Gary Carter memorial service celebrates a life well-lived
It was a fitting sendoff on Friday nght for a Hall-of-Fame player, a man that seemed to only became fully appreciated as truly genuine by some of his major-league contemporaries, after he left the game. Some people thought he could not be for real in the ever-respectful way he treated teammates, opponents, fans and the media. He always was consistent and even years after he had left the spotlight, he remained the same.
The measure of his final acceptance and respect could be seen in the number of his major-league peers that made the journey to attend the service. There was an estimated crowd of 700 well wishers packed into the Christ Fellowship Church on Friday evening in Palm Beach Gardens to tell stories about Gary Carter and to celebrate a life well-lived.
Highlights of the evening, on an altar decorated with framed portraits of The Kid and his family, were an unscheduled eulogy by Johnny Bench and emotional tributes to their dad from his three children, Christy, Kimmy and D.J. Carter's college team that he manaed for two years was there wearing home jerseys. Pitcher Logan Thomas brought the crowd to tears with a moving tribute to their fallen manager, the man they called "Skip."
The list of 16 former Expos players in attendance included: Andre Dawson, Rusty Staub, Tony Perez, Warren Cromartie, Tim Raines, Blll Gullickson, Scott Sanderson, Jeff Reardon, John Wetteland, Tommy Hutton, Rondell White, Claude Raymond, Cliff Floyd, Dennis Martinez, Andres Galarraga and broadcaster Dave Van Horne. The number of ex-teamates and the emotions of the Expos contingent were really heartwarming to see.
It was a family tribute well done and well deserved for the Hall-of-Fame catcher who began his career as an Expos third-round draft choice in '72 out of high school in Fullerton, California. An assortment of Mets and an array of Carter's fellow Hall-of-Famers were also there. His membership in the Hall-of-Fame was always a joyous accomplishment for him.
During the course of the post-memorial reception, someone asked me about the Blue Jays because that was the camp I was covering. The name Brett Lawrie came up and he was praised him for the way he played the game, mentioned in the same breath as Carter himself -- brash, exuberant, loud and proud, with constant hustle and effort.
"I take it obviously as a plus," a humbled Lawrie said on Saturday. "Any time you can get recognized in another way with a guy that plays the game like that and you get put in that same spotlight it's pretty cool. I'm thankful. I just try to play the game hard. It's pretty cool."