50 years ago today in 1972, the Phillies acquired one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all time: Steve Carlton. Over his 24 year career, Carlton went on to win 4 Cy Young awards (all with the Phillies) and 2 World Series (1 in St. Louis, 1 in Philly). He was a 10-time All-Star and was a cornerstone piece to arguably the best team in Phillies’ franchise history. Now, we look back on 5 of the best moments of his 15 years with the Phillies.
1972 – The greatest individual season ever.
After being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals, where he learned under the tutelage of prolific HOF Bob Gibson, a 27-year-old Carlton was out to prove the Cardinals wrong. And even though he was sent to the last-place Phillies, he was going to do everything in his power to show the league what he had. Carlton went on to claim the pitching Triple Crown, leading the league in ERA, Wins, and Strikeouts. In fact, Carlton’s 27 wins made up over 45% of the Phillies win total in 1972, which was a record for an individual pitcher. Carlton also completed 30 of his 41 starts, pitching over 346 innings. Not to mention Carlton’s 15-game winning streak from June 7th – August 17th. According to FanGraphs, Steve Carlton’s 1972 season was the second greatest individual season ever, but I’m not buying that (sorry Pedro 1999 stans).
July 4th, 1979 – The 1-hitter.
One of the most shocking facts about Steve Carlton’s career is that he has never pitched a no-hitter. He has 6 1-hitters, but most of his games followed the trend of giving up a hit early and Carlton bearing down for the duration. However, the closest Carlton came to completing a no-hitter was on Jul 4th against the Mets at Veterans Stadium. In what turned out to be a 1-run win, Carlton pitched 7.1 shutdown innings, until he surrendered the lone hit for the Mets to Elliott Maddox. Following an error to make it first and third, Carlton settled back in and shut down the Mets to close out the rest of the game. FanGraphs notes this as Carlton’s best game of his career.
October 21st, 1980 – The World Series clincher.
The first Phillies World Series win in franchise history came in the fall of 1980 on the back of MVP-winner Mike Schmidt and Cy Young winner Steve Carlton, the 8th tandem winners in MLB history. Carlton won 3 playoff games, and the Phillies won all 4 games that he started, including the World Series-clinching Game 6. Of course, Carlton saved his best game for last, pitching 7 shutout innings with 7 strikeouts and only 4 hits before being taken out for Tug McGraw in the 8th inning. After 97 years of baseball in Philadelphia, and 2 World Series losses, the Phillies were world champions of baseball.
April 29th, 1981 – Mr. 3000.
Steve Carlton walked into Veterans Stadium for this game against the Montreal Expos sitting on 2997 career strikeouts. Not one for dramatic delay, Carlton struck out the side in the first inning, eclipsing 3000 strikeouts as the first left-handed pitcher to ever do so, and only the 6th pitcher overall. Carlton went on to strikeout 6 more in the game, and another 1130 in the remainder of his career, placing him 4th among the all-time strikeout leaders. Oh, did I fail to mention that he also had 2 hits and 2 RBIs in that same game, as the Phillies won 6-2?
September 23rd, 1983 – 300th Win against a familiar opponent.
Nothing is sweeter than getting back at someone who has wronged you. Carlton proved that to the Cardinals once with his historic 1972 season, and again on this date in 1983, where he would win his 300th career game. At Busch Stadium in a 6-2 victory, Carlton had 12 strikeouts over 8 innings, becoming the 3rd member of the 3000 strikeout/300 win club, which has only 10 members in MLB history. In his age-38 season, Carlton cemented himself as one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in league history, as the Phillies would go on to lose the 1983 World Series to the Baltimore Orioles.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire