The players called him Kid. Some fans and reporters called him Camera Carter.
The mask would come off, and the cameras would pick up his radiant smile.
When the New York Mets were on their run in the 1980s, Gary Carter was often seen hugging somebody. It was easy to joke about that. The best hug of all was with Jesse Orosco at the end of the 1986 World Series.
Up close, Carter was not nearly so ebullient. He was a gentleman, the eternal optimist, but there was also an element of sadness to him. He never brought it up, unless asked, but his mother died of leukemia when he was 12 years old.
According to an old Jim Murray column, Inge Charlotte Carter told him she was going into the hospital for tests; she didn't want him to worry. He found out while he was on the ball field that she had died, Carter once told Murray, the great columnist from The Los Angeles Times.
The grief remained tangible with Carter when he was the final addition for the title run of the Mets, the way Dave DeBusschere had been for the 1969-70 New York Knicks. DeBusschere died of a heart attack in 2003 at 62, and on Thursday, Carter, the other great New York building block, died of brain cancer at 57.
At a distance, Kid Carter looked like a cheerleader who could hit home runs and throw out runners at second base. He was more complicated than that.
For a man who had nothing bad to say or do toward anybody, he was strangely alone in the Mets' clubhouse. In Montreal he had been the core of the Expos, but general manager Frank Cashen and his Mets staff had accumulated so many strong personalities on the Mets that Carter was muted.
When a pitcher needed a lecture, it usually came from Keith Hernandez, making a fist from first base: Settle down or I'll kill you. When a fight was needed, Ray Knight would oblige, willingly. Straw and Doc, Nails and Wally, Roger and Bobby O.
In New York, Kid Carter was pure vanilla for a city with stronger tastes.
But Carter and Mookie Wilson were the nicest people. That needs to be said. Carter played with the enthusiasm of the 12-year-old he had been when his mother died. He and his brother had helped their father. He was used to responsibility. He did not need to assert himself.
Gary Carter was also a Christian who lived his faith, but did not openly profess it. If people asked, he shared, but he did not threaten that highly secular clubhouse. If somebody whispered, "Geez, I love Kid, but why can't he hit the ball to the right side?" Carter turned the other cheek, always seeing the best in people, and in his team.
Some religious guys in sports give the impression: I've got something you don't have. Carter was as sweet a person as you could meet in that highly competitive world. He made the Mets better the day he arrived.
Carter must have known how some of the most talented people in that clubhouse were dissipating their skills. He never let on. He was a true believer, even when doctors said he had inoperable brain cancer.
Now he gets to see his mom, and she tells him how proud she is.