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Rounding Third: In Carter, baseball loses one of its good guys

Growing up in New York whether you were a fan of the Yankees or the Mets, it was hard not to get caught up with what was going on at Shea Stadium in the Summer of 1986.

A big reason for the excitement that summer was the exuberant play of Gary Carter. On Thursday, Carter passed away at the age of 57, succumbing to brain cancer.

An 11-time All-Star, Carter won three Golden Gloves and five Silver Slugger awards in his career. The 1983 All-Star Game MVP was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 as an Expo. The Expos retired Carter's number 8, also in 2003.

"Learning of Gary's passing feels as if I just lost a family member. Gary and I grew up together in the game, and during our time with the Expos we were as close as brothers, if not closer," said Steve Rogers, who played 11 seasons with Carter in Montreal. "Gary was a champion. He was a 'gamer' in every sense of the word -- on the field and in life. He made everyone else around him better, and he made me a better pitcher. His contributions to the game, both in Montreal and New York, are legendary and will likely never be duplicated."

Carter may have spent the majority of his career in Montreal, but most people will remember him for what he did in his five years in New York, where he became the final piece of the puzzle for a championship team that probably - through no fault of his own - should have won more than it did.

Although, I grew up about 20 minutes away from Shea Stadium, the Yankees were the team I rooted for. But, for some reason most of my baseball memories in the '80s come from the Mets and, more specifically, Gary Carter.

Whether it was his brilliant performance in the 1983 All-Star Game, or his walk-off home run in his first game with the Mets in 1985, Carter provided so many big moments. None, though, will top what he did in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

And if you don't know what game I'm referring to, then you probably aren't much of a baseball fan.

Trailing by two runs to the Boston Red Sox, who by the way had just been congratulated on the Diamond Vision screen for their World Series win, Carter walked through the dugout yelling to anyone who could hear him that he wasn't going to be the one to make that last out.

And he didn't. In fact, nobody did that night. Carter started maybe the most significant rally in baseball history with a little single and the rest as they say is history.

It's not like anyone is going to speak ill of people when they die, but there is nobody who can say a bad word about him. If you want to see what his teammates thought of him, take a gander at the SNY web site at some point and listen to Keith Hernandez break down talking about his friend.

Dwight Gooden may have described who Carter was the best Friday morning during a radio interview. After Gooden had the first of his substance abuse problems back in 1986, Carter would often visit him at the Smithers Clinic after games and just talk to him, see how he was doing from a personal standpoint. Never once did Carter ask when he was coming back. All he wanted to make sure was that Gooden got better.

That's the type of guy Gary Carter was.

"The one thing I remember about Gary was his smile," former teammate Mookie Wilson said. "He loved life and loved to play the game of baseball."

Sure, Carter had his flaws. Everyone does. Some people said he was arrogant. He probably was. Show me a professional athlete who isn't. That attitude is probably a big reason why they made it so far in the first place.

Carter probably lost a lot of supporters not only within the Mets community, but in all of baseball during the Willie Randolph era in Flushing, when he openly lobbied for his the manager's job even though it had yet to be vacated.

But, all those hard feelings went by the wayside when the news came down last year that the Hall of Famer was battling inoperable brain cancer. Like he did in the 10th inning against the Red Sox, we knew he would fight it up until the very end, but even the most ardent of Carter supporters knew the end was nearing around Christmas, when more tumors were discovered on the brain.

The slim chance that he may have had was probably gone. And that fight ended on Thursday.

Gary Carter won't go down as the best catcher who ever played the game. But when you hear someone say baseball is a kid's game, remember the way he played day-in and day-out and try to disagree with them.