"Gary's got a social calendar that I couldn't breathe in," says Rogers. "Gary's public image is important to him," says Shortstop Chris Speier. "You've got to hand it to him, he lives what he talks."
From the day the 1982 season ended to the day spring training started, Carter was as active as he has ever been behind the plate. He sold his house in Montreal and moved his office from one suburb to another. He spent 12 days in Japan filming a segment on The World's Greatest Athletes, and while he was there, he donated a uniform to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and watched a couple of Japanese World Series games. He attended sales conventions in Montreal, Buffalo, Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg. He spent a week in Hawaii as a guest of the Nike company. He visited a children's hospital in Winnipeg. He conducted the Gary Carter Invitational Golf Tournament. He signed autographs at auto shows for Chrysler in Toronto and Vancouver. He was in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show. He held business meetings with Petrie in Montreal and with his accountant, Bob Engel, in Buffalo. And he shut down his condo in Fullerton and flew to West Palm Beach for spring training. "The winter," he says, "just flew by for The Kid."
Carter's home for now is in the PGA complex at Palm Beach Gardens. By millionaires' standards, Gary and Sandy live simply. Prints of Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post baseball covers hang in the family room and Gary's office, and in a hallway there's a poster advertising "Charlie Chaplin's New Motion Picture—'The Kid.' " Binders containing Carter's 40,000 baseball cards line his office wall. He's a compulsively neat man—"The better you look, the better you play"—who will stoop to collect stray dust balls or food particles left by his children. "I call him Felix," says Sandy. "You know, the neat one in The Odd Couple." There's a pool and a Jacuzzi out back. Beyond the backyard fence is the second hole fairway of the Haig golf course, so Carter can step out his back door and play a few holes when the mood is upon him.
Sandy is a slender brunette a year older than Gary. She was the Homecoming Queen at Sunnyhills High when she met him—"The queen and the jock," Carter says. They have been married eight years, a marriage of two talkers apparently made in heaven. "When we met in high school, I was just as outgoing as he was," she says. "Our first telephone conversation lasted six hours. On Gary's off days, we all come into the bedroom to wake him up. Kimmy will carry the sports page and Christy will bring the orange juice. Tina will jump on the bed first, then we'll all follow. Gary says it's a nice way to wake up. Home is the one place Gary will let down a little. At first, I wondered why he couldn't push the button for me, too. Then he told me that if he couldn't relax at home, where could he? The traveling is sometimes a little rough on the family, but he loves his job so much. And I love it, too. How often does a wife get to watch her husband at his work? I go to 95 percent of the home games and I take a few West Coast trips to visit my family, so I don't really have to ask him how his job is going. I know because I'm there, too. We sit right behind home plate, and when Gary comes out, he'll wave at us. The girls love it. 'Daddy, Daddy,' they'll shout, and he'll wave some more. Oh, it's great to see your husband so happy."
Carter's sunny disposition cannot conceal a fierce ambition. He wants to win the MVP award. He wants to win the World Series. He wants to do the .300, 30, 100 trick. He wants to be in the Hall of Fame. He has kept a record of every game he has played. He can recite the starting lineups and pitching rotations of every team in both leagues. He can glance at a scouting report and within five minutes conduct a team meeting on it. He's not merely competitive; he's aflame. "I can't stand to lose at anything," he will say. "When I was a kid, I'd turn over the Monopoly board if I lost."
For all of his chipper manner, he can get angry in a game. Last summer, he shattered a startled Bill Buckner's bat in retaliation for an earlier incident when Buckner kicked Carter's mask. The two finally came to blows. "He's one of those players who irritate you," says Buckner, adding, "but I'm sure I irritate him, too." "He's a fiery, forceful, aggressive player," says Bench, who is himself a motivating force for Carter. Although he is a Bench admirer, he bristles at the inevitable comparisons. "I don't want to be classified as another Johnny Bench," he says. "When I catch my last pitch, I want people to remember me as me."
Carter is, as most of us are, several persons in one. The one out front, the affable nonstop talker, is no less real than the one inside, the one who burns to succeed. Not long ago, a person meeting Carter for the first time was moved to remark in wonder, "My God, he may actually be what you see—a believer in the American dream." Carter sees no conflict in his personality. Both parts of it make up a significant whole. "We're all human beings who've been put down here for a purpose," he says. "For me that purpose is playing baseball and bringing some happiness to people, to keep a smile on my face and put one on theirs."
There are worse things.