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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

In another one of those one-two punch celebrity knockouts, a pair of cultural icons were swept from our midst this week in Whitney Houston and Gary Carter.

Now, I have to confess that as a rocker in the 80's, I followed very little of Ms. Houston. I knew she was Dionne Warwick's niece, and Aretha Frankin's god-daughter, but in all honesty, Top 40 is not my thing, and hasn't been since around 1966.

Most of what I saw about her was emblazoned on the cover of The National Enquirer and The National News Weekly (a personal favorite) discussing the singer's problems with drugs, her husband singer Bobby Brown, or both.

So, I always kind of associated Houston with that paparazzi mentality, but not in a bad way. For, the News Weekly got to be an occasional impulse check out line humor choice of mine when they noted that "the space alien" endorsed Bill Clinton for president both in 1992, and then again for re-election in 1996.

But, there is always that fascination around celebrities who live their dramas before our eyes, and then meet with an untimely demise. And while I cannot claim to be able to hum a single Houston hit, I suppose that same fascination with celebrity and flame out exists for me just as those who are more Top 40-bound might have been piqued by the death of Kurt Cobain.

It was surprising to be reminded, though, that Houston serendaded Nelson Mandela, let alone sold $200 million worth of discs (as one who has released one disc, with comparitively modest sales of a couple of hundred, I can only begin to appreciate that total).

But, the whole thing is another sober reminder of how elusive happiness can be, irrespective of success.

Which brings me to the passing of Carter, who at least publicly always seemed happy.

Known as the "Kid," Carter, along with comtemporaries Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk, redefined the catching position in the late 70's, bringing the ability to hit for average and for power, play ridiciulously fine defense, along with those more mysterious leadership skills, to the game as all three led their teams to success.

Though Carter's biggest moment came when he played for the Mets in 1986 (would things have been different had Fisk still been a Red Sox?), I will always associate the Kid with the 1981 Montreal Expos, one of the best teams never to win a pennant.

Along with Ellis Valentine, Warren Cromartie, Tim Raines, Steve Rogers, Andre Dawson, Tim Wallach, and Jeff Reardon, Carter was among a core team of young up-and-comers that offered so much promise, and whose talent seemed so limitless at the time.

Alas, 1981, the first truly strike torn year, when the Expos had the world in their hands--although the Reds with Bench, had the best record, though they never even got to play in the post-season--in many ways marked the end of the innocence of yet another baseball era.

As with the advent of radio, and then television, both of which brought the game to us in ways never before imagined, in 1981 Strat-O-Matic and APBA still ruled the table tops. This was just before Daniel Okrent reinvented our lives, and before the personal computer and satellite TV and the Internet and commissioner services with their instant stat gratification. It was certainly before any of us could imagine Iphones, let alone the apps that now rule over large portions of our lives.

Not that I am feeling nostalgic about it, for I imagine every generation, as they age, thinks of a time when they were younger and things seemed simpler, and well the game of baseball was better played. Or, at least different.

To me, there is still a taste of naivet├ę that went with the joy with which Carter was imbued at the time.

And, that is not such a bad memory.

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