A little more than a month after the Marlins completed their 30th season as a franchise, the baseball world said goodbye to an original Florida Marlin: outfielder Chuck Carr.
Just 55 years old, Carr lost his battle with cancer, according to reports. Carr didn’t have a long or legendary career in Major League Baseball, but for a young franchise—and many once-young viewers, including the author of this post—he was a sight to see. Carr was solid with the bat, a menace on the basepaths and covered a ton of ground out in center field.
As is the case with most young franchises, the 1993 Florida Marlins didn’t post a star-studded lineup by any stretch of the imagination. Gary Sheffield wasn’t acquired until midway through the franchise’s inaugural season. Jeff Conine would later become a household name among the faithful in teal. Dave Magadan was a reliable average hitter, Orestes Destrade supplied power and catcher Benito Santiago was a three-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, but at the top of the order, it was Carr who served as the table-setter.
If speed could kill, Carr may have done just that. In the Marlins’ inaugural season of 1993, Carr led the National League with 58 steals, becoming the first player in franchise history to lead the league in a major statistical offensive category. Carr’s total was more than the New York Yankees had as a team and it remains a Marlins rookie record.
Carr maintained his rookie status in 1993 despite appearing in 38 total games over the three seasons prior with the New York Mets. Carr was selected by the Florida Marlins with the 14th pick in the 1992 Major League Baseball Expansion Draft. In ‘93, Carr played in 142 games, hit .267 with two home runs, 41 RBIs, and tied for the team lead with Conine with 75 runs scored. He would finish fourth in the 1993 National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza, Atlanta Braves reliever Greg McMichael, and Carr’s aforementioned teammate in the outfield, Jeff Conine.
Despite his eventual success, Carr didn’t begin the season as the everyday center fielder. After a position battle in the spring, it was Scott Pose who was given the Opening Day nod. On April 5, 1993, Pose became the first player in franchise history to step to the plate as 45-year-old knuckleballer Charlie Hough and the Marlins beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and former Cy Young winner Orel Hershiser, 6-3.
Carr did pinch-hit in the Marlins’ first-ever game, but it wasn’t until the club’s first road trip that the speedster got a starting opportunity. By the middle parts of April, Carr was in the lineup every day.
Carr ranked in the top half of National League center fielders in fielding percentage and was among the league leaders in outfield assists for his position in 1993. Carr oozed enthusiasm and brought flash to a franchise getting its feet wet as his highlight reel catches in the outfield became almost as routine as his smile—although Wil Cordero and the Montreal Expos got to see a less smiley side of the speedster on the final day of July 1994.
At 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, Carr didn’t bring a ton of power to the plate as he hit just 13 home runs for his career with eight coming as a member of the Marlins. Being the stolen base king, however, isn’t the only franchise first that belongs to Carr.
In the second game of a doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants on June 1, 1993, Carr hit the first lead-off home run in Marlins history. Against the St. Louis Cardinals on Aug. 9, 1994, he hit the first walk-off blast.
Carr would be a part of the franchise for its first three seasons, hitting .263 with two home runs, 30 RBIs, and 32 stolen bases in 1994 and .227 with two homers, 20 RBIs, and 25 steals in 1995. Following the 1995 season, Carr was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Carr spent his final two seasons (1996-1997) with the Brewers and Houston Astros, appearing in 152 total games. His final MLB appearance came at the age of 30 as a member of the Astros on Oct. 3, 1997 when they were eliminated by the Atlanta Braves in NLDS Game 3. The Marlins would go on to beat the Braves in the NLCS the following week.
Over the last 30 years, the Marlins have had six different players lead the National League in stolen bases, the most of any team. That tradition began with the late Chuck Carr.