By Jim Fertitta
Special to Brooklyn Eagle
Editor’s Note: The following remembrance of the Mets’ Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter was written to the members of the Port St. Lucie Mets Booster Club by Club President Jim Fertitta on Feb. 17, the day after Carter succumbed to cancer.
First, let me say it’s a sad day if you are a true Mets’ fan.
Let me start by saying I’ve been to Cooperstown three times to see the Hall of Fame.
The last time I went to Cooperstown was in July 2003, when Gary was inducted into the Hall of Fame. It was only three days before the induction when I spoke to someone from Baseball America who told me there would be press credentials waiting for me at the Hall when I got up there.
When I arrived, there were press credentials waiting for me, but they said that since I was so late in getting them I would have to sit in the last row of the photographers’ section. However, this turned out to be great. The last row was about 10 feet in front of the family and invited guests of the players getting inducted into the Hall. So, the Carter family was on one side and Eddie Murray’s family was on the other side. I also saw a lot of guys in suits with radios and earpieces.
When I asked someone who they were, they said it was Secret Service for George Bush Sr., who was coming with his grandson because he was a close friend of Gary Carter. So, as the ceremony began, I started taking lots of photos.
When I got home to Port St. Lucie, I made up an album for Gary Carter, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get it to him. It was the next spring and one day I saw Gary heading out of the clubhouse to his car to leave for the day. So, I ran to my car (and believe me, it was not quickly) to get the album and make it to the gate before Gary left.
He stopped for me and all I said was, “All I want to do is give you this album I made up for you from your induction into the Hall.”
He simply said “thanks” and drove away.
I did what I wanted to do, not wanting anything for it — not even a signed ball. I was not sure what he was going to do with the album, but from the next day until the last time I saw him he would always say, “Hey, Jimmy,” which made me feel good.
Then, in 2006, he was named the manager of the St. Lucie Mets. I said to myself that every time I take game photos for the St. Lucie Mets that year, I will be in the dugout with Hall of Famer Gary Carter. Believe me, every game was great, sitting there and watching him manage his team to the 2006 Florida State League Championship at the High-A minor league level.
I can remember one game when it was raining so bad that the game was held up for more than an hour. So, on the scoreboard, they showed Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. It was great seeing Gary in Game 6 on the scoreboard and sitting only a few feet away from him, listening to him telling some of the St. Lucie Mets “to watch this play.”
Then, during spring training in 2007, Gary Carter and the 2006 team stepped onto Tradition Field before a game to get their Florida State League Championship rings.
I remember him hugging me and saying, “I miss it.”
All I can say now is, Gary, we will miss you. Rest in Peace.