Carter A Piece Of Indians History
By Craig Gifford
Joe Carter had his best years and biggest moment of his baseball career as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. The greatest Indian of those teams that struggled to win games in the 1980s may well best be known to Cleveland sports fans for being traded away in a deal that laid the foundation for the Tribe’s success in the 90s. However, on Sunday, Carter will be immortalized with a bobblehead doll day.
Does he deserve such an honor? Yes.
The key statement in that first paragraph is Carter was the best player to wear a Tribe uniform in the 1980s. For six seasons he did all he could to get the Indians over the hump. The piles upon piles of losses cannot be pinned to Carter.
During his time in Cleveland, from 1984-1989, Carter hit 151 home runs. That included a career-high 35 in 1989 and 32 in 1987 – the season Sports Illustrated erroneously predicted the Tribe would find their way back to baseball’s postseason for the first time since 1954. The popular magazine was only eight years early.
Still, in 1987, Carter had the 32 home runs and added 102 RBI. The season before, it was 29 homers and a league-leading 121 runs driven in, while batting .302. Remember, those were impressive power numbers before the steroid era bloated home run statistics in the 1990s.
Carter had amazing seasons with truly bad Cleveland teams. It is why he is not more recognized as a Cleveland great. Most people do not think back to the 1980s Indians teams with many fond memories.
After 1989, with the Indians realizing a major overhaul was needed to get on the right track, management traded the team’s star player to the San Diego Padres. It was a shocking move, but brought two major pieces to what would become contending teams for years to come. In the mega deal, the Tribe landed second baseman Carlos Baerga and catcher Sandy Alomar, Jr. Both went on to become all-stars. Alomar, after more than a decade on the field and two trips to the World Series with the Wahoo Warriors is currently the Tribe’s bench coach. The trade worked well – especially considering a third player was Chris James, who had several productive seasons with Cleveland.
The deal worked well for Carter, too, who was traded to Toronto after one season with the Padres. As a Blue Jay, Carter was a big part of back-to-back World Champions in 1992 and 1993. The 1993 series will always be remembered for Carter hitting a series-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning against Philadelphia closer Mitch Williams. The image of Carter running the bases with his arms stretchEd High in triumph is forever etched in baseball lore.
Carter has the big moment and nearly had the overall numbers to be a Hall of Famer. The numbers were very good, but he is left just short of serious hall consideration. He had 396 home runs, with 2,184 hits. Both are high, but nowhere near the hall-clinching numbers of 500 and 3,000. He goes down as very good player with one of the top 20 (arguably) moments in the game’s history.
Joe Carter may be most remembered in a Blue Jays uniform and for netting the Indians two of the team’s more popular players of the 1990s. However, Carter’s body of work deserves to be remembered throughout baseball and on the shores of Lake Erie. What better way than with a bobblehead doll, one of today’s most sought after pieces of sports memorabilia.