City of Montreal consults public on how to honour Gary Carter
Published Monday, February 27, 2012 6:28PM EST
MONTREAL - How best to honour the Kid?
Montreal is seeking input from the city's long-suffering baseball fans how to honour the late Expos great Gary Carter.
Carter, who died Feb. 16 of brain cancer at the age of 57, was a fan favourite in Montreal and his death triggered an outpouring of Expos nostalgia.
The man overseeing the consultation process, baseball broadcaster Rodger Brulotte, says it's equally important that the process help commemorate the long-lost baseball team.
Aside from the Expos banner hanging at the Bell Centre hockey arena, and the largely vacant Olympic Stadium, there is relatively little evidence in Montreal that the city hosted, and was sometimes impassioned for, a major-league team over 36 years, from 1969 to 2004.
"The reaction of the fans has been unbelievable from all ages," Brulotte said.
"We have to do something, for the Expos and Gary Carter...
"You can't do one without the other. We're here to honour the Expos and Gary is part of the Expos."
The city kicked off the consultation on Monday, accepting any and all ideas from the public until March 31 on the city's website.
Mayor Gerald Tremblay spoke glowingly of Carter, a California-born star athlete who entrenched himself in Quebec life during his time here, calling it a second home and learning some French.
"Paying tribute to Gary Carter is also our way of retaining the excellent memories he left us," Tremblay said.
The 11-time All-Star played in Montreal for 12 of his 19 big-league seasons, from 1974 to 1984 and again in 1992.
Tremblay left open any number of options to honour the Hall of Fame catcher.
The honour could mean naming a street after Carter, building a monument or naming an existing park or square after him.
Another idea floated was renaming the metro station that connects to the cavernous Olympic Stadium. The mayor would only say that all options are on the table.
The whole process is being presided over by former Expos colour man Brulotte, a friend of Carter's.
Brulotte said that he first broached the idea of the city honouring Carter with his widow, Sandy, at his funeral last weekend.
"She said Gary would be proud of such an association and she said we accept wholeheartedly and if you wish to invite us, the family will be there," Brulotte recounted.
Brulotte, who watched Carter up close for years, says he knows the ebullient slugger would have been pleased to be recognized.
"He never fled a microphone," Brulotte joked. "He'd be more than honoured."
The Expos quietly left the city at the end of the 2004 season, and evidence of their former existence has been sparse ever since.
Brulotte says he knows why.
"Because we're heartbroken," he said.
"When you're heartbroken, you're not ready to honour someone and I think Gary's death has given us life to want to do something."
Brulotte said he met many former Expos players at Carter's funeral, rattling of a list that included Jeff Reardon, Scott Sanderson, Warren Cromartie and Andre Dawson.
All of them asked when the Expos were going to be recognized.
While the Expos no longer exist, Montreal sports fans were able to share memories of the beloved catcher during a Montreal Canadiens hockey game.
The Habs all wore Carter's No. 8 on their sweater during warmup, and there was a pregame ceremony honouring him.
The New York Mets will also wear a patch on their uniforms this year to honour Carter.
After collecting suggestions, Brulotte and the city's decision-making bodies will study the best proposals. Carter's family will be involved in the final decision.
The agency that runs Montreal's Olympic Park has also expressed its intention to create a public space honouring Carter near the stadium where he played.
"We had already been thinking that the revival of the Olympic Park was going to be based on several factors and one was to celebrate our rich sports heritage," said David Heurtel, president of the agency.
The park is in the midst of a revival plan and is actively seeking a naming-rights partner for the stadium, so renaming Olympic Stadium for Carter is highly unlikely.
The idea is to honour the city's sports heritage, which includes the 1976 Summer Olympics and the Expos, who played at the stadium for much of their history.
Heurtel said Carter and the Expos will be honoured at a site on the park grounds.
"Then we'll wait for the results of the consultation to make sure that effort is co-ordinated with whatever the city decides to do," Heurtel said.
The City of Montreal's Carter website is www.ville.montreal.qc.ca/garycarter