Monday, May 21, 2007


Steve "Lefty" Carlton, a baseball Hall of Fame pitcher had one of the all time greatest and most unusual seasons in 1972. While pitching for the woeful Philadelphia Phillies, Carlton won pitching's "Triple Crown", leading the league in games won, strikeouts and earned run average. The amazing thing about it was that the Phillies were just about the worst team in baseball, finishing in last place, 11 games behind the next worst team, the Montreal Expos. The Phils, as a team, won 59 and lost 97.

Carlton, meanwhile, won 27 and lost 10. When Carlton pitched, the lowly Phils played like champs. To give you an idea what chumps the rest of the Phillies were when Carlton wasn't on the mound, the other leading pitchers on the team were:

Ken Reynolds 2W 15L
Billy Champion 4W 14L
Woodie Fryman 4W 10L
Jim Nash 0W 8L
Wayne Twitchell 5W 9L

No other pitcher on the team won more than he lost. The bullpen was so bad that Carlton had to finish his own games. He pitched 30 complete games. Their leading relief pitcher, Mac Scarce, led the team with 4 saves. The team batted .236 and hit only 98 homers. Their leading hitter was 21 year old Greg Luzinski, a future White Sox star, who drove in 68 runs.

Carlton had been traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Phillies just before the 1972 season (for pitcher Rick Wise) because he had asked for a $5,000 raise after he won 20 and lost 9 with St. Louis in 1971.

In 1972, Carlton's earned run average was an outstanding 1.97, and the league batted only .197 against him. He did have trouble with some hitters however. The inept Bob Uecker (see my April 22, 2007 article) batted .300 against him. Also he couldn't get the Alou family out. Felipe batted .421, Jesus batted .436, and Matty hit .333 against him. Incidentally Jesus Alou also batted .571 against the immortal Sandy Koufax in 1965 when Koufax won the pitching Triple Crown.

Carlton was considered an eccentric. He didn't speak to the press after the 1973 season for the remainder of his baseball career (15 more seasons). He was upset when reporters questioned his unusual training methods which were versed in Eastern martial arts techniques. For example, to toughen his pitching hand, he would twist his fist to the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket of rice. It obviously worked, because he won 329 games in his career, and he held the all time strikeout record for a time (until Nolan Ryan passed him).

When he was a member of the Minnesota Twins championship team in 1987, he was photographed with his teammates and President Reagan at the White House. In the caption, his teammates were individually identified, but Carlton was listed as an "unidentified Secret Service Agent".




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