Mets' fans welcome 'Kid' back to Shea

Updated: July 29, 2003, 10:52 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Gary Carter's Hall of Fame ring has taken the place on his finger previously occupied by his 1986 World Series ring.

But memories of that special season were first and foremost in his mind Tuesday night at Shea Stadium, where he made the curtain call a regular ritual.

"The greatest thrill of my career was that '86 world championship season," he said.

Carter, inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, returned to the field where he won the only world championship of his 19-year major league career to be honored by the New York Mets.

"I have now retired, for the time being, my World Series ring only until there's another event or something like that and the Hall of Fame ring will go on this hand," Carter said. "But my wife is with me, I have to wear my wedding ring right now."

"The Kid" proudly displayed his newest piece of jewelry that adorns his right hand, but Carter said it won't always be worn.

"This is going to be a nice keepsake," he said.

Home plate had Carter's No. 8 in the center during the pregame ceremony, during which the Mets and Brewers players were up on the top step of the dugouts.

Carter will be honored this weekend in Montreal by the Expos, the team with which he spent his first 11 seasons.

The split allegiance created an issue for Carter as to which cap he'd be wearing on his Hall of Fame plaque -- the Expos won out. But as part of this ceremony, interim general manager Jim Duquette presented Carter with a replica plaque -- this one had him donning a Mets hat.

Carter, now the Mets' roving catching instructor, was also presented with a motorcycle.

The catcher was a key piece to the Mets puzzle as they completed their revival from hapless losers in the early part of the 1980s to consistent winners in the latter half of the decade.

Carter followed the arrival of Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, and completed the winning unit when he was traded to New York from Montreal before the 1985 season.

"When Gary came behind the dish, it was a complete package,'' former manager Davey Johnson said.

That defensive presence honed the Mets' young pitching staff, and his right-handed bat occupied the cleanup spot in the lineup -- splitting up lefties Hernandez and Strawberry.

Johnson was impressed that Carter -- his co-captain along with Hernandez -- kept his own book on opposing hitters that was separate from team scouting reports.

Tuesday night was Johnson's first appearance at Shea Stadium for a Mets function since the team fired him early in the 1990 season.

"My personality is not one that lives a lot in the past,'' Johnson said before posing for a picture with Carter and other former players Howard Johnson, Bob Ojeda and Rusty Staub.

"It's special for me to see these guys again,'' Johnson added. "It brings back memories. It is very special for me. I've known him a long time and it's great to see him get honored and get recognition.''

Hernandez and Tim Teufel were also present, and Carter said he received a call from Lenny Dykstra earlier in the day.

Carter never shied from cameras and the spotlight during his career, but he's ready to enjoy a more private lifestyle now that it has culminated with baseball's highest honor.

"I'm exhausted, I really am," he said. "I'm just really kind of looking forward to getting home and throwing my shorts and a T-shirt on and enjoying my family a little bit, because I've just been on a whirlwind."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press