Today continues our countdown to the start of Indians pitchers and catchers reporting to Goodyear, Arizona on February 20. We’ll count down the days, profiling a former Indian who wore the corresponding number. Some players will be memorable, others just our favorites and some, the only one we could find who wore that number. Today, we chronicle the career of Joe Carter.
By Mike Brandyberry
Joe Carter will live in baseball history for his World Series winning home run off of Mitch Williams in Game Six of the 1993 Series, but before he became a legend, he was a part of two significant Cleveland Indians’ trades.
When the Indians traded Rick Sutcliffe to the Chicago Cubs in June 1984, Sutcliffe went 16-1 and became the National League’s Cy Young Award winner, but the Indians received a collection of young players to build around, with Carter being the marquee. The youthful Carter had the speed and athleticism to play all three outfield positions, in addition to first base. His break out year was 1986, when he hit .302, with 29 home runs and led the American League with 121 runs batted in. He became a member of the 30 home run, 30 stolen base club in 1987.
However, after four successful seasons with the Tribe, the team decided to trade Carter to the San Diego Padres. Carter had won a $1.15 million arbitration hearing prior to 1989, and would become a free agent after 1990. The Tribe, suspecting Carter would fly the coup for a higher salary elsewhere, sent the slugger to San Diego for Sandy Alomar Jr., Carlos Baerga and Chris James. The trade was the one of the first moves to build the Tribe teams of the mid-1990s.
After a season in San Diego, Carter became a free agent and signed a lucrative long term deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was the highest paid player in baseball from 1991-94. Carter became an All-Star in his new home, north of the border. With the opening of the SkyDome, the Blue Jays had the salary to build a team to win World Series titles. Carter would be the cleanup hitter on both the 1992 winner over the Atlanta Braves and the 1993 winner against the Philadelphia Phillies. Carter’s game winning home run in Game Six of the 1993 Series gave the Blue Jays the title and was only the second Series-winning walk off home run in MLB history.
Carter remained with the Blue Jays through 1997 before playing his final season in 1998 with the San Francisco Giants and Baltimore Orioles. Carter retired with 396 home runs and 1445 runs batted in for his career. Carter only received 3.8% of the Baseball Hall of Fame vote in his first year on the ballot in 2004 and was removed.
Photo: Jerry Lodriguss