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Steve Carlton
Carlton playing for the Phillies.
No. 2, 24
Born: December 22, 1944 (1944-12-22) (age 76)
Miami, Florida
Batted: Left Threw: Left
Professional debut
April 12, 1965 for the St. Louis Cardinals
Last professional appearance
April 23, 1988 for the Minnesota Twins
Career information
High school: North HS
(Miami, Florida)
Signed: October 8, 1963 by the St. Louis Cardinals
Career highlights and awards
  • 10x MLB All-Star
  • 1x Gold Glove winner (1981)
  • 4x Cy Young Award winner
    (1972,1977, 1980, 1982)
  • 4x NL TSN Pitcher of the Year
    (1972, 1977, 1980, 1982)
  • 1972 NL Triple Crown
  • 1972 NL pitching_title
Empty Star.png Empty Star.png Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.png Empty Star.png
Inducted: 1994

Steven Norman Carlton (born December 22, 1944 in Miami, Florida) is an American former Professional baseball pitcher who played Major League Baseball, from 1965 to 1988, who retired as one of the most successful pitchers to ever play the game. He was affectionately known to Philadelphia fans as "Lefty." He played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins.

Carlton has the second-most lifetime strikeouts of any left-handed pitcher (4th overall), and the second-most lifetime wins of any left-handed pitcher (11th overall). He was the first pitcher to win four Cy Young Awards in a career. He held the lifetime strikeout record several times between 1982 and 1984, before his contemporary Nolan Ryan passed him for good. One of his most remarkable records was accounting for nearly half (46%) of his team's wins, when he won 27 games for the last-place 1972 Phillies.

St. Louis Cardinals

Carlton debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals as a 20-year old in 1965 and by 1967 was a regular in the Cardinals rotation. An imposing (6'4"/1.93 m) man with a hard fastball and slider, Carlton was soon known as an intimidating and dominant pitcher. Carlton enjoyed immediate success in St. Louis, posting winning records and reaching the World Series in 1967 and 1968. On September 15, 1969, Carlton, struck out 19 New York Mets, setting the all-time record at that time for strikeouts in a nine inning game.

Philadelphia Phillies

Following a salary dispute, Carlton was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies before the 1972 season for pitcher Rick Wise. Carlton's first season with the Phillies was among the greatest seasons a pitcher has ever had. He led the league in wins (27), complete games (30), strikeouts (310) and ERA (1.97) despite playing for a team whose final record was 59-97. His 1972 performance earned him the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year. His having won 46% of his team's victories is a record in modern major league history. Carlton attributed his success to his grueling training regime, which included Eastern martial arts techniques, the most famous of which was twisting his fist to the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket of rice. He was perhaps the most physically fit baseball player of his time.

Carlton's relationship with the media

Carlton slumped in 1973, losing 20 games. The media's open questioning of his unusual training techniques led to an acrimonious relationship between them and Carlton, and he severed all ties with the media, refusing to answer press questions for the rest of his career with the Phillies. This reached a point where, in 1981, while the Mexican rookie Fernando Valenzuela was achieving stardom with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a reporter remarked, "The two best pitchers in the National League don't speak English: Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Carlton."

More success

Carlton continued to enjoy many years of success with the Phillies, winning the Cy Young Award in 1972, 1977, 1980, and 1982, and pitching the Phillies to the best string of post-season appearances in club history. Carlton was the first pitcher to win four Cy Young Awards, a mark later matched by Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson. His Cy Young Award in 1972 was by a unanimous vote, and he finished fifth in balloting for the National League MVP. He was, in fact the 1st man to win either the BBWAA MVp Award or the Cy Young Award 4 or more times in the course of his career. Gradually, the Phillies improved their team, and won the National League East three consecutive times between 1976-78. In 1980, Carlton helped the Phillies win their only World Series, personally winning the final game.

Carlton won a Gold Glove Award for his fielding in 1981, and helped the Phillies to another pennant in 1983.

Nolan Ryan

Over a three year period between 1982-1984, Carlton was involved in an interesting pitching duel with Nolan Ryan, then of the Houston Astros, in which they often traded places at the top of the all-time strikeout list. At the start of the 1982 season, the 55-year-old mark of pitching great Walter Johnson still stood at 3,509 strikeouts, but now there were 3 pitchers who would start the season within 100 strikeouts of Johnson: Nolan Ryan 3,494, Gaylord Perry, 3,452, and Carlton 3,434. Ryan would be the first to surpass Johnson on April 22 1983 against the Montreal Expos. However a stint on the disabled list shortly after setting the record, combined with a spectacular season by Carlton, allowed him to make up ground rather quickly and on June 7 1983, Carlton passed Ryan as the all time strikeout king with 3,526 to Ryan's 3,524. There would be a total of 14 lead changes and one tie that season, often after each of their respective starts, before the season ended with Carlton leading 3,709-3,677. Gaylord Perry, aging and in his final season was never a factor, although he did eventually pass Johnson to finish his career with 3,534 strikeouts. There would be five more lead changes and a tie in 1984 before Carlton ran out of gas. His last ever lead in the all-time strikeout race was after his start on September 4 1984 when he struck out four Cubs to lead Ryan by three (3,857-3,854). Although the season ended with a mere two strikeout lead for Nolan (3,874-3,872), Carlton had a terrible season in 1985 and an even worse season in 1986 before being released by the Phillies just 18 strikeouts short of 4,000.


Giants, White Sox, Indians

He caught on with the San Francisco Giants, but pitched ineffectively save for seven shutout innings in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he also hit a 3-run homer for his only win as a Giant. He would hang around just long enough to collect his 4,000th strikeout against Eric Davis before retiring.

His retirement was brief, as he almost immediately signed on with the Chicago White Sox for the remainder of the 1986 season, where he would be surprisingly effective, going 4-3 with a respectable 3.69 ERA, but not be offered a contract for 1987. He caught on with the lowly Cleveland Indians where his most notable achievement was teaming up with Phil Niekro in a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium (his first and only pitching appearance at "The House that Ruth Built") where they became the first teammates and 300 game winners to appear in the same game. Both were ineffective in a 10-6 Yankee victory.

Minnesota Twins

He was traded to the Minnesota Twins, where he was yet again ineffective. However the Twins would go on to a surprising win in the 1987 World Series, albeit without Carlton on the post-season roster, to earn him a third World Series ring and a trip to the White House to meet President Reagan along with his teammates. Interestingly, when Carlton was photographed with his teammates at the White House, newspapers listed each member of the team with the notable exception of Carlton. Instead, Carlton was listed as an "unidentified Secret Service agent." The Twins brought him back in 1988 but he lasted only a month before the Twins released him.


He attempted to find work in 1989 but found no takers. The closest thing to an offer was the New York Yankees offering him the use of their facilities for training purposes but no spot on the spring training team. Nolan Ryan would pitch until 1993 and would extend his strikeout lead over Carlton to almost 1,600 before retiring.


Baseball Hall of Fame
Steve Carlton
is a member of
the Baseball
Hall of Fame

A ten-time All-Star, Carlton led the league in many pitching categories. He struck out 4,136 batters in his career, then a record for a left-handed pitcher (since surpassed by Randy Johnson), and holds many other records for both left-handed and Phillies pitchers. His 329 career wins are the eleventh most in baseball history, behind Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, and Warren Spahn among pitchers of the live-ball era (post-1920). He never threw a no hitter, but pitched a complete game one hitter six times.

Carlton was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994 with 96% of the vote, one of the highest percentages ever for approval (only candidate elected by BBWAA). The Phillies retired his number 32, and honored him with a statue outside Citizens Bank Park. In 1999, he ranked number 30 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Carlton appeared in an episode of Married... with Children, playing himself in an episode where former athletes humiliate Al Bundy while filming a shoe commercial.

External links

Preceded by:
Ferguson Jenkins
National League Cy Young Award
Succeeded by:
Tom Seaver
Preceded by:
Randy Jones
National League Cy Young Award
Succeeded by:
Gaylord Perry
Preceded by:
Bruce Sutter
National League Cy Young Award
Succeeded by:
Fernando Valenzuela
Preceded by:
Fernando Valenzuela
National League Cy Young Award
Succeeded by:
John Denny