It is a dank, dismal morning in Syosset, N.Y., a good day to pull the covers over your head. Mets catcher Gary Carter, 33, opens one eye at 8:30, awaiting the news from his battered body. "I'm feeling pretty good," he thinks. He cautiously moves an arm, a leg and then, the real test, his neck and upper back. "Hey, maybe I really am feeling good."
He risks getting up and is elated: "I am feeling good. I am being rewarded." And why not? In a 13-year career he has had three knee operations, two broken thumbs, three broken ribs and ligament tears in each ankle. For this season, add a bruised toe, an aching right knee and a nagging back ailment.
But Carter is upbeat. By comparison, Ernie Banks was a pessimist. Carter bounds into the kitchen for coffee. His wife, Sandy, is already there with Christy, 9, and Kimmy, 6, who are making pancakes with batter too thin on a skillet too cool. D.J., 2, refuses to get dressed. There is bedlam.
Through it all, Carter remains relentessly happy. "I know some people think my smile is too big," he says. "But all I do is smile and enjoy the game. Is there anything wrong with that?"
Carter won't be playing today, though. He is routinely given a rest when day games follow night games, as today's game does. "Hey," he says, "maybe I'll pinch-hit and win the game."
At 10:23 Carter jumps into his Volvo to pick up pitcher Doug Sisk. A few minutes later Carter tells Sisk how he won the national Punt, Pass and Kick competition when he was seven and visited the White House. Asks Sisk, "Who was President then? Lincoln?" Carter chortles.
At 11:23, Carter arrives at Shea Stadium. Fans cheer; he waves and smiles. He walks happily into the stadium, greeting Dwight Gooden. With enthusiasm, of course.
It is drizzling, so pregame activity is light. Carter eventually heads for the bullpen, where he and pitcher John Mitchell talk about how Mitchell once almost drowned in an ocean accident. They also talk baseball. Some. Before the fifth inning, Carter trots in to the dugout. Ready if needed. Bat is in hand. He isn't needed. The Mets whip the Phillies 8-3.
At 5:45, Carter eases the Volvo past fans who scream his name and beat on the car. "Animals," says a companion. "Naw," says Carter, "they're just big fans." And away he goes.
"Hey, what a great day," he says. "I didn't make any errors or any outs." At 6:23 he pulls into the driveway. He has dinner with the wife and kids, followed by a game of Monopoly. "I'd be silly to say every day is a great day, but most of them are," he says. "This one was."