Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, who led the New York Mets to a World Series and was known as "The Kid" for the exuberance he displayed on the field, died on Thursday after battling brain cancer. He was aged 57.
An 11-time All-Star, Carter spent the bulk of his 19-year Major League Baseball (MLB) career with the Montreal Expos where the curly-haired slugger became one of hockey-mad Canada's most popular athletes.
"The Kid's contribution to our National Pastime is big, but his heart was even bigger," Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said in a statement. "We'll always remember his caring way, ever-present smile and strong devotion to family, community and the Baseball Hall of Fame."
A three-time Gold Glove winner, Carter spent his first 11 MLB seasons with Montreal followed by stints win the Mets, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers before returning to the Expos in 1992 to end his career.
Carter played 2,296 games in his career and finished with 324 home runs and 1,225 runs batted in. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, the first player enshrined as a member of the Expos.
Carter was diagnosed last year with an aggressive form of cancer that doctors said was inoperable. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment but in January, his family said the tumours had returned.
"I believe with all my heart that dad had a standing ovation as he walked through the gates of heaven to be with Jesus," his daughter, Kimmy Bloemers, posted on the family's website. "Thank you all for loving my dad and my entire family."
Carter played with the intensity and fire that endeared him to the home fans but occasionally rubbed others the wrong way, including some teammates.
Durable and hardworking, he developed a reputation as a smiling assassin who delivered clutch hits and rock-solid defense.
"It's a grueling position (catcher)," Carter said during his Hall of Fame induction speech. "My knees will tell you that.
"(But) I can look back and say it's worth it to be enshrined in Cooperstown."
While Carter became the boyish face of Canadian baseball it was in New York where he found his greatest success leading the Mets to a World Series in 1986.
That season Carter drove in 105 runs, one shy of his career best, and 24 homers but produced his best in the World Series after New York dropped the opening two games.
Carter drove in three runs in Game 3 then swatted two home runs in Game 4 as the Mets battled back to level the best-of-seven series.
Boston won Game Five, setting the stage for more drama as Carter, with the Mets down to their last out, sparked a 10th inning rally that ended with New York winning on a Mookie Wilson grounder that infamously squirted through Bill Buckner's legs.
The Mets went on to win the World Series in seven games.
"Like all baseball fans, I will always remember his leadership for the '86 Mets and his pivotal role in one of the greatest World Series ever played," praised MLB commissioner Bud Selig in a statement. "Driven by a remarkable enthusiasm for the game, Gary Carter became one of the elite catchers of all-time.
'The Kid' was an 11-time All-Star and a durable, consistent slugger for the Montreal Expos and the New York Mets, and he ranks among the most beloved players in the history of both of those franchises." (Reporting By Daniel Trotta in New York, Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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