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MLB History: Steve “Lefty” Carlton

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Steve Carlton etched his name into MLB history thanks to his long prolific career. Carlton played 24 years during his time in the major leagues, spending a majority of it with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies. Carlton was a very dominant pitcher during his time in the MLB and made his name well known across the MLB.

MLB History: Carlton’s Early Years

Carlton was born and raised in Miami, Florida. He is the son of Joe and Anne Carlton. He grew up with 2 sisters during his youth. During his youth in Miami, Carlton spent his time playing little league and American Legion Baseball. Through his teenage years, Carlton read and followed Eastern Philosophies that promoted greatness through meditation. He attended North Miami Highschool, and there he played baseball and basketball.

During his senior year of high school, Carlton quit playing basketball to focus on his high school pitching career. After high school he went to Miami Dade College North, continuing his pitching career there. In 1963 he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals for a bonus of $5,000.

MLB History: Carlton’s Minor League Career

In 1964, Carlton flew through the Cardinals farm system as he pitched for four different teams during that year. He pitched for the Florida East Coast Instructional League, posting a 2-3 record with a 2.39 ERA. Then he went to the Class A Northern League team, the Winnipeg Goldeneyes. In 12 starts he posted a 4-4 record with a 3.36 ERA.

Carlton then went to the Class A Western Carolinas league where he played with the Rock Hill Cardinals. There he posted a 10-1 record with an ERA of 1.03. He eventually got promoted to AA and played for the Tulsa Oilers. He finished with a 1-1 record and an ERA of 2.63 ERA. In 1966 he played with the Tulsa Oilers and posted a record of 9-5 record and an ERA of, 3.59 ERA.

MLB History: Carlton’s Big League Career

Steve Carlton made his MLB debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1965. However, he wasn’t fully added to the rotation until 1967. The young pitcher enjoyed early success during his time in the MLB. During the 1967 season, Carlton posted a record of 14-9 and a 2.98 ERA in 28 starts. The young star was known as a tall pitcher with a dominant fastball and slider.

During the 1967 and 1968 seasons, Carlton had winning records and helped the Cardinals reach the World Series in both seasons, winning the 1967 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. On September 15, 1969, Carlton set a record for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game in MLB history against the New York Mets.

In 1972, there was a salary dispute between Carlton and the Cardinals organization. This led to Carlton being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. The deal was the Cardinals would receive pitcher Rick Wise for Steve Carlton. This is considered one of the most lopsided trades in MLB history. In Steve Carlton’s first season in Philadelphia, he led the team with 27 wins, 30 complete games, 310 strikeouts, and an ERA of 1.97. His numbers were phenomenal despite the Phillies having a 59-97 record.

During his time in Philadelphia, Carlton would win the Cy Young award in the, 1972, 1977, 1980 and 1982. Carlton’s pitching was one of the biggest reasons that the Phillies were having some of their best playoff success in franchise history. In 1980, Carlton helped the Phillies win the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. On September 23, 1983 Carlton achieved his 300th career win against his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1986 after a long tenure in Philadelphia, Carlton was released by the Phillies organization.

In 1986, Carlton would sign with the San Francisco Giants. His numbers were already declining, however, during his tenure with the Giants, he would record his 4,000th career strikeout on August 5, 1986. After this season he would retire briefly and then return to the MLB and play for the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, and the Minnesota Twins. Carlton would officially retire in 1988, ultimately leaving his mark on the league and MLB history.

MLB History: Carlton’s Retirement

Carlton retired as an extremely dominant pitcher, he finished with a career record of, 329-244, an ERA of 3.22 in a total of 709 games started. Carlton finished his career as a 10-time All-Star, a total of 4,136 strikeouts, and six one-hit games which are the 11th most in MLB history. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994. The Philadelphia Phillies retired Carlton’s number 32 in 1989 and was honored with a statue outside of Citizens Bank Park in 2004. He was also elected into the All-Century Team in 1999. Carlton left the game of baseball as one of the most dominant pitchers to ever step onto the diamond.

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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