07/26/2003 6:15 PM ET
Carter proud to be in the Hall
Hall of Fame: Complete coverage
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Gary Carter will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday as a Montreal Expo and is proud of it. He'll stand along with Eddie Murray looking out at the rolling fields behind the Clark Sports Center, only hundreds of miles from the country and city he says he'll never forget.
"There's always going to be a place in my heart for not only Montreal, but for Canada," Carter told a media gathering Saturday in the auditorium at Cooperstown High School.
The Montreal franchise is apparently in the final stage of its history and Carter will forever be its standard bearer in the hallowed Hall on Main Street. Like Dave Winfield two years ago, Carter is the first player in the Hall of Fame for his original team. Winfield went in as a Padre and Carter is going in as an Expo. Both teams expanded into the National League in 1969.
Unlike the Padres, who are secure for the long-term in San Diego, the Expos' logo, uniform and existence in Montreal are all on the endangered species' list. Carter knows he may be that team's enduring legacy.
"I definitely feel that Montreal is very deserving of its place in history," he said. "The Expos now will always have their place. I'm very honored to be going in as the first Montreal Expo. Let's hope maybe not the last. Nevertheless, I do hope that the organization as a whole will survive."
The powers that be in the Hall of Fame determined after he was elected last winter that Carter would go in as an Expo. It was the first time the Hall, rather than the player, had final say on that piece of enduring identity.
Carter came up with the Expos, played his first 10 seasons in Montreal and earned his reputation with them as an All-Star catcher, having been named to the National League team six times before he was traded to the Mets in 1984. In New York, he played five seasons, winning the World Series with the Mets in '86.
Gary Carter's Hall of Fame plaque
The decision came at a time when Major League Baseball is trying to determine the Expos' future. Where will they play and what will they be named? That decision could be made in the next few months.
In the meantime, Carter has been asked to forever memorialize the Expos' past. He joined them in '74, five years after the team came into existence and quickly became the positive image of the clean-cut young American ballplayer, making it big in Canada, a country enjoying MLB for the first time and growing with the sport.
"It was a great opportunity to learn about a different country," Carter said. "Especially in Montreal and Quebec, it was much more European and very, very much more French than English. It really taught me a lot. I was able to involve myself in the community. I took a Berlitz course so I could learn how to enunciate words in French. For me, it was almost like going back to school, getting an entirely new education."
During that first decade in Montreal the team began to improve, going to the NL Championship Series for the first and only time at the end of the '81 strike interrupted season. There they lost to the Dodgers. But by then, the fans had begun to identify with them, flocking to what was then the new Olympic Stadium.
And no player personified those years for that franchise more than Carter, who became an advertising poster boy across Canada. Carter said he arrived so very close to the beginning of the Expos' era that it was wonderful to watch it all unfold over that decade.
"When they were formed in 1969 they were more probably a novelty than a team," he said. "But after we moved into Olympic Stadium, we started playing good baseball and the fans began to understand the game and got more involved. And only because of the success of the team did the opportunity exist for endorsements and things like that. Montreal and Canada gave me that chance."
Carter is now a roving minor league instructor working with young catchers for the Mets. He could have joined pitcher Tom Seaver, who is the only Met in the Hall of Fame. Carter, though, said Mets management understands the dilemma. Carter said Saturday that Mets' senior executive vice president Jeff Wlpon told him it didn't matter which cap Carter wears on his plaque.
"As far as I'm concerned, you're a Hall of Famer," Carter said Wilpon told him, recalling the recent conversation.
The Mets, of course, are a New York institution. The Expos are an institution in distress.
"That was the only question I had," Carter said. "Where is that legacy going to be left? Is [the Expos'] name going to be carried on in the future or is it going to be left behind forever? Is it going to become a different name all together? That was really my biggest concern. But now that we've gotten through all this, I'm still very proud and honored to be going into the Hall of Fame."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.