Joe Carter, 1994 Studio Heritage Insert Series, 3 of 8
I love cards that celebrate the history of baseball and the heritage insert series included in several Studio sets in the early 1990’s are among the best. The eight card 1994 set featured stars like Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas and Don Mattingly in vintage jerseys from their franchise’s history. For example, Bonds is wearing the New York Giants 1905 jersey, which was black that year in the sport’s first ever use of a third “alternate” jersey. For the history/uniform fetishist in baseball, the insert series is as good as it gets.
Since it was still a little early for nostalgia for the powder blue pullovers from 1977, the set features Joe Carter in a jersey that had deep meaning for him personally- the 1942 Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League.
Carter’s connection to the Monarchs and the Negro Leagues is very real. Living in Kansas City since the mid-80’s, Carter has been a passionate supporter of the city’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in no small part because of his personal relationship with its visionary founder, the late, great Buck O’Neil.
Following his incredible playing/managing career with the Monarchs, O’Neil began scouting, and later coaching, for the Chicago Cubs and closely scouted/signed a number of future MLB stars including Lee Smith, Lou Brock and Joe Carter.
O’Neil tells the story of signing Carter in his autobiography, I Was Right On Time:
In 1981, I was high on a right-handed power hitter for Wichita State, name of Joe Carter. So were a lot of other scouts. We had the second pick, and we took him, but Joe also had the option of not accepting our offer and returning to Wichita State his senior year. Complicating matters, Joe’s advisor was his coach, Gene Stephenson, who wouldn’t have minded having him back for another year. I had to find some way of making everybody happy. So what I did was promise Joe and Gene that he would get more money than the first pick in the country, a pitcher from Oral Roberts named Mike Moore. That had real appeal to Gene, who could tell his recruits that Joe Carter got more money than anyone in the draft. It was just a little more, maybe a thousand dollars, but it worked. “Now you’re on my street!” Gene told me when he saw our offer.
As with Lou Brock, the Cubs traded away Carter before he became a star. But as with Brock, I have followed Joe’s career with pride and joy. I could not have been happier when he hit that home run to win the 1993 World Series. As you know it gave the Toronto Blue Jays their second consecutive world championship. As I well know, it gave a second consecutive World Series trophy to Cito Gaston, their African-American manager.
Before he passed away he was one of the more vocal supporters for Joe Carter to be inducted to the Hall of Fame.
Carter has made the celebration of Buck O’Neil’s legacy a big part of his life in the years since the legendary man passed away. He helped lead the fundraising initiative to restore and preserve O’Neil’s home, left vacant and crumbling in southeast Kansas City. He is also a frequent speaker at events celebrating the museum and O’Neil.