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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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He Put the 8 in 1985

Welcome aboard, and thank you for joining our tour group. We know you could have chosen any Met season to get lost in for a little while, but we think you chose wisely in deciding to join us here in 1985. We’re not supposed to play favorites, but between you folks and me, this is the one where you’ll want to wallow for a while.

We’re ready to start our tour here on December 10, 1984. Now I know what some of you are thinking, that technically this isn’t 1985. Well, not just yet, but the journey begins here by necessity, because we can’t take you where we’re going without stopping first at this spot. This is where Gary Carter gets traded to the Mets. It’s a stunner, all right. Carter’s an All-Star, a slugger, a Gold Glove catcher, but until now, he’s been an Expo.

Not anymore. We give up four promising young players to get him, including one of our favorites, Hubie Brooks, but it’s a bargain. You want promise? The promise of 1985 begins with Carter’s acquisition. The promise is literally spoken by the Kid himself. He stands in front of a room full of New York reporters and tells them about his right ring finger. Why that one? Because that’s the one he’s reserving for his World Series ring, the one he plans to earn as a New York Met.

Such promise. A season never approached with that kind of feeling before. The surprisingly good Mets of 1984 were instantly enhanced by Gary Carter. We see them coming into Spring Training and we see a contender, something we haven’t envisioned so clearly in February in a very long time.

That brings us to our next stop, St. Petersburg, Florida, Spring Training home of the New York Mets. Spring Training home of Gary Carter’s New York Mets. The energy around this team is off the charts. The feeling is they can do anything. If you look closely, you can even see a pitcher in camp on a non-roster invitation, No. 21, Sidd Finch. Sidd’s not going to make the team, but these Mets are loaded with pitching: Gooden, Darling, Berenyi, Lynch, Latham. Orosco, Sisk and McDowell in the bullpen. They’re all young and they all figure to benefit from throwing to the National League’s best catcher.

And this lineup — as strong a lineup as a Mets manager has ever committed to a lineup card. There’s Keith Hernandez, the team MVP from last year. And there’s Darryl Strawberry, the budding superstar. And George Foster, who still has some pop. Wally Backman can hit righties. Mookie Wilson can fly. Rafael Santana shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Howard Johnson comes highly recommended off the world champion Detroit Tigers.

In the middle of all that? A cleanup hitter who’s a threat to hit one out every time up. A batter who knows National League pitchers like he knows hitters. A guy who’s probably on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Gary Carter is here. Gary Carter is making us feel like more than contenders. He makes us feel like favorites. Like we’ve got something going on that’s special and is going to last a very long time.

Let’s move along, shall we?

Our next stop on the tour should look familiar to all of you. It’s Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York. This is April 9, Opening Day. What a crowd! It’s blustery today, but you can feel the heat rising from the Mets, particularly when No. 8 is introduced for the first time. That’s Carter. A year ago, we thought of him as the enemy. A year ago, in Montreal blue, he hit the grand slam that ruined Darling’s day and the Home Opener. But he’s not wearing somebody else’s uniform anymore.

He’s wearing ours. And look at the difference it makes ten innings after he’s introduced. Yes, that’s Neil Allen, the ex-Met, pitching for the Cardinals, and that’s Gary Carter, the Met now and forever more ending the game. Let’s listen to Steve Zabriskie on Channel 9 welcome him to New York.

Yup, he’s here, all right. He’s here to stay.

We’re still at Shea. It’s a couple of days later and the Mets are living up to their advance notices. The pitching is as billed, and that’s due in no small part to the new catcher, the catcher from Montreal. Here he is in the third game of the season guiding home Bruce Berenyi and Doug Sisk to a 1-0 win. The one run is on Carter’s second home run as a Met. And here he is in the fifth game of the season, hitting another home run and catching another shutout, the first of the year from Dwight Gooden. Doc strikes out ten Reds. Carter catches every one of them. One of them will wind up in a video Bruce Springsteen is making: “Glory Days”. It couldn’t be more appropriate for where Gary and the Mets are right now. They’ve won all five games they’ve played, giving up only two runs in the last four.

Carter’s catching them every day and they’re winning every day. The Mets are 5-0, folks. There’s a sense that nothing can stop them. It’s glorious.

It’s a month later now. We’re still at Shea. Things have warmed up but not everything has gone exactly as hoped for. The Mets are no longer undefeated, which isn’t a surprise. Gary Carter’s in a bit of a slump, which is, but he’s busting out tonight, May 7, against the Braves. Recognize the pitcher? That’s Bruce Sutter, one of the best relievers ever. And the hitter is Carter, lashing his first Met grand slam. The Mets win this game and they, like Gary, appear to be putting their stumbles behind them.

Our next stop is a month later, the middle of June, to be precise. The Mets are still trying to find their groove. They’ve had some injuries and they’re immersed in a dogfight for first place with the Cardinals, the Expos and the Cubs, the team that happens to be at Shea tonight. If you took the full 1984 tour, you’ll recognize the Cubs as the Mets’ nemeses, the ones who cost them the division last year. Somehow the Mets have yet to play them in 1985, so there’s a ton of anticipation for the opener. It’s Ron Darling and Rick Sutcliffe in a scoreless duel in the fourth inning…and can anybody take a guess at what happens next?

That’s right. Gary Carter leads off the fourth with a home run and the tension transforms into cheers. The fans know everything’s gonna be OK. By the end of the week, the Mets sweep four from the Cubs and they’re never heard from again for the rest of the season. This matters to us here in 1985 because when we got Gary in December, we had it in our heads that he would be the difference-maker between them and us. And he is.

Unfortunately, it’s the Cardinals who emerge as the Mets’ new rivals by now and as you’ll see on the edges of our tour, we have to keep a pretty close eye on them. You may not have bargained for it when you signed up for 1985, but that’s what happens.

But first, we’re going to ask you to buckle up for our flight to our next stop, and that’s Atlanta in early July. It’s a night like no other, a 19-inning marathon that includes two rain delays, all kinds of oddities and, when it’s over, fireworks at four in the morning. But not one minute before it is over does Gary Carter stop playing. He’s a 31-year-old catcher but he will not yield. He crouches for every gosh darn pitch and, as if that’s not enough, he goes 5-for-9 as the Mets win a game that would have been brutal to lose. The final score is 16-13. Manager Davey Johnson gives Gary the next night off.

As our tour winds into Houston just ahead of the All-Star break, does anybody notice anything disturbing? That’s right, it’s the lack of Gary Carter in the Mets’ lineup when word gets out that his knees aren’t right. There’s a lot of mileage on those joints and it might be catching up with this great catcher. The Mets cross their fingers while their trainers unspool their tape. The Kid’s well-being will bear watching the rest of the way.

Thankfully, we can watch him in action as we resume our tour after the All-Star break, as Gary Carter literally grins and bears it, He’s in the lineup and behind the plate again. You can’t miss him — though one of his old teammates comes perilously close. Our next stop is Shea Stadium, July 30, the Mets and the Expos. Headhunting Bill Gullickson, who Gary used to catch in Montreal, decides to play some chin music for Carter. Gooden, pitching for the Mets, returns the favor on Gary’s behalf. This is Gary’s team and Gary’s teammates are going to watch out for him. Of course Gary returns the favor by catching yet another brilliant performance from Gooden: another ten-strikeout, shutout win — Doc’s tenth victory in a row, the most since Tom Seaver in ’69.

Gooden is having the season of his life, as you might have noticed as our tour has taken us from April to August. He breaks Tom’s record for consecutive wins on the same day Tom wins his 300th as a White Sock. He fans sixteen Giants soon after, his most since last September. He becomes the youngest pitcher ever to win a twentieth game, against the Padres before August is done. And who’s catching him every time he makes history?

Gary Carter. Carter’s shepherding Gooden to superstardom. He’s helped Darling reach the All-Star team. He’s nurtured Sid Fernandez since returned from Tidewater and he’s welcomed Rick Aguilera to the big leagues, too. Carter’s impact as the catcher for these Mets as they sizzle through the summer cannot be understated. As our tour moves near September, you should take a good, hard look at that aspect of his game.

But now that we’re in September, there’s no way you can’t focus on his bat. Our next stop is San Diego. This is where Gary Carter takes off all over again. We advise you to put on your special neck gear otherwise you might strain something watching what he does.

There’s three home runs on Tuesday night, September 3, to beat the Padres.

And there are two home runs more on Wednesday night, September 4, to beat them again.

That’s five home runs in two days, something hardly anybody in major league history has ever done, certainly no Met. Going back to August 29, covering six games he’s played, Gary has whacked eight home runs. This is the veteran power bat the Mets craved when Frank Cashen traded those youngsters to Montreal. It’s exploding at the perfect time of year. The Mets and the Cardinals are neck and neck. Every hit is humongous. Every game is gargantuan. Everywhere you look, Gary Carter is hanging in there, bad knees and all. He catches all thirteen innings of a big win on a Friday night in Los Angles and he catches all fourteen in an equally big win on Sunday afternoon. Then he and the Mets fly home to take on the Cardinals in a three-game set that will decide who leads the division for the stretch drive. The Kid doesn’t rest and the Mets win two of three.

Gary Carter’s Mets are in first place on September 12. New York has been hanging on this team since they came north and this season since it began — since Carter beat the Cardinals on April 9. And they’re still hanging on. Everybody is buzzing. This is the month we as Mets fans have been waiting for.

I’m going to need you to hold on tight for the last part of our tour. The going gets very tough, though no tougher than Carter. In the 32 games he plays in September and the first week of October, Gary totals 13 homers and 36 runs batted in all while catching day in and day out, guiding Gooden to his mindblowing 1.53 ERA. The National League will name him its Player of the Month.

Our next stop is Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, the final Sunday in September. You can see Gary Carter’s final home run of the 32 he hits for the season. It comes in the tenth inning of a game the Mets must have. It’s a two-run shot that rescues the team from slipping out of the pennant race. The Mets win, 9-7, and go to St. Louis with a puncher’s chance of catching the Cardinals, who went on a hot streak and have taken a three-game lead with six to play. Now you understand why you had to keep an eye on them.

We stop now at Busch Stadium and watch Carter the catcher do maybe his finest work of the year, bringing Darling through nine pressure-packed innings and Jesse Orosco through two besides. The Mets take a lead when Darryl Strawberry launches a homer in the top of the eleventh and it hits the stadium clock. The Mets win this one, 1-0. They win the next night, too, behind Gooden’s 24th win. Carter, as usual, is behind the plate and leaps up to congratulate him when it’s over.

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now on the tour how ebullient Gary Carter is throughout 1985. He’s an instant sensation in New York, and it transcends anything he brought with him in the way of reputation. He’s making commercials and he’s pumping his fist and he’s thanking the fans after the fans thank him. He’s lighting up Shea Stadium and he’s lighting up the away games on TV. He’s not leading the Mets alone. We haven’t mentioned Keith Hernandez’s myriad contributions and we’ve skimmed over some of the other players, but as we get close to the end of our tour, we come back again and again to Gary Carter and how he’s made this the season of a lifetime for all of us lucky enough to feel like we’re living it again.

We’re going to close the tour back at Shea Stadium. The Mets didn’t win the third game in St. Louis and the Cardinals clinched the division a couple of days later. It was heartbreaking in a sense, yet the whole season was so full of life that the pain heals by this final stop on the last day. Here’s Carter and all of his teammates taking one final curtain call. The love affair between these 1985 Mets — his Mets — and we Mets fans is so strong, so palpable, that the 98 wins they rack up…most of them in stirring fashion…only partly describe what a special bunch they are and what an extraordinary season it’s been.

See Gary there, right there, practically smiling his teeth out? See those arms in the air? And the way he’s blocking the plate, giving no ground? And coming through so many times when it counted like you couldn’t believe it counted? And drawing you into the Mets like you’ve never been drawn in before?

You spend 162 games with the Mets in 1985, you never forget somebody like that.

Never.

(Jason’s farewell to Gary is here.)

27 comments to He Put the 8 in 1985

  • nestornajwa

    R.I.P. Kid. Words fail.

  • Lenny65

    Such a loss, Kid is going to be missed. He was magic in 85 & 86, a Met hero in every sense of the word. Hernandez was the heart of those teams but Carter was the soul, none of it would have happened without him. Getting him in that trade was just so huge, he’d been such a Met killer for so long and everything changed from that Opening Day forward. As enthusiastic and clutch as they come. RIP #8.

  • srt

    Thanks for the memories, Kid – (and Greg).

    You will be missed.

  • Baseball Oogie

    Rest in peace, Kid.

    Thanks for all the memories.

  • Marc R

    Great work, Greg. You made that wonderful season feel like it was yesterday.

  • Steve D

    As far as regular season pennant race drama goes, I would rank Met seasons as follows:

    1. 1969
    2. 1973
    3. 1985

    So many stars have come to the Mets and phoned it in…not the Kid…he loved being a Met.

    Thanks Kid.

  • Bill Martin

    That day in December, 1984 I remember as if yesterday. I walked into my local deli on Long Island and picked up the Daily News… that back page is emblazoned in my mind…”METS GET CARTER” in the large, bold font that only the News could do. The 1984 season was magical as it brought us back to prominance; but with that trade, we KNEW we were championship calibur…. with that trade, we KNEW we wrestled New York from the Yankees. He became the heart to Hernandez’ soul. within two years he cemented himself into the legacy of New York baseball elite; not an easy task to accomplish. By the time he slashed that single to begin the rally in game 6; we already knew. It came as no surprise that “The Kid” started it; we’d learned to expect it. Thank you, Gary.. for one brief shining moment we were kings, and you lit the torch. :)

  • And with writers like you, Greg, we’ll never be able to forget him. Gary is (still can’t get myself to use the past tense “was”) unforgettable in Mets lore. There will never be another like him.

  • dgwphotography

    Greg,

    As usual you put just what I’m thinking so eloquently. !985 has always been my favorite season for all of the reasons you point out here. I still can’t believe it about Kid. Words fail me right now.

    • Thanks Dave. The best years are the years that engage you from start to finish — and the years you can’t help but engage. 1985 never allowed us to disengage, not even long enough to go out and get milk. Look at us, we’re still talking about it today.

  • TransMonk

    Bravo, Greg. RIP, Kid.

  • Ed in Westchester

    I’m just so darn sad right now. Having grown up during those years, it hurts to know that one of my favorites is gone, way too soon.
    Thanks for the write up Greg. Every Mets fan should read this today.

  • Dennis

    It was extremely touching to hear the words from Hojo, Doc, Darryl, Mookie and Darling last night on what an impact Gary Carter had on their lives not only as a player but as a man who lived his live the right way. RIP Kid, you will never be forgotten.

  • sturock

    I know you’ve written about this elsewhere, but why haven’t they retired Gary’s number? or Keith Hernandez’s, for that matter? There’s nothing about the players from that team on the outfield wall at the new stadium. We need to remember that the Mets were once really good, that someday they’ll be good again, and this mess will all be past us. Retiring a couple of numbers will help, even if it doesn’t win any games for us in 2012.

    • The endlessly looping question, Stu. One can hear the logic, not altogether irrational, that must go, “Well, if we do it for ‘A’ then we have to do it for ‘B’ but ‘C’ is really more deserving, and then there’s ‘D’…” No perfectly right answer, no perfectly wrong answer. But it’s not like that wall would be anything but enhanced by the numbers you mention.

  • Guy Kipp

    1985 was always the Mets season I’ve treasured the most. Yes, oddly, more than ’86.
    It would be nice if SNY queued up a 1985 broadcast for a sorely needed new Mets Classic entry. Maybe Gary Carter’s 3-home run game in San Diego would fit that bill.

    • Opening Day 1985 aired last night. Presumably they were saving it for just such a night. For nine innings, it was the perfect time capsule. In the tenth, the Channel 9 broadcast suddenly morphed into the St. Louis feed. Guess somebody in New York stopped recording before the big moment could unfurl. Thus, instead of Steve Zabriskie’s memorable, “Welcome to New York, Gary Carter!” we heard Mike Shannon kind of snort “game’s over” or something like that.

      Quirk aside, the game was a welcome sight and I imagine SNY will cue it up again soon.

  • dmg

    reminiscing with a friend, sal, today about great carter moments: we attended opening day 85, so of course had the walk-off — i said it was one of my peak baseball moments, sal said never mind baseball, it was one of his best moments ever.

    i reminded sal how once we were at the vet, in philly, with a local friend of his. carter’s at the plate, and sal turns to his friend and says, “next pitch, home run.” and it happens. his friend holds his head in his hands for the rest of the inning.

    and how both of us, watching Game 6 in different cities, had the same thought when it was two out nobody on in the tenth: “i’m glad carter’s coming up, because he’ll be damned if HE’S gonna make the last out.”

    i know he wasn’t always beloved, and often seemed either too cute by half or just a little hard to take. none of that matters. the fact is, gary carter brought joy to the game, every time he played. mets fans were so very lucky to have him as long as we did. i feel for his family, which has lost him so awfully young.

  • growler

    Greg,you break my heart. Such a nice tribute.

  • Patrick O'Hern

    SNY is whacked. Cant wait to hear Hank Greenwald’s call of Hendu’s homer in 80 when Stevie passes on. Ritchie Ashburn”s call of Seaver striking out Rose in 1st at bat,83 opener. Kid’s 5 homers in two games in Sept pennant race were when Keith left team for drug trials. As usual, he stepped up. Great job chronicling the year and the player, Greg.

    • Thanks Patrick. I’m going to keep that Hank Greenwald line handy, too.

    • I rewatched the last part of that broadcast a little while ago, and as weird and jarring as it was — and SNY definitely should have run a graphic explaining the switch — it was actually kind of edifying a couple of days later to hear Mike Shannon and Jay Randolph on KDSK as well as see the out-of-town camera angles. Before I had the sense that the whole world was against the Mets and thus wanted only the Met point of view on their games, I’d be fascinated to hear other announcers talk about our team.

      The tenth inning still should have come from Channel 9, mind you. But it was kind of OK on DVR.

  • Ed

    Beautiful job. 1985 was a great year for the Mets – ever so close as Murph would say. Thanks for taking us back. We were lucky to have Gary play for us, a man who gave so much of himself to his team and fans.

  • BlackCountryMet

    You know,I’m a recent(ish)convert to the Blue & Orange cause. I never saw Gary Carter play, til recently I’d not even seen too many of his highlights. But when getting into the Mets, I felt it important I understood the history, the great players from past teams etc. Of Course, the 86 team was an easy reference point and it was clear that it was a team full of “characters”. I think that because of this,for Kid to be so respected and loved by so many of that team, when he was the very antethis of what they did, showed what an incredible man he was. I really can’t add a lot to what everyone has written except to say that when people ask me what makes me want to be a Mets fan, one of the things I can say is “Gary Carter” was a Met. RIP Kid, a great player and A GREAT MAN

  • Great piece Greg – thank you for giving me back 1985 fopr a few precious minutes.

    The Kid was the best Catcher of his era and the missing piece that put the Mets over the top in 1986.

    To be fair – I think Carter’s low moment as a Met was getting thrown out at 2nd base by a mile – trying to make a single into a double so he could hit for the cycle (having already collected the HR, triple and single). There was that Mr. Spotlight aspect to him – but it’s a minor quibble – he was always a gamer who raised the level of play of his pitchers and everyone around him.

    His hit in the World Series in the bottom of the 10th with 2 outs and the bases empty and the season about to end: that was pure determination and excellence in the toughest pressure situation a batter can face in Major League Baseball. Carter faced the abyss and started the rally that made us Champions.

    No one can ever take that away from Gary.

    We’ll never forget him or his joy for the game. A great Met – a great Catcher – and great person. We’ll miss you, kid.