Growing up as a young boy in Northern New York, my very first professional baseball game I attended was in Jarry Parc in Montreal.
I have vivid memories of the Public Address speaker announcing the game in French, the outstanding organ music played, and of course the swimming pool over the right field fence. It was professional baseball and although I was a NY Mets fan, I fell in love with the Expos.
I continued to keep one eye on the Expos and the other eye on the NY Mets as I grew from childhood to young adult.
I remember watching the young Gary Carter as he burst on the scene in 1974. No matter the score, one did not leave the ballpark until “The Kid’s” last at bat.
In the late fall of 1984, while watching Monday Night Football, an urgent announcement was made. I remember hearing Howard Cosell announce to the world that Gary Carter had been traded from the Montreal Expos to the NY Mets.
By this time, I had married and moved to the Hudson Valley of NY State, a mere hour and 45 minutes from Shea Stadium. I was elated and could not wait for opening day.
Myself and three of my buddies had made a habit of attending opening day at Shea Stadium for a few years prior to 1985.
We weren’t going to miss this one! Early that April 9th Tuesday morning we left for the drive into the City. Our seats were located on the upper deck near the right field foul pole. Players looked like ants from there.
Planes from nearby airports were so close I think we could actually wave to passengers thru the windows of the plane. We drank beer and ate hot dogs and enjoyed a beautiful early spring day of baseball.
The weather was perfect at the start of the game but on the chilly side. The Mets took a lead and led throughout until the Cardinals tied it in the top of the 9th inning.
By this time the temperature had dipped considerably and many fans had headed to the exits.
Seconds later, Carter did just that as the ball cleared the left field fence and landed in the visiting team’s bullpen.
Even though by this time the stands were only three quarters full, it was the loudest I’ve ever heard in any sports stadium. The stands were actually shaking and I had a brief thought that we being in the upper deck might be in danger of a collapse.
As we exited our seats and headed down the borrows of the stadium, chants of GARY, GARY, GARY were echoing off the concrete of big Shea.
The stereotype of the reserved NY City resident were completely replaced by massive amounts of hugs, high fives, and smiles. It seemed we were all taken back to our days of childhood, me sitting in Jarry Parc.
I never met Gary Carter in person although I have seen him play on many occasions but throughout his career he somehow became a part of my childhood.
Of course, like many of you, when I heard he had taken ill I assumed my hero would beat this dreaded disease.
When later reports indicated that Gary was losing this battle and stories of his courage and faith emerged, I thought to myself that he was much more than a baseball player to his family, friends, and teammates.
He always conducted himself in the right way, whether it be on the baseball field, home with his children, or among his friends.
May they find comfort knowing the joy he gave us throughout the years.
He is in the arms of angels.
May he rest in peace.