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Best New York catcher ever? Not Gary Carter

GARY CARTER, CATCHER Career stats: .262, 324 HR,

Career stats: .262, 324 HR, 1225 RBI
Mets stats: .249, 89 HR, 349 RBI
When the Mets acquired Carter from Montreal in 1985, it was the final piece in the 1986 championship puzzle. Carter added a veteran leader alongside Keith Hernandez, helped manage the Mets' young pitching staff, and delivered several clutch hits, including the one that started the two-out, Game 6 rally in the 1986 World Series. Photo Credit: Newsday file photo

I spent my Thursday afternoon at CBS' annual NCAA viewing party, then my evening at Mickey Mantle's, where MSG was celerating the launch of a new series called "The Lineup: New York's All-Time Best Baseball Players."

Along the way I had enjoyable conversations with an interesting assortment of people, including Craig Carton, Wally Szczerbiak, James Dolan, model Paige Butcher, Will Leitch, Tony (Paulie Walnuts) Sirico and Gary Carter.

I told Mr. Carter that I often have posted his New York Newsday commercial from 1986, but he said his Northville gas commercial from that era was far more embarrassing.

(If anyone out there can find video of it, I'd be appreciative.)

Carter is one of five panelists for the 10-part MSG series, which premieres at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. The others are Fran Healy, Sparky Lyle, Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau and Leitch, formerly of and currently of New York magazine and Sportings News.

The panel's mission is to select the best player at each position in New York baseball history, plus a manager.

So, did Carter have to recuse himself when the discussion turned to catchers?

"I was in the top five, so of course I didn't talk about myself," he said. But he indicated the discussion mostly was a moot point.

That's what happens when one of the candidates at your position is one of the most beloved baseball figures in New York history. And won 10 World Series. And three MVP awards.

"As long as he's there, it's kind of a no-brainer,'' Carter said, referring to Yogi Berra and technically revealing more than he was supposed to about the voting.

There are other no-brainers, such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, but Carter said, "You'll be surprised by several others."

It will be a challenge to avoid a Yankees-heavy lineup. Jackie Robinson presumably has a good shot at second base, and Christy Mathewson and Tom Seaver are stronger candidates as the starting pitcher than is Whitey Ford.

Some positions have too many good candidates, but leftfield presents an interesting decision. (Hirdt said the panel did not take the easy way out by, for example, moving Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio to left.)

Hirdt noted how often in New York baseball "players at the same position have been prominent at the same time."

In addition to Willie, Mickey and the Duke, Hirdt mentioned Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez at first base and Phil Rizzuto, Pee Wee Reese and Alvin Dark at shortstop.

Said Carter: "I found the whole thing very intriguing."


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