Joe Carter

The exclamation point on Carter’s fine career was his three-run, ninth-inning homer off the Phillies’ Mitch Williams that gave the Blue Jays their second straight World Series victory in 1993. After Bill Mazeroski‘s blast in 1960, it was only the second Series-ending homer in baseball history. His gleeful romp around the bases amid the Skydome pandemonium capped one of the most dramatic moments of the decade.

At Wichita State, Carter was The Sporting News‘s 1981 College Player of the Year, and the Cubs, choosing second, made him their number-one draft pick that June after Seattle selected Mike Moore. Carter played briefly in Chicago before going to Cleveland in a major seven-player deal for Rick Sutcliffe in June 1984.

A disappointment at first, he struggled with injuries until 1986, when he broke out with a .302 average, 29 homers, and a major-league-leading 121 RBIs. Sporting one of the best physiques in baseball and a happy-go-lucky disposition, he had the best offensive year by an Indian in decades but missed the 30-30 club by one homer and one stolen base.

He did reach 30-30 the following year, overcoming a salary dispute in spring training and constant shifting between the outfield and first base. When Brett Butler signed with the Giants in 1988, Carter took over center field.

The responsibility seemed to charge Carter’s hitting, but his days were numbered in Cleveland. After setting a career-high with 35 homers in 1989, he was sent to San Diego in a blockbuster deal for Sandy Alomar Jr., Chris James and Carlos Baerga. Following his first and only full NL season, in which he hit 24 homers and knocked in 115 runs for the Padres, Carter was packed in another blockbuster deal, this time with an Alomar brother (Roberto). The pair was sent to the Blue Jays for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez.

Back in the AL, Carter put together three straight 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons, leading the Blue Jays into the postseason all three years and to world titles in 1992 and ’93. The latter Series, of course, was capped off by Carter’s famous three-run Series-winning clout in Game Six.

In 1994, Carter became just the tenth player in major league history to hit 300 home runs and steal 200 bases. He slowed down a bit on the basepaths in 1994, but was more careful. He was 11-for-11 in stolen base attempts, and stretched the consecutive streak to 23 in 1995 before being caught in late June. In 1996, he returned to the 30-homer, 100-RBI club with 30-106 after sub-par power seasons.

After playing most of his career in the outfield, Carter spent equal time at first base and as DH in 1997, and drove in 102 runs in the process, although his average slumped to .234. Carter annoyed club management by wearing ousted manager Cito Gaston’s #43 for the last few games of the season, and he didn’t return to the club in 1998. Instead, Carter spent his last year in the majors as a reserve with the Orioles and Giants.

In 1999, he and Gaston joined Dave Stieb and George Bell as honorees in the Blue Jays’ “level of excellence.” Carter had finished his Jays career as the franchise’s all-time leader in home runs.