Steve Carlton Biography

Steve Carlton is a former left-handed pitcher who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994. Armed with a sweeping curveball, a powerful fastball and a devastating slider that broke down late, "Lefty" earned four Cy Young awards and more than 4,000 strikeouts and 300 wins in his career.

The 10-time All Star was able to log over 5,000 innings in his career and pitch into his 40's by being in excellent shape. He began his Major League career in 1965 with the St. Louis Cardinals and retired in 1988 with the Minnesota Twins. In between, he pitched for the Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Indians, but was most well known for his 15-year tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Early Years

Steven Norman Carlton was born Dec. 22, 1944, in Miami, Florida. While at Miami-Dade Community College, Carlton signed with the St. Louis Cardinals for a $5,000 bonus in 1963. In 1964, he was initially placed at Rock Hill, N.C., where he went 10-1 with an ERA of 1.03. He advanced to Winnipeg and made it all the way to Triple-A Tulsa in just a year.

Professional Career

St. Louis Cardinals (1965-71)

Carlton made his MLB debut on April 12, 1965, but didn't find a regular spot in the rotation until late in 1966. By 1967, Carlton was an integral part of the Cardinals pennant winning team. He went 14-9 with a 2.98 ERA. On Oct. 9, 1967 Carlton took the mound to start Game 5 of the World Series against the Red Sox. Despite going six innings allowing only three hits and one unearned run, Carlton still was credited with a loss. Nonetheless, the Cardinals would still take the series in seven games.

In 1968 he was selected to the first of his 10 All-Star Games. He compiled a 13-11 record with a 2.99 ERA and once again led the Cardinals to the World Series. Carlton pitched only four innings in that series, as the Cardinals lost to the Detroit Tigers in seven games. After that World Series, while touring Japan, Carlton started to experiment with a slider, a pitch he soon mastered.

With the new pitch, Carlton sliced his ERA to 2.17 in 1969, improving his record to 17-11 while striking out 210 batters. He reached the All-Star Game for the second time and on Sept. 15, 1969 against the New York Mets, Carlton set the major league record for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game with 19 (since broken).

Carlton saw himself as one of MLB's dominant pitchers and thought he was entitled to a raise before the 1970 season. Carlton wanted his salary raised from $26,000 to $50,000, but management didn't agree. Eventually, after Carlton had missed a significant portion of spring training, he signed for $90,000 over two years. The loss of preparation time threw off Carlton's mechanics and his newly developed pitch, and that season he took a major step backwards, finishing 10-19 with a 3.73 ERA.

For the 1971 season Carlton temporarily stopped throwing the slider altogether, and in doing so still managed to pull off his first 20-win campaign. Again, Carlton felt he was entitled to a pay raise, this time for $65,000 a year. Once again the Cardinals disagreed, and the team opted to trade Steve Carlton to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Rick Wise, a trade largely considered to be one of the most lopsided in baseball history.

While Wise was selected to the All-Star Team in his second season, he spent only two years with the Cardinals, compiling a 32-28 record. Carlton went on to become one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball with the Phillies, winning 241 games, four Cy Young Awards and compiling a 38-14 record against his former club.

Philadelphia Phillies (1972-86)

Carlton entered the 1972 season with a personal goal of winning 25 games, a tall task considering that part of the season had been lost due to strike and the Phillies were a last place ballclub. Carlton ended up winning 27 games, finishing the year with a 27-10 record while throwing 30 complete games. He threw 346.1 innings, struck out 310 batters and had a 1.97 ERA. Carlton had accounted for 45.8 percent of the Phillies' 59 victories and at one point won 15 straight decisions. He was a unanimous Cy Young selection and finished fifth in the voting for the NL MVP. The next season he would be paid over $160,000.

For the next few seasons, Carlton found it difficult to recapture his 1972 form, going 44-47 over a three-year span (thanks in large part to elbow soreness). But midway through the 1975 season, the Phillies brought back Carlton's friend and former teammate Tim McCarver to serve as his battery-mate. In 1976, Carlton won 20 games, and in 1977 he led the league with 23 wins and sported a 2.64 ERA as the NL Cy Young winner. In both of those seasons the Phillies won 101 regular season games and reached the NLCS.

In 1980, Carlton led the league in wins (24), innings (304) and strikeouts (286) to go along with a 2.34 ERA and his third Cy Young award. Carlton also shined in the postseason, winning Games 2 and 6 of the World Series against the Kansas City Royals to lead the Phillies to their first World Series Championship. In 1982, Carlton became the first pitcher to win four Cy Young Awards, going 23-11 and leading the NL in complete games (19), innings (295.2), strikeouts (286), and shutouts (6). It also proved to be the final season he would be an NL All-Star. In 1983, despite a15-16 regular season record, Carlton would go 2-0 in the NLCS vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 0.66 ERA.

Carlton turned 40 before the 1985 season and went just 1-8 in 16 starts, despite a 3.33 ERA. After starting the next season 4-8 with a 6.18 ERA, Carlton was released by the Phillies.

San Francisco Giants (1986)

A week after his release by Philadelphia, Carlton signed with the San Francisco Giants. On Aug. 5, 1986, as a member of the Giants, Carlton recorded his 4,000th strikeout against Eric Davis of the Cincinnati Reds. However, he was released two days later, having gone just 1-3 with San Francisco.

Chicago White Sox (1986)

Carlton then signed with the Chicago White Sox, pitching in the AL for the first time in his career. He went 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA down the stretch for Chicago.

The next season, he signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians, and was traded to the Minnesota Twins at the trade deadline.

Minnesota Twins (1987-88)

Carlton went just 1-5 with a 6.70 ERA and was left off the Twins postseason roster. He did get his third World Series ring, as the Twins beat his former team, the Cardinals, in seven games.

The Twins did decide to bring Carlton back for the 1988 season but, after he went 0-1 with a 16.76 ERA in his first month, they did eventually release him. Carlton made his final appearance April 23, 1988, giving up eight earned runs and nine hits in five innings.


With 329 wins and 4,136 career strikeouts, Steve Carlton's #32 jersey was retired on "Steve Carlton Night" by the Phillies on July 29, 1989. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994 -- his first year of eligibility -- with 95.8 percent of the vote.

In 1998, he was ranked No. 30 in The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Baseball Players. He is among the winningest pitchers in history and has held several major league records for left-handed pitchers.

Carlton dominated the mound because of the way in which he was able to focus. He was able to shut the crowd out of his mind as he pitched so he could avoid as he would say an "emotional rollercoaster."

In fact, he was so focused that he chose to close off another part of the baseball landscape - the media. In 1978, after feeling like he had been offended by what was written about him, Carlton completely shut off any interaction with the press. So much so, that a photo caption of his visit with the 1987 Minnesota Twins championship team to the White House described him as "an unidentified Secret Service agent" in a St. Paul newspaper.