Gary Carter: 'A gracious and giving person'

by Tom Gallagher

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Much has been written about Christianity in professional sports over the past several months since NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, an outspoken Evangelical Christian, excited both fans and the devout.

Now we have a new superhero in NBA point guard Jeremy Lin, who exploded onto the scene this month with his superb play contributing to a New York Knicks seven-game winning streak. Lin said this week Tebow is an inspiration to him because Tebow is integrating his faith with his athleticism.

In this environment, we might overlook the fact that faith-centered professional athletes have been around for a long, long time. They may have been overlooked by the media and fans. We lost one of those athletes this week to brain cancer.

Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter died at the age of 57. He was a devout Christian.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, "In the oft-ignorant, oft-shallow world of baseball, Carter was deemed a geek from the very beginning. He didn't drink and didn't smoke. He didn't curse and he didn't talk smack. He showed up to work early, played hard, embraced home-plate collisions and -- by all accounts -- worked his tail off. He was loyal to his wife, Sandy, and an involved and dedicated father to their three children."

Carter's 11 All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers, 324 home runs and 1,225 RBI speak loudly for the career of a man whose bust (featuring, after much deliberation, an Expos cap) sits in the halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Yet for me, one tiny moment from a career of many enormous ones stands out.

In 1985, midway through the Mets' 98-win season, Carter received a call from a producer for "Good Morning America." The show was looking for an athlete to participate in an on-air bubble-gum-blowing contest and Carter -- who, true to form, always opted for Bubblelicious and Hubba Bubba over Skoal and Copenhagen -- seemed perfectly suited for the task.

To the producer's surprise, Carter insisted on a condition.

"I'll do it," he said, "but the gum has to be sugar-free. I don't want to set a bad example."

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