Joe Carter emerges in Cleveland – 1986 Fleer
Joe Carter made it to the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs in 1983, but it was not until he was dealt to the Cleveland Indians that he began to emerge as a superstar.
After spending 23 games with the Cubs in 1983 and then starting the next season with the Class AAA Iowa Cubs, Carter was a part of a seven-player deal that traded himself and Mel Hall to the Tribe and sent a struggling Rick Sutcliffe to the Cubbies.
Prior to the deal, Sutcliffe had a 4-5 record with a 5.15 earned run average. After his change of scenery, the hurler notched a 16-1 record with a 2.69 era to help Chicago win the National League East Division.
Carter also found success in his new uniform. He recorded hits in five straight pinch hit changes in 1984. He did not get a chance to tie the club record because he went on to play every inning of every game afterwards.
During his first two seasons in Cleveland, Carter slapped 28 home runs. By the time 1986 rolled around, Carter started to put up the numbers that would put him on the baseball map.
That season, Carter drove in 121 runs, the most in the American League, recorded 200 hits, 29 home runs and stole 29 bases. He also batted .302, which was Carter’s highest season average during his 16-year major league career.
The Wichita State University product hit at least 31 homers a season during his final four campaigns in Cleveland from 1986-89. However as good as Carter was at the plate, his struggled out in the field. To minimize his miscues, the Indians tried splitting his time at first base and as a designated hitter. In 1987, he committed 12 errors while playing first base and five more while patrolling the outfield.
Although near the end of his stay in Cleveland, fans started to boo the star. Prior to the 1989 season, his final campaign with the team, he won an arbitrators’ ruling and earned a $1.63 million that season. Carter’s new salary made him the highest paid pro athlete in Cleveland surpassing Bernie Kosar.
Carter created a stir in spring training when he complained that the Indians did not pay for the players wives to fly to road games, according to a Sports Illustrated article. Fans booed at every error and strikeout despite hitting 35 homes.
The Indians eventually traded Carter to the San Diego Padres in December 1989 in exchange for Sandy Alomar, Carlos Baerga and Chris James. Following the move, Carter signed a three-year contract with the Padres for $3,067 million per season.