The 1984 New York Mets stand as something of a landmark in the team’s history.

Consider …

After an improbable run to the National League pennant in 1973 on the back of an all-time-worst division-winning 82-79 record, the Mets fell to 71-91 in 1974.

And, though they rebounded with winning marks in 1975 (82-80) and 1976 (86-76), both resulted in third-place finishes in the old N.L. East.

From there, it was a stumble through the rest of the decade and the first four years of the next that produced a high-water showing of 68 wins in 1983, with fifth-place finishes in 1980 and 1981 marking their closest brush with postseason baseball.

But in that 1983 season, rookie outfielder Darryl Strawberry broke out with power rarely seen in Flushing, and with a youthful all-around game that had fans wistfully kicking around ideas like “hope” and “next year.”

With new first baseman Keith Hernandez in the fold and other rising youngsters like Mookie Wilson and Hubie Brooks, not to mention a pitching staff bolstered by Tom Seaver’s homecoming, the excitement seemed like it might have some legs.

And then, early in 1984, teenager Dwight Gooden took the mound in the majors for the first time, striking out five Astros in five innings on April 7.

It was just the beginning of an amazing run, leaving Doc as the National League Rookie of the Year and helping the Mets gel around all the newcomers — and first-year manager Davey Johnson’s analytical approach to the game.

The result was an unbelievable division battle with the also-upstart Chicago Cubs that eventually left the Mets six-and-a-half games back, but with a whole new lease on life.

But, even though New York spent October at home, the excitement of that Olympic-election-leap year wasn’t quite finished.

Because, on December 10, general manager Frank Cashen swung a deal — Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham, and Floyd Youmans were headed to the Montreal Expos in exchange for …

Catcher Gary Carter.

Stars didn’t come much bigger than The Kid in those days, and with Johnny Bench a year retired and Carlton Fisk “winding down” (ha!), there was no doubt Carter was the preeminent catcher in the game.

Carter did what he was supposed to do in 1985, hitting 32 home runs, driving in 100 runs, and handling one of the best pitching staffs in the game as the Mets stormed to 98 wins.

Alas, the St. Louis Cardinals won 101 to cop the division.

Never mind that, though, because Carter had established himself as a Mets legend in the course of one season.

Of course, collectors would have to wait to see Gary in his new uniform.

All the 1984s, naturally, showed him with the Expos.

And so did the base 1985s.

We’d get our first look at Carter with the Mets in that fall’s Topps Traded and Fleer Update sets, but we’d have to wait more than a full year after the big trade to get our first from-the-pack Carter-Mets cards.

Those 1986s showing Carter in a New York uniform were there with us all through that storied summer and fall, when the Mets ran away with the division thanks to 108 regular-season victories before downing the Astros in the NLCS and besting the Boston Red Sox in a stone-cold classic seven-game World Series.

And that’s the way it stayed — card-wise — until 2012, when, in the months after his untimely death, Topps included Topps in their Archives set.

In that issue, Topps dusted off their 1984 design and treated us to a crystal clear action shot of Carter kicking up some dust of his own, along with a smiling headshot.

Oh, and he was wearing a Mets uniform.

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It may have seemed just another case of Topps leveraging their classic designs and long-ago star power to spice up their newer sets.

But this card was more — it was the cardboard embodiment, finally, of the moment when a vital piece of baseball history slid into place.

Gary Carter to the Mets … 1984.

And the card back brought the story full-circle, regaling us with Carter’s full MLB batting record:

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Sometimes, historical significance and only be fully appreciated through the rearview mirror.

Or, in the case of Gary Carter and the New York Mets, through the lens of a classic, new-old baseball card.

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Gary Carter was no stranger to classic baseball cards, and his 1976 Topps second-year card is one of the most iconic in a set chock full of them. Check out rundown of that card on YouTube:

2012 Topps Baseball Inserts - Pick A Player

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2012 Topps Baseball #1-#220 Pick your card

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