Friday, March 23, 2012

Post/Card #300

With this post, there have been 300 cards featured in this blog. While not yet halfway through the set, it is still a milestone. And this milestone post shows a player who had just completed a phenomenal season in 1972:

Card #300 -- Steve Carlton, Philadelphia Phillies

The picture shows Steve Carlton being congratulated after one of his 27 wins that season. However, the catcher's helmet obscures his head. Number six belonged to both John Bateman and Tim McCarver that season (the two catchers were traded for each other during the season), so it could be either of them.

What makes Carlton's 27 wins that season truly impressive is that the Phillies only managed 59 wins all season. That accounted for 46 percent of the entire team's wins, still a record for all pitchers since 1901. He also led the league with 30 complete games, 310 strikeouts and a 1.97 ERA. He also won the first of his four Cy Young Awards and the Hickok belt, awarded to the top athlete among several sports between 1950 and '76.

1972 had also been the first year that "Lefty" spent in Philadelphia. He came up to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1965 and was a member of the World Series-winning 1967 club. However, he was known to be difficult at contract time because he knew he was worth more than the team wanted to pay him. Carlton was a no-show in 1970 during contract talks, but rebounded the next year to win 20 games. When he grumbled over his salary for 1972, he was traded to the Phillies in exchange for Rick Wise. At the time, it was seen as an even trade, but is now seen as a very lopsided deal after the records began racking up.

Carlton stayed in Philadelphia through 1986, helping that team to five division titles and two World Series. He was the ace of the team, steamrolling his way to more than 300 career victories and (temporarily) breaking the all-time career strikeout record. By 1984, Carlton began showing his age but was still a mound presence. After being traded to the Giants in '86, he bounced from them to the White Sox, Indians and the Twins fairly quickly before retiring after 1988. There was little debate about his Hall worthiness, and he was a first-ballot inductee into Cooperstown.

1 comment:

  1. If it helps determine which catcher it is, McCarver was 6'0", 183 lbs., while Bateman was 6'3" and 210 lbs. Carlton was 6'4" and 210 lbs. The catcher looks pretty solid, so it might be more likely Bateman.

    That picture is pretty clearly a complete game victory by Carlton at the Vet after a day game, with the catcher shaking his hand. It had to have been either May 7 (McCarver catching the entire game), June 11 (also McCarver the whole game) or August 13 (Bateman catching the entire game)--those were the only three home, day, complete game victories Carlton had that season.

    I can't tell whether the catcher is the same height as Carlton or 3" shorter. On the one hand, one might guess that it is more likely McCarver, as the Topps photographers don't seem to have captured a whole lot of late-season action ever (hence all the airbrushing).

    OTOH, McCarver's 1973 card, taken presumably during the 1972 season, shows him with short hair, while the catcher on the Lefty card has some wings of hair over his ear, and John Bateman's hair does have those wings on his 1972 card (photo taken in 1971, presumably). So it might be Bateman.

    I wonder whether McCarver could tell you for certain whether it is him? Regardless, my guess is Bateman, but I wouldn't put a whole lot of money on it!