Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Every Signature Tells a Story: Joe Carter, A Nice Guy
Does all this talk about surly ‘ole Barry Bonds have you down?
I offer the antidote: Joe Carter.
Carter quietly turned 46 on the day that revelations broke that Bonds was allegedly juicing more than a Tropicana factory.
Carter will always be remembered for his Oct. 23, 1993 three-run, ninth-inning blast off Mitch Williams to crown the Toronto Blue Jays as World Series champs. He and Bill Mazeroski have the only two Series-ending walk-off homers.
The sheer joy on Carter’s face as he jumped around the bases is tonic for even the foulest Bonds press conference.
But when I think about Joe I think back to a day in 1987, a baseball card show in Trumbull, Conn.
Julie and I were engaged, and back then she would tag along to some of these things – as long as I would then go with her to a fabric store.
Our main goal was to meet Duke Snider and have him sign my Mets book and Hall of Fame ball. Duke’s a friendly guy. We admired his huge Hall of Fame ring, and he nicely commented on Julie’s engagement ring.
But sitting at a table all by himself was Joe Carter. It was odd that he was there in the first place, since he then played for Cleveland and had no New York or Boston ties whatsoever.
I was familiar with Carter because I had just drafted him for my rotisserie league team. He led the American League in rbi the year before.
I felt bad for him, sitting there with no customers. So Julie and I walked over and started chatting. He welcomed us with a big smile and strong handshake and we had a nice conversation about how his season was going and how he liked playing for the Indians.
From that point on, anytime Carter’s name was mentioned in the household, it was followed by “what a nice guy.”
Carter went on to have a solid career that falls just short of Cooperstown. He hit .259 with 396 homers, 1,445 rbi and 2,184 hits over 16 years.
His last game came at the end of the 1998 season, when his Giants and Cubs had a one-game playoff to determine the wild card.
Cub fans, never ones to be particularly warming to visiting players, showed Carter great respect by giving him a standing ovation when he came to bat in the ninth inning, knowing that it would be the last of his career.