt. McKenna had given in to his cocaine addiction.

Sometime between Dick's courtroom appearance and Cagney's confrontation with her police colleague, real news took over. CBS's New York affilate did something unusual. Rather than tease the 11 o'clock news with a story about a fire or murder, or a Consumer Reports segment from ace reporter Arnold Diaz, as per usual, they teased a sports story. "The New York Mets make a major trade" taunted the anchor that night (don't remember whom, perhaps Jim Jensen).

This was in the days before instant gratification via internet and the reaction of those watching was one of both shock and impatience. This news had come totally out of the blue. There were no rumors in the newspaper or other media. Nowadays, nothing escapes those who cover their teams 365/24/7, but 20 years ago, you could sneak a few things through with no one noticing. Thank goodness for SportsPhone, which offered sports news, updated every 5 to 10 minutes, for a mere 50-cent call My dad sprinted to the kitchen to make the call. In a few moments he reacted with what Charles Schulz would describe "unbridled joy and enthusiasm." I don't remember anything about the episodes of those TV shows that night, or if we even watched the 11 o'clock news. But I do remember very clearly the noises coming out of my dad's mouth.

The Mets had traded for Gary Carter.

Gary Carter, aka "The Kid" was a big deal. He was a megastar and future Hall of Famer at a position where such are few. He was the player who was going to put the Mets over the top.

Carter was such a big deal that when he appeared at Macy's the following winter, the demand for his autograph required a two-hour wait. My Aunt Shelley took me there that day and stood by patiently while people jostled for position and cut in line (my friend David Cooper and his mom were able to take advantage of their positioning to secure a better spot). My memory of that day is not so much of getting the autograph, but of one man in line, who warned me "Whatever you do: don't touch his knees."

Carter had bad knees, terrible ones that required multiple operations and eventually replacements, but they were good for a few Mets magic moments. Carter hit a walk-off home run to win his first game as a Met (already wrote about that one), hit his 300th home run after a multi-month wait that made the delay in getting his autograph seem like nothing, and stroked the base hit that produced two runs that won Game 1 of the 1988 NLCS.

Carter's most important hit as a Met came in the 12th inning of Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS. To that point, at which the score was tied, 1-1, Carter had done little right in the series, other than driven in one run in Game 2. He appeared to be psyched out by the pitching of Astros ace Mike Scott in Game 1 and 4, going 0-for-8 with four strikeouts, and Astros reliever Charlie Kerfeld, who robbed him of a hit with a show-off, behind-the-back stab of a ground ball in Game 3. He was hitless in his first four at bats of Game 5, making him 1-for-21 in the series. That's why, with Wally Backman on second base and Kerfeld on the mound, the Astros walked Keith Hernandez to pitch to Carter (Kerfeld's errant pickoff throw advanced Carter to second).

Kerfeld missed with three straight pitches, none of which were close, then settled down to throw two strikes. Carter fouled the next two pitches off- on one he got great contact, the other appeared to hit close to the handle. On the eighth pitch, Carter reached down (back knee fully bent) and shot a liner back up the middle. Centerfielder Billy Hatcher, playing deep as broadcaster Tim McCarver noted out of respect for Carter's power, made a pretty good throw home, but it was too late. Backman scored with the winning run. Carter's response was one of
unbridled joy and enthusiasms, arms raised, fists pumped, similar no doubt to the reaction many Mets fans had when they learned he was now a member of the team.

True Metrys know...The Mets were the beneficiaries of an incorrect call by first base umpire Fred Brocklander in the second inning (though not anywhere near as egregious as Doug Eddings' non-out call in Game 2 of this year's ALCS. Brocklander called Craig Reynolds out at first base, completing a 4-6-3 double play and negating an Astros run, despite replays that showed Reynolds was safe.

Comments

Metstradamus said…
The trade was of such a major importance that it was announced during Monday Night Football as well. I believe Cosell was still there, and he off handedly mentioned that the Mets had acquired Gary Carter. A few moments later all of the components were announced.

I liked Carter because my father took me to an All-Star Game party in 1981 and everybody was picking someone to be the MVP for a party pool, and I picked...you guessed it, Carter. He won the MVP but I never got the pot because Dad wanted to leave the party early. But I liked Carter ever since.

Opening Day 1985 can't be forgotten either as a spine-tingling walk-off, of which I think you have already written about.
I remember that day well! Actually, it was the next day when I was riding my bicycle on my way to class at Missouri and saw the front page of USAToday in a box.

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