Hall Dreams
By Maxwell A. Quinn

It’s the dream of every little boy, and girl, who ever picked up a bat and swung at an imaginary pitch.

It’s the bottom of the ninth, in the 7th game of the World Series, the home team is down by 3, with two outs and the bases full. The pitcher, fire-balling reliever, has reared back and let it fly. Two pitches, over the center of the plate, both fouled off. Three pitches, narrowly missing the corner. The count is full. The bases are full. The stands are full.

The pitcher glares menacingly from the mound. His motion begins. His leg is lifted, his arm reaching back, his body moving forward, leveraging the pitch. The ball is on its way to the plate, leaving a trail of smoke, a tiny pea-sized object, barely visible. The bat swooshes across the plate.

The announcer then takes over, “That ball is well hit. It might be enough. It’s going…it’s going…it’s gone! The game is over! The series is over!”

Some little boys actually live their dream. Most do not.

Rare are those who find themselves playing in the major leagues. Rarer still are those who find themselves playing in the World Series. And rarest of rare are those whose careers are so excellent, so enduring, so exceptional they are enshrined in Cooperstown, in the Valhalla of baseball – the Hall of Fame.

Enter Gary Carter, “The Kid”.

His career was outstanding. And, while he didn’t hit a two-out walk-off grand slam to win the 7th game of the World Series, Carter had a key hit in one of the most memorable series games of all time – the sixth game of the 1986 series against the Boston Red Sox.

The Sox were up in the series, three games to two. They were up in the sixth game, 5-3, with two down in the bottom of the 10th. Carter stepped to the plate and singled, setting the stage for a comeback that culminated in the easy ground ball dribbled to first off the bat of Mookie Wilson – the easy ground ball that somehow bounced over the glove and through the legs of the normally sure-handed Bill Buckner at first. The Mets won the sixth game, 6-5, and then captured the series.

With a sterling career under his belt, and World Series heroics on his resume, what more could make Gary Carter’s baseball dream come true?

The Hall of Fame.

They called this year, in the sixth year of Carter’s eligibility. Carter joins Eddie Murray as the 2003 inductees into the Hall.

He had come close before. Last year, he had collected 72.67 percent of the ballots, falling achingly short of the 75 percent required.

This year, he eked past the required 75 percent, being named on 387 of the ballots, 78 percent of the total vote.

To many baseball observers, it was an expected honor.

Carter was, to many, the premier backstop of his generation, sandwiched between Johnny Bench who came before him, and Mike Piazza who came after.

His career accomplishments are Hall of Fame – “esque” Beginning his career with the Montreal Expos, basking in the national media exposure while with the New York Mets, playing a year each with the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, Carter ultimately finished his career where it began – with the Expos.

Along the way, Carter won three Gold Gloves, finished with 324 home runs, 1,225 RBI’s, and a .262 batting average, with 2,092 hits. He led the Expos to a playoff berth in 1981, and helped the Mets win the World Series in 1986. He was an 11-time All-Star, winning MVP of the All-Star game twice, and finished second in the National League’s MVP voting in 1980.

Beyond the numbers, Carter played with flair, style and enthusiasm. He was known for his hustle and determination, and his willingness to play through pain and his drive to excel. “The Kid”, as he was called, always played with the joy and abandon of a kid.

Of course, there’s always more to a story than statistics and style. Every man, and woman, has another side – a personal side. As Paul Harvey would intone, there’s always – “The rest of the story.”

Gary Carter’s story includes so much more than baseball. A family man, whose mother died when he was twelve and whose father passed away shortly after hearing of Gary’s election to the Hall, Carter has learned to rely on his faith in God, a faith that has seen him through disappointments, and has put his greatest accomplishments into perspective.

It sounds like a dream come true.