There have been more than a dozen big league baseball players through the years who were called Kid … but I suspect that the name didn’t fit any of them quite the way “Kid” fit Gary Carter.
He got the Kid nickname the way most young ballplayers get nicknames … from veteran players, and complete with derision and sarcasm. Carter was in spring training in 1974, barely out of Sunny Hills High School — really, just a kid — and he was running sprints like mad and acting like each drill was more important than the national debt. He was responsible for getting ice cream for teammates, and he did this happily. They started calling him Kid. Well, sure they did.
“Hey, settle down there, Kid.”
“It’s a long season, Kid.”
“Watch out, the Kid’s going to take your job.”
“You don’t want to hurt yourself on your first day, Kid.”
That’s how it began, but here was the difference: Gary Carter really never stopped being Kid. Sure, they called Ted Williams Kid, but that really never fit and it eventually sounded so ridiculous that they gave him a bunch of other nicknames — Thumper, Splendid Splinter, Teddy Ballgame and all that. They called Ken Griffey Jr. Kid, but that too wore off after a while, after the years had taken their toll, after playing baseball no longer seemed to be as much fun. Kid Gleason, Kid Nichols, Billy DeMars … as they grew older the nickname seemed ironic. That’s how it goes. Kids grow up.