I haven't said much about the passing of Gary Carter. I knew that he had a baseball life before coming to New York in December 1984 (and I didn't start following until October 1986). But I don't think I had ever appreciated what he meant to the Montreal Expos and the city of Montreal.
Apparently, he meant a lot to that city, evident by a lot of stories and remembrances from the Montreal media. And no more so than what the Montreal Canadiens did on Sunday night before their game. I also didn't appreciate how much the city of Montreal holds onto the Expos (if MLB teams are looking at moving, I think that city would welcome a new Expos team, especially in a new stadium).
The baseball team itself left town after the 2004 season (so this will be the 8th season without baseball in Montreal), and a player who came up almost 40 years ago and was traded away over 27 years ago has been held in such high regard by that city that the entire city mourned his loss.
There are a lot of Mets fans and former players grieving along with the city of Montreal. Carter was the final piece in the puzzle of the mid-1980s New York Mets. By all accounts, he was a standup guy. Mets fans have written their own tributes (some in video form) to the player known as "The Kid". There was even a gathering the day after he died at the site of Shea Stadium where Mets fans came to mourn together and sign some tributes, with a teardrop number 8 logo collecting condolences from Mets fans (the logo is also part of a t-shirt being sold to help benefit the Gary Carter foundation).
But in Montreal, a city where the legacy of the baseball team seems to be owned by the hockey team (the only other top-level sports franchise in a league associated with the United States in that city), and where the baseball team's mascot was orphaned and adopted by the hockey team, the memories of the players that gave that baseball team a personality and something to cheer for live on. In 2005, after the hockey lockout had ended and the baseball team had been in another city for an entire season, the Montreal Canadiens honored the legacy of the Expos by raising a banner holding their lifetime (1969-2004) and their retired numbers to the rafters to sit along side what is now over 100 years of hockey history from that city. Gary Carter and Andre Dawson were on hand for the ceremony, along with new Canadiens mascot Youppi, all wearing Canadiens hockey jerseys with their baseball names and numbers (something Youppi! still wears). The legacy of the Expos are important in Montreal.
That brings me to Sunday night. The Canadiens players all came out for warmups (the hockey equivalent to Batting Practice) wearing recreations of the same #8/Carter Canadiens hockey jersey that The Kid had worn on that night in 2005. The Canadiens will announce this week how those 20-something jerseys will be sold to benefit the Gary Carter Foundation. MetsBlog.com has pictures of the warmups.
The Canadiens had a tribute to Carter which featured 2 large-sized Gary Carter Montreal Expos baseball cards projected onto the ice from side boards to side boards. They can be seen in this video from NHL.com (and also seen on MLB.com), which features the rest of the tribute. At the end, Youppi! in his old Montreal Expos jersey featuring a new #8 patch in Carter's honor, came out to lead the fans in a moment of silence where he was greeted by a moment of loud cheers. My suggestion - Youppi! should wear that #8 patch on his hockey jersey for the rest of the season (just as the Expos would have done and the Mets most likely will do).
I posted this on twitter late last night after seeing the video tribute from Montreal.
I am sure the Mets will do something to honor The Kid. Uniform patches yet to be designed (they probably won't wear them until Opening Day, so there's some time to get it right). A moment of silence before the first Spring Training home game, before the first NY Mets regular season home game in April, and before the first St. Lucie Mets regular season home game also in April will most likely be held. The Mets had a video tribute for Carter playing at most games after Carter was first diagnosed, so I'm sure something similar will be seen at Citi Field on Opening Day. I'm pretty certain the Mets will get this right. Montreal certainly has. So have the Mets fans.
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