All-Time Best Phillies: Steve Carlton

June 15, 2017 1:18 pm0 commentsViews: 62
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Despite completely shutting out the press from 1979 until a bizarre interview in 1994, Steve “Lefty” Carlton, the greatest pitcher in Phillies history, has always been passionately loved by the Phillies fans as well as his teammates.

In 1972, Carlton’s first as a Phil, he earned 27 of the teams 59 total wins. He is in 11th place for victories for MLB pitchers with 329, of which 241 came as a Phillie.

“Hitting against Steve Carlton is like trying to drink coffee with a fork” said Willy Stargell.  Lefty’s 4136 strikeouts are proof of that — enough to earn him 4th place on the all-time list.

The ten-time all-star won his 3rd of four total Cy Young awards in 1980.  (Steve was the first to win four. Can you name the other 3 pitchers who have done it? Scroll all the way down for the answers.) His 24-9 record, 286 strikeouts and 2.34 ERA helped the Phils win the World Championship for the first time in their 97-year history.

Lefty, shown here in his 1981 Topps baseball card, is the last pitcher to throw 300 innings and the last National Leaguer to win 25 games. Upon retiring he held the record for most career pickoffs, with144. In 1989, the Sporting News marked him as number 30 on their list of all-time greatest baseball players.  High praise coming from the industry he abhorred.

His unwillingness to communicate with the press did not bother his teammates.  “One thing I regret” said teammate Larry Bowa “is that the fans didn’t see the same Steve we saw in the clubhouse.” Steve was very social with his teammates, bringing them to good restaurants and introducing them to fine wines.  When Steve retired from baseball he quit drinking because, he said, “there was no one left to drink with”.

On June 30, 1989 the Phillies retired Carlton’s number and he spoke directly to the fans: “In Philadelphia, baseball is a field of dreams and this surely is heaven down here.”

In the April 1994 issue of Philadelphia Magazine under the title “Thin Mountain Air” reporter Pat Jordan told the story of a Steve Carlton that no one knew.  A deeply paranoid man, warning of the coming revolution ignited by the Elders of Zion or the Skull and Crossbones society in Yale, Carlton had built his bunker/home in Durango, Colorado with three-foot concrete walls to keep out the gamma rays of an unnamed enemy.  The article appeared damaging to his reputation but it did not deter the throng of Phillie fans from driving to Cooperstown four months later to cheer loudly for their hero as he spoke at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Still living in Colorado, Lefty makes a living by selling autographed items and doing public appearances.  The ten million dollars he made in baseball disappeared in bad investments by an agent that many teammates had urged him to fire. ■


—George Porgeman / Yardley

This article is the seventh in a series of All-Time Best Phillies at every position.



Roger Clemens won 7 Cy Young awards; Randy Johnson won 5; and Greg Maddux won 4.