After Series, Carter finally is smash hit

SIDELIGHT

May 10, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

It's funny what hitting the game-winning home run in the World Series can do to a guy's life.

Before taking Philadelphia Phillies reliever Mitch Williams deep to left in the sixth game of the Series to bring a second straight championship to Toronto, Joe Carter's lot in life was simple.

Carter, the chief power source of the Blue Jays, now is beginning to get the notice he probably should have received all along for being the most consistent run producer of his era.

The trouble is that all of this new-found fame isn't exactly what the Toronto right fielder had in mind.

"From my perspective, the two World Series [wins] have been great, but it's taking away all my private time. I find myself having to talk more now," said Carter.

Don't get him wrong. Carter, 34, who drove in 31 runs in April -- an American League record -- has always been one of baseball's most accommodating players.

It's just that now, with every new city the Blue Jays travel to, there is a crowd with cameras and notepads waiting.

And now, instead of asking about one of his more celebrated teammates, the questions are for Carter.

"I'm really happy that Joe's time has come and that people are finally recognizing how good he is," said Toronto manager Cito Gaston.

The topic of conversation always swings around to the World Series homer, one of the magical moments in the 125-year history of the game.

"I don't like to live in the past," said Carter. "Pretty soon, if you keep thinking, 'Look what I did last year,' you wind up getting hit, standing in the outfield. I'd kind of like to put that on the back burner."

In some ways, the home run questions could be construed as insulting to Carter, as if his blast was that one moment in time where a player rises above the usual to perform the extraordinary.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Carter, who went 1-for-3 last night, has hit more homers (257) and driven in more runs (932) than any other player since 1986.

"I've seen guys do it [the run production] in short terms, for maybe up to a year," said Paul Molitor, who joined Toronto last year. "But it's incredible the consistency he's put up."

Said Toronto pitcher Dave Stewart: "It's almost automatic that he's going to get 30 home runs and 110 RBIs every year. Those are the kind of things that put you in the class of Hall of Famers."

Indeed, Carter -- even with a three-game absence due to a viral infection that brought on a case of vertigo -- is well ahead of that pace.

Carter's 39 RBIs in 29 games put him in position to become the first right-handed batter since Boston's Walt Dropo in 1950 to have more RBIs than games played.

He already has 10 homers, which puts him on pace to hit 56 for the season.

Keep in mind Carter broke his right thumb during spring training.

Carter, who was ready Opening Day, says the injury actually has helped make him a better hitter, and his .327 batting average stands as proof.

"It's helped me to use the whole field and it's helped me to be a little more patient," said Carter. "It makes it a little tougher to throw, but, when I'm getting my cuts, the defense has to play me differently."

Given the numbers Carter has put up, it's a good bet the defense would rather not play him at all.

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