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Mets Top 100 Home Runs: No. 3 - Welcome to New York, Gary Carter

In 2009, I did a project for my website, Mets Walk-Offs and Other Minutiae, celebrating the best home runs in Mets history. I selected the top 60 regular season home runs and the top 15 postseason home runs. The reason I picked 60 was because it represented the top 1% of home runs in Mets history (and 15 just felt right for postseason).

This was fun to do, but it was imperfect. I had one egregious omission. I tended to favor oddities.

It’s time to give that project an update. And why not do it as a top 100?

The Mets have hit 7,671 regular season home runs. The top 80 represent about the top 1%. And the top 20 postseason home runs get us to an even 100 to celebrate.

Come along for the ride. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the reminiscing. Hopefully you’ll find it Amazin.' 

This story never gets old for me, much like Gary Carter never gets old for me. He was “The Kid” after all.

On December 10, 1984, my family settled in for an evening of Monday night television watching. We were dedicated viewers of Kate and Allie, Newhart, and Cagney and Lacey. Less so me for the latter, but the former two were appointment comedy viewing.

The 11 o’clock news was also regular watching, even for a nine-year-old like me, who recognized CBS-2’s Jim Jensen, Michelle Marsh and Warner Wolf with the same familiarity of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.

At one point, Newhart went to commercial and onto our screen came Jim Jensen. His tease to watch the 11 o’clock news was brief. “The New York Mets make a major trade,” he said.

My dad looked at me. I looked at him. There was no Twitter to check in those days (thank goodness, this is a much better story without it). The one way to get instant news gratification was to call Sportsphone – 976-1313. It cost a whopping 50 cents per call, but every couple of minutes it was updated with the latest sports scores and news.

It was a luxury for our family to call Sportsphone, something we’d do only a couple of times a year. Sportsphone was a place for gamblers to get their score fix, not us. But this was absolutely, positively one of those times to call.

We didn’t have a speaker phone, just a simple white telephone on the wall in the kitchen and my dad raced to it. I don’t know if it was Mike Breen or any of the many future famous announcers who cut their teeth working for this outlet, detailing what happened, but all of a sudden, my dad started screaming.

The Mets had traded for Gary Carter.

This was a huge, huge, huge deal. There are few off-field Mets moments that rival the acquisition of future Hall-of-Famer Gary Carter.

I’m pretty sure that the longest I ever waited in line for an autograph (and I’ve waited in some long lines) was for Gary Carter at Macy’s a year later. Two hours with my aunt, who should be lauded for her patience with an 11-year-old superfan. “Whatever you do, don’t touch his knees,” said one older man in line.

Carter’s knees eventually gave out, but he was worth everything the Mets gave up for him and then some. He was a symbol, the player who was going to put the Mets over the top and help them win a World Series.

It’s rare that everything works out as perfectly as it did on Opening Day 1985. It kind of reminds me of Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium, except that Gary Carter still had plenty of baseball to give, bad knees and all.

The details of the day are such that the Mets had a 5-2 lead over the Cardinals, but missed on a number of opportunities to add on runs that would have made the game a rout. Instead, it was left to Doug Sisk, who had been so good in 1984, to try to close the Cardinals out with a 5-4 lead in the ninth inning.

Didn’t happen.

Sisk walked Jack Clark with the bases loaded and two outs to tie the game. Jesse Orosco escaped further damage to keep the game tied and then Neil Allen did likewise, surviving a bases loaded threat in the bottom of the ninth.

The Cardinals stranded Ozzie Smith at second base in the top of the 10th and the Mets had a couple of big bats due up in their half. The first, Keith Hernandez, struck out.

The second was Gary Carter. He struck.

Allen’s curveball caught too much plate. Carter was a little in front of it and took an awkward pull swing that looked like a lunge given how far he was standing from home plate. Cardinals’ left fielder Lonnie Smith took a bad path to the ball and made a desperate jump but couldn’t reach it. He slammed the glove on the warning track dirt as his fall left him in a sitting position.

 Carter had hit a game-winning home run. "I just don't think there are adjectives to describe the feeling," he said after the game. "If I were to dream a fantasy, it couldn't have been written better. You don't even think of endings like that one."

Quite an ending made for quite a beginning. Hernandez was the first to greet him with a big hug, a scene we would see again 18 ½ months later after the Mets had won the World Series. That was a pretty big deal too.

My favorite stat: In 1985, Gary Carter had 32 home runs and 46 strikeouts. He is one of four catchers to have had a season of at least 30 home runs and fewer than 50 strikeouts. All of them did so for New York teams: Walker Cooper (1947 Giants), Yogi Berra (1952 and 1956 Yankees) and Roy Campanella (1955 Dodgers).


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