36 Years Ago – Lefty Carlton To The Phillies
When you spoke about “Lefty” during the past 4 decades, if you weren’t talking about political leftists, then you were undoubtedly a baseball fan. And if so, by mentioning the nickname “Lefty”, it was without exception known by baseball fans that you were talking about Steve Carlton.
Carlton got his start in Major League Baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1965. He posted four fine seasons with the Cards including a 17-11 mark in 1969 and a 20-9 mark in 1971.
Lefty had his own rare training regiment employing martial arts and other techniques. But in the time of action, his training regiment enabled longevity in the game without the the various arm, shoulder, back and leg ills of today’s pitchers.
In his 24 year career, Carlton won 329 while dropping 244, winning 241 of those games, including five 20 game winning seasons and 4 Cy Young Awards in a Phillies red pinstripes. Only Greg Maddux tied him in Cy Youngs and only Randy “Big Unit” Johnson with 5 and “Rocket” Roger Clemens with 7, bettered Carlton in winning Cy Young Awards.
I before wrote about the trade which brought Carlton to the Phillies in exchange for another pretty fair pitcher in Rick Wise. The 36th anniversary of that deal was marked by Baseball Library two days ago, on Monday, February 25.
In Carlton’s first season with the Phils, he miraculously won 27 games for a team that totally won only 59. he afterward led the Phillies to East division championships in 1976, 1977 and 1978 in addition as to the NL Pennant and their first and only World Series championship in 1980 when they defeated the Kansas City Royals by 4 games to 2 with Carlton winning 2 of the games.
In 1981, Lefty was once again primed to win 20 games, but as a consequence of the players’ strike, the season was abbreviated and most teams played only 107 games. Carlton went 13-4 with 2.42 ERA giving up a insignificant 9 homers as the Phils went to post-season before losing the divided-season formula playoff to the Montreal Expos.
Possessing nasty stuff, Lefty was a strikeout pitcher garnering 4,000 Ks with only Clemens (4,167) and Nolan Ryan (5,714) ringing up more. Carlton holds the all-time career strikeout total for lefthanders.
Carlton was consistently bright until 1985 when his career entered it’s twi-light years. However, he was stubborn and thought that he nevertheless had his stuff and his conditioning. But he finally retired 4 years later, having pitched for 5 teams during that period registering but 16 wins and 37 losses and an ERA that exploded to 6.70 and 16.76 in his final two seasons.