St. Louis Post-Dispatch - August 8, 1980

Carlton’s Odd Training Plan Pays Off


By Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch


PHILADELPHIA – Steve Carlton is like the ugly weed that perennially crops up in your flower bed and which you never get rid of. As long as there are Cardinals, Steve Carlton, it seems. will beat them.


Since leaving the Cardinals – not of his own accord – in 1972, Carlton has beaten the Cardinals 27 times and lost only eight. Thursday's 3-2 decision over John Fulgham was the fourth in succession Carlton has gained against the Cardinals this season and seventh straight over two years. He's allowed just six earned runs and 22 hits in 34 innings against them this season. Only God knows why Carlton is 23-27 against the New York Mets.


Carlton, who is almost certain to face the Cardinals twice more this season, is proof positive of the virtues of marching to the beat of your own drummer. He is unconventional among pitchers in that he refuses to run sprints, but instead engages in a rigorous stretching and mind-over-matter control program that Phillies Manager Dallas Green, a former pitcher, says he couldn't possibly accomplish


"People mistake not running for not working hard," said the Cardinals' Jim Kaat, who was Carlton's teammate for parts of four seasons. Kaat, too, eschews running for different conditioning but "I don't work at it like he does.


"He is unique. Now, when most people think of lefthanders being unique, they think they're goofy. Lefty's not goofy in any situation." The other day, Cardinal lefthander Bob Sykes spent three hours observing Carlton in training and came away awed.


“I watched Carlton and I felt guilty when I left him," said Sykes. "The 10 or 15 wind sprints I run look like a grain of salt to what he's doing."


What Carlton does, with the assistance of Gus Hoefling, the Phillies' flexibility director, is 10 minutes of stretching exercises dally and then an hour and 15 minutes of martial arts exercises.


"A hundred and 28 different moves," said Sykes. "It's more mental than physical. He's in another world. He's not even aware anybody else is around. Total concentration.


"They've got this 25-gallon garbage can filled with rice. It's about 3½ feet high. I put my arm about halfway down through it. No way could I go any more. But he sticks one hand all the way to the bottom – it's like a knife going through butter. And then he jams the other hand all the way to the bottom.


"He does these things every day except the day he pitches. I'll tell you. I know the guy doesn't play on my team, but I don't mind going on about him. He deserves the respect of everyone in the league. There might not be another like him but there's nothing wrong with trying."


Carlton told Kaat here that "the day I pitch is like an off-day for me."


"That," said Cardinals pitching coach Claude Osteen, "is how much he works between starts."


At age 35, Carlton, still a St. Louis County resident, has the most victories in the National League (17) and has lost just six times. "I think he's pitching much better than when I was here," said Kaat, who was here from 1976-79). "I don't know how to explain it. You'd have to be a pitcher. But it's his mind. His whole total being is a lot more positive. It's his concentration. His pitches have always been tremendous."


The Cardinals, who finished this trip at 4-7 (one ralnout) before opening a 10-game home stand tonight against the Mets, probably had their best shot at Carlton this time, hitting nine or 10 balls hard.


"The thing is," said Kaat, "a lot of other pitchers will allow three or four guys in a row to hit the ball hard. With Lefty, it's just one or two."


Carlton was unable to make nine innings, allowing a run-scoring single to Mike Ramsey (his second) and a walk to pinch hitter Steve Swisher in the ninth before reliever Tug McGraw got his 12th save by throwing one pitch a forceout grounder to Tom Herr.


Green was hooted for removing Carlton. But, Green said, "I just thought he'd had enough. I thought he'd lost a little bit of stuff in the ninth, when he started struggling with his control on the guys he struggled against (Ramsey, Swisher). I'm sure Lefty would have figured a way out of it but I just felt better with a fresh arm."


For four innings, Fulgham was perfect and Carlton allowed only a walk to Keith Hernandez. Ramsey's infield hit broke up the no-hitter and drove in the Cardinals' first run in the fifth but the Phillies scored three times in the bottom half, featuring Manny Trillo's double to left, Larry Bowa's two-run bloop single to left, Carlton's run-scoring single and Garry Maddox hustling down the first-base line to avoid being doubled up on a ground ball he had hit.


Fulgham left, after the sixth, having allowed four hits in his second start since being sidelined 53 days, and everyone concerned generally was pleased.


"He didn't have to be embarrassed about this game," said Osteen. "There were a couple of pitches he wasn't happy with, when he got out in front too much."


Fulgham, who has adopted a different delivery to ease the strain on his arm, said, "It's becoming more natural. But it's still not exactly comfortable.


"Especially, from the stretch, I'm not quick to the plate. Pete Rose had a couple of good jumps tonight and he's not the fastest base runner."


With more practice, Fulgham will feel more comfortable, which brings up something Carlton told Sykes the other day. (Since Carlton does not talk to reporters, Sykes necessarily must be the intermediary here).


"He said, 'They say practice makes perfect. But that happens only if you practice perfectly.' Now, that's a pretty profound statement right there."