Camden Courier-Post - May 6, 1980
Carlton 3-hitter beats Braves
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – If there is one word that can best explain why Steve Carlton now has more victories than all but one other National League pitcher, it may be "conditioning."
The Phillies' lefthander toyed with a no-hitter for 7⅔ innings before finishing with a three-hitter in a dominating 7-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves last night before 26,165 fans in Veterans Stadium. The win raised Carlton's record to 5-1, his best start since 1977, to match St. Louis' Pete Vuckovich for the league lead in victories.
Those around him – Carlton stubbornly refuses to talk to the press – say Carlton reported to spring training in the best shape of his life; that the rigorous conditioning program he maintained throughout the winter is now paying huge dividends for the club.
"I'VE NEVER seen him in the kind of physical condition he was in during spring training", said Phillies Manager Dallas Green. "He's in the best physical condition of his life. (Coach) Bobby Wine told me while we were in Florida that he watched Lefty throw and hadn't seem him with a slider like that since 1972."
That was the year Carlton won 27 games for a club not nearly as talented as this one. Oddly, he began 1972 – and subsequent 20-win seasons in 1976 and 1977 – with the same record be has this year.
Some people say Carlton's renaissance is as much mental as physical, that his outlook has changed for the better since Green took over for Danny Ozark, with whom Carlton never got along, as manager last August.
"I've treated him like a man," said Green. "That's all Lefty's ever asked – not that Danny didn't.
“AND THE running thing is where it all started."
The "running thing," as Green chose to refer to it, is Carlton's well-documented refusal to run with the other pitchers on the staff. Green said daring the winter that he would prefer Carlton to join the running program. And, when Carlton did not join the others in daily wind sprints during spring training, the two men had a talk.
"I talked to him face-to-face during spring training after going through a winter of his training program," said Green. "I'm a man who's not afraid to say when he's wrong and I told him, 'Running is probably wrong for you at this point in your career.'
So it was that Green closed the door on a controversy and opened a door for Carlton to quietly follow the beat of his different drummer.
THAT BEAT brought the Phillies their third win in the last four games, squaring their East Division record at 10-10. Carlton's job was made simple by an offense that provided ample runs early in the game.
"He (Carlton) makes your offense look good because he keeps the score down," said third baseman Mike Schmidt "You know you're not going to be behind by six or seven runs when he's pitching."
Schmidt homered twice off Atlanta starter Rick Matula, who went into the game with a guady 0.96 earned run average and a 2-1 record. Schmidt opened the third inning with a leadoff home run, then crowned a four-run fourth with his eighth, giving him the major league lead.
It was the 22nd time Schmidt has hit two home runs in one game and the blasts tied him for second place on the Phillies all-time list with Chuck Klein (243).
SCHMIDT SCORED the game's first run when Greg Luzinski ripped a two-out double to right-center field in the first inning. The Phils made it 2-0 in the second when Larry Bowa tripled into the right field corner and scored on a Carlton single to left.
The lead became 3-0 in the third on Schmidt's first homer and the Phils got three of their four runs in the fourth on a Carlton sacrifice fly and two Atlanta errors.
No-hit pursuit gives fans rare experience
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – The tension began building in earnest after the sixth inning, after Steve Carlton blew a slider past Larvell Blanks for a called third strike.
It grew stronger in the seventh, telegraphing through the 26,165 persons in Veterans Stadium who began realizing they were witnessing something extraordinary, something that comes along perhaps once in a baseball fan's lifetime.
Carlton cut through the Atlanta Braves lineup with a surgeon's precision, making Dale Murphy his ninth strikeout victim, getting Chris Chambliss – who had twice before lifted the ball to the outfield – to ground out and Jeff Burroughs to fly out peacefully to center.
Into the eighth Carlton went in pursuit of pitching's ultimate expression of dominance. He had been close six times before. But never this close, never within six outs of a no-hitter.
"That sonofagun was right there," Phillies Manager Dallas Green would say later. "I knew he was going to get it, I really did."
As is the custom, nobody in the Phillies dugout said a word about the no-hitter. It was bad luck to talk about a no-hitter when Red Donahue pitched the last one in Philadelphia back in 1898. It was bad luck last night. Some things in baseball never change.
"I didn't hear any talk about it" said third baseman Mike Schmidt "I guarantee, I was thinking it. I've never been a part of a no-hitter and I really thought I was going to be."
Brian Asselstine, the first Atlanta hitter in the eighth, rapped a sharp bouncer toward first baseman Pete Rose, who neatly backhanded the ball at eye level and threw to Carlton covering the bag – yes, Carlton managed to remember to cover first – for the out. Pinch-hitter Charlie Spikes was made strikeout No. 10, and suddenly Carlton was just four outs away from the finest performance of his career.
Excitement pulsated through the crowd as Bill Nahorodny, a product of the Phillies farm system and much traveled, stepped to the plate. Nahorodny had entered the contest as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning, striking out to join a list that would reach 11 by game's end.
Nahorodny had begun this season on the disabled list after breaking his left thumb during spring training, the Braves activating him only two weeks ago. This would be just his fifth at bat of the season and, as it turned out, one that he would not soon forget.
The catcher stroked Carlton's first pitch, a high fastball, cleanly to center for a base hit, breaking the spell Carlton had cast over the Braves. The Phillies lefthander, who already owns a National League record six one-hitters, had once again been denied.
The fans reacted to the single by giving Carlton a standing ovation, something he acknowledged by doffing his cap. Standing beside Rose at first, Nahorodny wondered what was going on.
"Why's the crowd reacting like that?" Nahorodny asked Rose.
"You just broke up a no-hitter," Rose ' replied.
"I didn't know that" said Nahorodny, realizing for the first time he had joined Glenn Beckert, Chris Speier, Felix Millan, Jeff Leonard, Elliott Maddox and Ted Simmons in breaking up a Carlton no-hitter.
"I wasn't thinking about him throwing a no-hitter," Nahorodny would later explain. "I was just glad to be playing. He overmatched me the first time. He threw me two great carves and kayed me with a slider I missed by two feet. I hit a fastball on the outside part of the plate. I really was thinking breaking ball because of what he did to me last time, so I don’t know how I got around on it."
The magic gone, Carlton struggled through the ninth inning, allowing a leadoff home run to Murphy and a single to Chambliss, finishing with a three-hit 7-1 victory.
Perhaps those who saw Jim Bunning's perfect game in New York in 1964, or Rick Wise's no-hitter in Cincinnati in 1971, took Carlton's performance with philosophical shrug and will remember it only vaguely.
But for the fans who've never watched a no-hitter, who've never been close to its beauty, Carlton's 7⅔ no-hit innings were an extraordinary experience.