If there is one player that stands out as the face of the Montreal Expos franchise, it's the late, great, no.8, Gary Carter. Thinking back, it's his 1982 season that sticks out in my memory as the one in which I really, as a seven-year-old fan, started to follow the game and the team, and it was Carter, along with Andre Dawson and Tim Raines who drew me to the Expos. Eight seasons into his major league career, the 1972 Expos' 3rd Round pick had a .265/.336/.451 line with a 162-game average of 27 doubles and 25 HRs. Carter was a three-time All-Star, a two-time Gold Glove and one-time Silver Slugger winner who'd finished second in MVP voting in 1980 then led Expos into the postseason for the first and only playoff run the franchise would make in Montreal in the strike-shortened season in 1981.
In five games in the '81 NLDS with Philadelphia, which the Expos won, Carter was 8 for 19 with three doubles and two home runs in 21 plate appearances, over which he had a .421/.429/.895 line. In the NLCS against the eventual World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, Carter had a .438/.550/.500 line with seven hits (one double) and four walks in five games and 20 PAs. Before the 1982 season, Carter signed a seven-year extension that was worth more than $12.5M.
In his ninth season in the majors in 1982, the then-28-year-old Carter had a .293/.381/.510 line with 32 doubles, 29 home runs and 97 runs batted in over 154 games and 653 plate appearances. The Expos finished 86-76 that season and ended up 3rd in the National League East. Carter collected his 1,000th major league hit in 1982, then two more that day in a double header. In looking back on his career and naming Carter his catcher on a team of Expos who had the best single season in his "Big Book of Baseball Lineups" Rob Neyer singled out Carter's 1982 season as the backstop's best with the Expos. "Not easy to pick just one," Mr. Neyer wrote, "as he played brilliantly in four other seasons before going to the Mets; 29 homers and great defense."
In the first two years of the seven-year extension ('82-83), the "Kid" had a .281/.359/.477 line with 69 doubles and 46 HRs in 299 games and 1262 PAs. Then-owner Charles Bronfman, however, labeled the Expos' contract extension for Carter the biggest mistake of his life, going so far as to say that the catcher "wasn't clutch." Carter followed up on his .270/.336/.444 1983 season with a .294/.366/.487 '84 campaign in which he hit 32 doubles, 27 HRs and drove in a league-high 106 RBIs (tied with Mike Schmidt for the NL lead).
In December 1984, three years after he signed the seven-year extension, Carter was traded in a 4-for-1 deal with the New York Mets, who sent Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans back to the Expos. Three seasons later, Carter did with New York what he couldn't in Montreal, win the World Series with the Davey Johnson-led Mets. 26 years after he was traded to New York, Carter was honored by the franchise that drafted and developed him when the Washington Nationals recognized the former Expo great by placing his name in Nationals Park's Ring of Honor alongside the name of his former Expos teammate Andre Dawson's.
"It's kind of nice to put on the old red, white and blue colors that there once were," Carter said at the ceremony which unveiled the "Ring of Honor" on the facade below the second deck behind home plate in the nation's capital. "I'm very proud and honored to be recognized as well, but I think that the Nationals have something very special here in the nation's capital and especially with some of the great players that are going to be coming through their organization."
Less than a year later, Carter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. In February 2012, Carter, then 57, passed away. His name is part of the stadium in the nation's capital. Earlier this month, a street near Parc Jarry where Carter made his MLB debut in 1974 was renamed in his honor.
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