Gary Carter died yesterday. The Hall of Fame catcher was the heart and soul of the New York Mets 1986 World Champions, the unquestioned team leader on the field and in the clubhouse.

Carter died from brain cancer, a disease I know very well since my father died from it 20 years ago. In those 20 years, not much has changed in how they treat people with aggressive tumors like Carter’s. First they tell you the bad news. Then they give you some hope that there are treatment options. Then you learn that the treatment options just extend your life a few months before the tumors start growing again. Then you start facing reality.

Carter was the kind of player you want on your team. He never gave up, never stopped believing. He was known as Kid, because he was always smiling and always enthusiastic about the game, like we all were when we were kids. For that he was mocked, taunted and criticized by everyone except his teammates, who understood what kind of man he was.

In the first game Gary Carter ever played for the Mets he hit the game winning, walk off home run in the 10th inning. In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the Mets were down three games to two, and down two runs in the bottom of the 10th. There were two outs and nobody on when Carter came up, and most of his teammates were already in the clubhouse realizing they just lost the Series. With two strikes on him, Carter got a hit. When he got to first base, he told the coach there was no way he was going to make the last out of the World Series.

Here's what I learned from Gary Carter:

Be real, be yourself
Carter was the Kid. Always smiling and always fired up. He always played hard. He was a vocal leader who got in your face if you screwed up. While the rest of the Mets were partying and cheating on their wives, Carter was getting his rest and working on his swing. A lot of players and fans thought that was an act. They thought he was a self-promoting jerk. They thought he was phony but he was just being himself and he was comfortable with who he was.

Never quit
With two outs in the bottom of the 10th in Game 6, Keith Hernandez was in the club house having a smoke. He was thinking about getting drunk that night. That’s when Carter got the hit that started the winning rally. Some players just know how to seize the moment.

The lasting image of Gary Carter for many fans is one with him laughing. He always had fun on the field. It was always a kid’s game for the Kid. It was always full of pure joy.  

You can’t win them all
There are some battles you are just not going to win. Like brain cancer. It will kick your butt no matter how strong or how positive or how tough you are. Sometimes you just have to accept the inevitable.

If I were the Mets PR counsel, I would be planning a ceremony to retire Carter’s number. It’s no secret the Mets could use some good PR. Met fans don't have much to cheer about these days but seeing number 8 on the outfield wall at Citi Field would be a constant reminder that beyond all the money and greed there is still a lot of good in baseball. And a lot of fun.

Here’s looking at you Kid.