Saturday, July 25, 2009

1972 Topps #751 Steve Carlton

In February 1972, the Phillies and Cardinals swapped pitchers Rick Wise and Steve Carlton. Rick had played in parts of seven seasons for the Phils, compiling a respectable 75-76 record with a 3.60 ERA for teams spending most of the summer entrenched firmly at the bottom of the NL standings. He was 26 at the time of the trade, and he was coming off a season in which he was the Phils' lone All-Star Game representative.

Steve, who was also 26, had spent parts of seven seasons with the Cardinals, putting together a record of 77-62, an ERA of 3.10 and striking out 951 to just 449 walks. A three-time All-Star, Steve pitched in three World Series games with the Cardinals in 1967 and 1968. On paper, I guess the trade seemed fair for both teams at the time.

Only that Steve "Lefty" Carlton would go on to have one of the best single-season pitching performances in the modern baseball era in 1972. For a bad, bad team, Lefty won 27 games, and he led the NL in ERA (1.97), complete games (30) and strikeouts (310). Overall, the Phillies won just 59 games in 1972. Lefty took care of 27 and every other person on their pitching staff managed to win just 32. He was easily the unanimous choice for the NL Cy Young award, receiving all 24 first place votes cast.

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