Gary Carter remembered for his friendship, generous smile
With tears welling in his eyes and a Montreal Expos cap on his head, former Expos star Warren Cromartie could barely begin to talk about his best friend, Gary Carter, without choking up.
When he finished his speech, though, with a passionate call for baseball to return to Montreal, he flashed a smile that would’ve made Carter proud.
Cromartie and other esteemed athletes and guests came together on March 18 for the eighth annual Cummings Centre Celebrity Sports Breakfast, in honour of the Expos Hall of Fame catcher who died February 16. The event raises money for Seniors in Crisis, a foundation that provides financial support to seniors in need.
They also came to pay tribute to Carter, a beloved figure in the Montreal sports community.
“Gary was just the best,” Cromartie told the crowd. “Everything you saw on camera, that big smile, the things he did with the kids, it was all genuine.”
Kid—a song by Montreal-born rapper Annakin Slayd and Carter’s nickname as a player—was played, and Slayd said a few words about the ball-player. Slayd has made a name for himself with sports-themed songs for the Canadiens and Expos. Kid is a tribute to Carter.
“He was my hero, in all sports and even higher than some of the artists I looked up to as a kid,” Slayd said. “To think that this man is no longer with us and that I’ll never see that smile again is really hard.”
Kid looks back at Carter’s best moments with the Expos and chronicles Slayd’s special moment with him in his last game for the Expos, in 1992. Slayd had spent the previous night making a sign for Carter, and snuck down to the lower-level seating in hopes that Carter would acknowledge the sign. Carter gave him a thumbs-up and a big smile.
The next day, the front page of The Gazette had a picture of Carter with Slayd’s sign in the background, icing on the cake for his biggest fan.
“He’d been sick for a while, so I thought I had prepared myself, and at first I was okay,” Slayd said. “But when I started editing the video and putting the clips together, I realized what a big part of my childhood I had lost.”
Other guests also had fond memories of the Expos catcher, including Gazette sports reporter Dave Stubbs.
“Gary Carter was the first professional athlete I ever interviewed, in 1977,” Stubbs said. “Then in 1993, when the Expos retired his number, I told him that and he said he remembered.
“He had done so many interviews, I told him there was no way he remembered that one, but then he told me exactly what we had talked about that day in perfect detail.”
Carter was also great for the community in Montreal, Stubbs said.
“He was a tremendous man. I remember seeing Gary at some minor-league softball tournaments, just sitting in the bleachers for hours signing autographs. He didn’t have to be there, but he wanted to make the kids happy.”
Stubbs talked about another athlete who seems to be gaining more and more respect for his work in the community, Montreal Canadiens’ forward Max Pacioretty.
“It’s a Sunday after back-to-back games and I’m sure he’d rather be sleeping in right now, but it doesn’t surprise me at all that he’s here,” Stubbs said. “The way Max has engaged with the community of Montreal is really special.”
Guest of honour Alan Maislin runs the Israeli Ice Hockey Federation, which has been growing considerably in recent years.
“The most amazing thing was hearing ‘Hatikvah’ and chants of ‘Yisrael’ while watching games in Israel,” Maislin told the crowd. “Sports transcends everything.”
Israel’s consul-general for Quebec, Joel Lion, presented Maislin with a leadership award.
Côte St. Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather announced to roaring applause that the baseball field at Trudeau Park will be renamed Gary Carter Field.
The event ended with a short auction led by Montreal-born comedian Joey Elias, as autographed sticks and jerseys from Pacioretty and teammate P.K. Subban were auctioned off. Subban made a surprise visit at the end of the breakfast, and received a rock star’s welcome from the kids and adults on hand.
Subban almost took the spotlight off Carter, but not quite. With Carter’s big smile plastered on the screen and Cromartie’s words still reverberating, no one would forget about “the Kid” and the lasting impression he made on Montreal sports fans everywhere.
The breakfast raised $160,000.