01/16/2003 7:09 PM ET
Kid catches Cooperstown spotlight
Carter 'happy' to go into Hall as an Expo
NEW YORK -- Let history record that Gary Carter is an Expo. At least that's the way the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has chosen to depict Carter's place in the game.
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
The Hall of Fame announced Thursday that Carter, who played the majority of his 19-year career with Montreal, will symbolically wear an Expos cap when he takes his rightful place in Cooperstown on July 27. Hall president Dale Petroskey made the announcement at the Waldorf-Astoria during the press conference introducing Carter and fellow inductee Eddie Murray to the media.
The decision to induct Carter as an Expo, which was made by the Hall with input from the former All-Star catcher, has historical significance though Petroskey and Carter downplayed the decision. An 11-time All-Star, Carter will be the first and possibly only player to enter the Hall as a Montreal Expo.
There had been much speculation on whether Carter would be wearing a Mets cap on his plaque, considering he won his only World Series with New York and remains a coach with the club. Yet, when it came time to make the call, the Hall felt that Carter's body of work was best defined during his years north of the border. Therefore, Tom Seaver will remain the lone Met in Cooperstown for the foreseeable future.
"I am just so honored and proud to be part of the Hall of Fame," Carter said. "To me it wasn't an issue and I'm glad that I didn't have to make the decision. I have a place in my heart for each of the teams I played for, even the two years I had with the Dodgers and Giants.
"If I was to do the noble thing, it would be nice to have a split hat. The fact that I spent 11 years in Montreal and the majority of my statistics were achieved there, it would be wrong to do it any other way. The decision was made, I stand behind it, I'm happy with it and I think everyone else involved feels the same. I don't think it's an issue and it shouldn't be because everyone should accept you as just a Hall of Famer."
Carter played 1,503 games with Montreal as opposed to 600 with the Mets. He had 1,427 hits, including 220 homers, and 823 RBIs with the Expos, and had 542 hits, including 89 homers, and 349 RBIs for the Mets. He was a seven-time All-Star in Montreal, winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1981 and '84. He also finished second in the NL MVP voting in 1980 and won his three Gold Gloves with the Expos.
While his career in New York was punctuated by a World Series victory in 1986 and an NL East title in '88, Petroskey believed what Carter did for the Expos was too great to be ignored. He led Montreal to its only playoff berth in 1981 and was the face of the team for a decade.
"Gary belongs to baseball," Petroskey said. "Mets fans should consider Gary Carter a Met and Dodger fans should consider him a Dodger and Expo fans should consider him an Expo. But we want to have represented on the plaque the team that best represents where a player made the biggest impact in his career. When you look at it, it's very clear. Gary Carter is an important part of the history of the Expos.
"The Expos have been around for 35 years and he was an important part of them for nearly a third of that. We had no preconceived idea that we wanted him in an Expo cap because there are no Expo caps in the Hall. To us, the right decision is the Expos. And that's the only place in the world where it's going to matter -- when people come to Cooperstown and see the Expos' logo. Beyond the walls of the Hall of Fame, they are Hall of Famers for everybody."
That the future of the Expos remains uncertain was a big part of the conversation on Thursday. How would Carter feel if the Expos were no longer the Expos after this season, a distinct possibility? He pointed out that other teams -- the Philadelphia City A's, the St. Louis Browns and the Washington Senators, for example -- have moved and no one has forgotten them.
There are also players from the Negro Leagues enshrined in Cooperstown who haven't been forgotten, either. Carter added while it would be disappointing to see the Expos cease to exist in their current form, it wouldn't take anything away from the time he spent there or what he contributed to the club's legacy.
"It's disappointing to see what's transpired in Montreal," Carter said. "It's frustrating. For the betterment of the game -- if it means the Expos folding, contracting or moving -- if it's the best thing for the game, it's one of those things you just have to accept. I've seen the changeover of owners and now the team being owned by all Major League owners.
"I pride myself that I started out with Montreal [in 1974] and ended with them in '92. It's sad to see what transpired. I hope they can pull out of whatever dire straits they are in but I don't think that's going to happen. I'm just proud to be in the Hall, don't even think of the hat. There is the idea of the old St. Louis Browns and other teams that have moved on. That's part of baseball history. We're all wearing the hats of a Hall of Famer. It doesn't matter what logo is on it."
While the debate will surely continue for some time, history, the Hall of Fame, and Carter have spoken.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.