Carter, Joe 1960–
Joe Carter 1960–
Professional baseball player
Considered one of the most productive hitters in baseball, Joe Carter launched into superstardom in 1993, when, at the bottom of the ninth inning in game six in of the World Series, his three-run home run brought the trailing Toronto Blue Jays up to a winning score. He was the only player to close a World Series with a come-from-behind home run, and his three-run shot brought Joe Carter international recognition.
Carter was born on March 7, 1960, and was one of the older siblings in a family that soon included 11 children. His parents, Joe and Athelene Carter, encouraged him to play sports. The backyard served as a baseball field, where the Carter children played. It was on that family field that Carter first dreamed of batting a World Series-winning home run.
Carter was a natural athlete, excelling in every sport he attempted. At Oklahoma City’s Millwood High School, he was a forward on the basketball team, quarterback of the football team, a track star, and a pitcher for the baseball team. His high school track exploits have become the stuff of local legend. The story goes that Carter, pulled from the crowd of the spectators at the state’s regional track meet, was called upon to perform the long jump, which, although he had never even practiced the event, he won. He then won the state championship a week later.
A top athlete, Carter was vigorously recruited by college and university scouts. Carter selected Wichita State in Kansas, in part because he did not want to move too far from home. An accounting major, Carter decided to concentrate on baseball, rather than other sports.
In 1979, during the first part of his first college season, Carter was consigned to the bench. Then, after several calls from Carter’s father, his coach decided to give the freshman outfielder a chance. In a five-game series against Texas Tech, Carter’s batting average was .438 and he hit five home runs. Such a performance ensured that Carter would never be stuck warming the bench again. He was named to the college All-America second team in both 1979 and 1980. He was also regularly named to the NCAA All-District Five and the All-Missouri Valley Conference teams. Sporting News named him college player of the year in 1981.
At a Glance…
Born Joseph Chris Carter on March 7, 1960, in Oklahoma City, OK; son of Joseph and Athelene Carter; married Diana; children: Kia Kionne, Ebony Shante, Jordan Alexander, Education: Wichita State University, attended, 1978-81,
Career: Professional baseball player. First round pick of the Chicago Cubs in free agent draft, 1981; Chicago Cubs, 1981-84; Cleveland Indians, 1984-90; San Diego Padres organization, 1990; Toronto Blue Jays, 1990-97; Baltimore Orioles, 1998; San Francisco Giants, beginning 1998; Chicago Cubs, broadcast commentator, 2001-.
Awards: Sporting News College Player of the Year, 1981; Sporting News “Silver Slugger” award, 1991; named to American League All-Star team, 1991,1992, 1993.
Addresses: Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, 1060 West Addison, Chicago, IL 60613.
Carter entered the annual June free agent draft in 1981, becoming the Chicago Cubs’ first round pick. He left college for the Cubs’ AA team in Midland, Texas. That year he batted a respectable .269, driving in 35 runs. When he returned to the Midland team for the l982 season, he was assigned to the outfield. With 136 hits in 110 games and a batting average of .319, he was named a Texas League All-Star. In 1983 Carter moved to the Cubs’ AAA farm club in Iowa, where he batted .307 with 27 doubles and 22 home runs. For this performance, he earned a Rookie of the Year award from the American Association.
Carter was called up to the major leagues in 1983. His first hit for the Chicago Cubs came on August 1st, during a game against Philadelphia’s Phillies. Although Carter expected to be named to the Cubs’ permanent roster the following year, after spring training he was sent back to Iowa. Then, in June of 1984 he was traded to the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians were struggling. Often finishing seasons in last place in the American League’s East division, it had been more than 35 years since the team had won a pennant. Carter’s arrival, and his 1985 batting average of .262 and 15 home runs were a welcome addition.
On this dismal team, Carter was the captain and star player. Batting .302 in 1986, he led the American League in runs batted in (121) and runs produced (200). In 1987 he hit 32 home runs, helping Cleveland finish the season 37 games behind the division champion. The following year, with 32 home runs and stolen 31 bases, he became the first 30-30 man in the history of the team. In 1988 he ranked among the American League’s top ten in home runs, runs batted in, gamewinning runs batted in, total bases, extra base hits, and triples. In 1989 he hit a career-high 35 home runs.
Yet he received no recognition for his stellar statistics. Carter was never voted onto an All-Star team, not even as an alternate. Although he did not mind the absence of media attention, Carter longed to bring his talents to a team that had a chance of making it to the postseason.
For much of his career, as Sports Illustrated’s Richard Hoffer observed, Carter “was considered as much a part of Cleveland as the steel plants.” But after Carter turned down a five-year, $9.5 million contract extension in 1989, and was subsequently awarded a oneyear, $1.63 million fee in arbitration, blue-collar fans in the city began to criticize him. Carter’s requests that his family be provided free transportation to away games further inflamed fans. He was soon greeted at the plate with boos and jeers. “I don’t mind being criticized,” Carter told the Wichita Eagle. “That’s part of the ball game. I’ve been criticized my whole life. It gets frustrating at times, but as long as I can look myself in the mirror and say, ‘I’ve always given it my best every game,’ I have nothing else to worry about.”
When his 1989 statistics reached a career low with a .243 average and 112 strikeouts, critics claimed both his offensive and defensive abilities had declined. “I’m sure they expect a lot out of me, but there’s nothing wrong with that,” Carter told the Wichita Eagle. “I expect a lot out of myself. I know I can hit two or three home runs a ball game. I can make things happen. People expect that and I expect it of myself. But I know it’s not going to happen all the time. There’s going to be days when you’re going to be terrible, and days when you look like Superman.”
When the Indians proposed trading Carter, several teams expressed interest, including the San Diego Padres. The Padres signed Carter to a three-year, $9.2 million contract, and, in exchange, the Indians gained catcher Sandy Alomar, along with two minor league players. “I’m definitely relieved that it has finally happened,” Carter told the Wichita Eagle when the deal was finalized on in December of 1989. “We’ve been talking about a trade for two years, so it’s nice to finally get it done.” He added, “I know San Diego has a great ballclub and it’s a chance to compete on a contender. I’m looking forward to a new place and new challenges.”
During his first and only season with the Padres, Carter batted only .232. However, he did hit 24 home runs and batted in 115 runs. He did not expect to be traded again, but on December 5, 1990, the Padres traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays. Bob Elliott of the Washington Post observed that an announcement of the trade “was greeted by applause from the baseball community, hungry for a good old-fashioned blockbuster.” Carter was thrilled. Not only was he making a three-year, $19.5 million salary, but he now had his chance to play on a contending team—and maybe even make it to the World Series.
Once Toronto had captured the American League East in 1991, Carter, who batted a .273 average and 33 home runs, finally received the recognition he deserved. That year he was named to the All-Star Team. Then, in 1992, the Blue Jays made it to the World Series. Carter hit two home runs in his first World Series, including the first round-tripper in the team’s World Series history. He was again named to the All-Star team. Carter suddenly found himself surrounded by fan and media hysteria.
The highpoint of Carter’s career came when, in 1993, the Blue Jays made it to another World Series, facing the Philadelphia Phillies. By the ninth inning of the final game, the team trailed by one run. There were two men on base when Carter came up to bat. The pressure was on, but when Carter’s bat made contact with a fastball, he sent it sailing 379 feet to land behind the left field wall in the Blue Jay bullpen. Carter told Sports Illustrated, “Ninety-nine times out of 100, I hook that pitch way foul. I don’t know why, but thank God this one stayed fair.”
Sports Illustrated ’s Steve Rushin described the thrilling scene: “As Phillie reliever Mitch Williams left the field in torment, Carter joyously triple-jumped around the base paths at the SkyDome, bounding up and down like Neil Armstrong on the moon. Which is, in effect, who Joe Carter had just become. He said he understood that his life had changed with that swing, that he was now a piece of history, the kind of athletic artifact that Kirk Gibson is wherever he goes. So be it.” The Blue Jays had won their second consecutive World Series with a score of 8-6.
Carter continued to perform throughout his career with the Blue Jays. Although he missed several weeks of play in 1994 due to a broken thumb, he still batted in 31 runs by April, breaking the record. In 1995 he batted an average of .253, with 25 home runs and 76 runs batted in. In 1996, Carter reached several career milestones. On April 18th he made hit number 1800. Then he hit his 350th home run on July 23rd. He also became the first Blue Jay and the third player to ever launch a home run ball into the SkyDome’s fifth deck. In 1997 he batted in over 100 runs, slugging an average of .399.
During the offseason of 1998, Carter underwent shoulder surgery. That year he left the Blue Jays and joined the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent. However, his stay with the Orioles was brief, and he was traded to the San Francisco Giants in July. “I just wish I could have done a lot better than I did,” he said of his time with the Orioles, as quoted on the sportserver.com website. He had averaged only .247 with the Orioles.
In 2001 Carter left the outfield for the broadcast booth. When the Chicago Cubs’ longtime color commentator, Steve Stone, retired, Carter and former pitcher Dave Otto were hired as replacements. Carter’s game analysis was broadcasted on WGN-TV, while Otto’s commentary appeared on Chicago’s FOX Sports Net. John F. McDonough, vice president of marketing and broadcasting for the Cubs, said that Carter would “give the Cubs a wealth of baseball experience in our broadcast booth.”
Carter, who as a boy dreamed of hitting the home run that would win a World Series, has been lucky enough to see his dream come true. “Don’t be afraid to live out your dreams,” Carter told Sports Illustrated after batting his famous home run. “Don’t be afraid of failure, either. If you fail, so what? If I was out in the ninth inning, there was another guy coming up behind me.”
Newsmakers, Issue 4, Gale, 1994.
Who’s Who Among African Americans, 13th edition, Gale, 2000.
New York Times, July 24, 1989; December 8, 1992.
The Sporting News, March 2, 1998.
Sports Illustrated, April 16, 1990; November 1, 1993.
Washington Post, July 4, 1991.
Wichita Eagle, October 8, 1989; November 13, 1989; December 7, 1989; March 25, 1990; October 8, 1991.
Biography Resource Center, Gale, 2001, http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC.
http://members.tripod.com/~skeeter8409/carter.html (August 8, 2001).
http://www.archive.sportsserver.com/new.../feat/archive/072498.bal71174.html (August 8, 2001).
—Mark Kram and Jennifer M. York
"Carter, Joe 1960–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/carter-joe-1960
"Carter, Joe 1960–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved April 22, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/carter-joe-1960
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