New York Daily News - September 24, 1980
Steve Carlton: The strong, silent type
By Mike Lupica
ST. LOUIS – There are no cheesecake Jockey snorts ads, the kind Jim Palmer has. There are no yogurt commercials with the kids, or aluminum siding commercials with the wife. Tom Seaver handles those. There is no distinctive nickname like "Goose." Steve Carlton, you see, has this personality problem. The problem is this: He doesn't have a personality.
His nickname, for example, is "Lefty." Just that, lying there like a piece of stale white bread. Lefty. And you probably know that Lefty Carlton doesn't say much. He hasn't said anything to the press in years. This has played holy hell with Lefty's image, such as it is. If you won't talk to the press, there is no way Madison Avenue will ever let you near any aluminum siding.
Still Steve (Lefty Carlton won't talk. What he does instead is go out every few days and throw baseballs very hard with his left arm, the same thing he has been doing in the major leagues since 1968. And every time he performs this ritual, he shows his own team and the opposition's team and a few more fans why he is the best pitcher in baseball, at the age of 35. Seaver at 35 battles one injury after another. Palmer sometimes sounds like Maria Callas as he sings arias about his arm. Lefty Carlton, who hes neither the charm nor the looks of those men, simply keeps throwing fastballs and sliders past the world. Both Palmer and Seaver would probably tell you that fastballs and sliders beat Jockey shorts and yogurt anytime.
It was appropriate that Carlton went nine innings Monday night and beat the Cardinals as the Phillies were sneaking past the Expos and into first place in the National League East The lead would only be a half-game. No matter. If the Phillies were going to hit the beach, Carlton was going to step out of the first landing craft and silently lead them. Carlton will win his third Cy Young Award this season. He should win the MVP Award, too, if the Phillies win the division, but might not. There is a lot of Mike Schmidt support (42 HRS, 110 RBI) and a lot of Dusty Baker support in Los Angeles. There is support for Ron Leflore. But Lefty Carlton has been the man in the National League. In every start since April, he has been the quiet and awesome personification of "power pitcher."
His win Monday night moved his record to 23-8. The Phillies will tell you the record could easily be 28-3. In New York, you face so many adjectives about Gossage you think you are facing Gossage fastballs. In Baltimore, they pitch Steve Stone and in Kansas City Larry Gura. In Los Angeles, they have the nerve to offer us Jerry Reuss as the Cy Young winner because he has a neat record against contenders. Carlton, again, has been the game's premier pitcher, in his 15th season. Again he has left his talent and accomplishments for the rest of us to describe.
"There is no more powerful pitcher around," said Phillies manager Dallas Green, after the Phillies won 3-2 in 10 innings (Keith Moreland pinchhit for Carlton in the 10th and knocked in the winning run). "There aren't many pitchers who can stay power pitchers the-way Lefty has."
Green was asked to compare the Carlton of 1972 with the Carlton of 1980. In 1972, Steve Carlton was 27-10 (1.98 ERA) on a Phillies team that won 59 games. He started 41 times and had 30 complete games. He struck out 310 men. In our generation, no pitcher, not even Ron Guidry in 1978, has had a season to equal that.
"He's just as strong," said Green. "He's just a few years older."
Carlton has already started 35 games this season, and pitched 288 innings and struck out 238 men. At the age of 35. He has walked more than five men in a game just once. He has lasted through the sixth inning in every one of his starts. He has gone past the eighth inning 24 times. He has given up less than three earned runs 21 times, less than two runs five times. He has given up more than four earned runs in a game exactly once. He has struck out less than five men twice. Through Monday night's game, the combined batting average against him this season is .219. He has struck out 10 or more batters in 11 games. With J.R. Richard on the sidelines, there is no starting power pitcher close to Carlton. No one in the National League is within 100 strikeouts of him.
WHEN CARLTON BEAT the Cardinals Monday, it was the 29th time he had beaten them since the Cards traded him (for Rick Wise) in 1971. Since 1971, no Cardinal lefthander has even won 29 games. Carlton's record is also 6-0 against St. Louis this season.
"He's pitched so many innings that I think tiredness has taken just a bit of a toll on his strikeouts," said Dallas Green. "But when the man is pitching clutch baseball games, he doesn't care about strikeouts."
In the first inning Monday night, he got Ken Reitz to pop to left with the bases loaded. In the sixth, he got Tito Landrum to hit into a double play with the bases loaded. In the eighth, he got Keith Smith to ground to Schmidt with the bases loaded. And with the winning run on third in the ninth, he got Keith Hernandez, arguably the best hitter in the league, to ground to Manny Trillo. It was not a pretty game. It was a September-type game. It was No. 23.
Lefty Carlton. Don't say much. Best pitcher. Phillies in first.
In the East…
Half a game better than none
By Eric Compton
All in all, Philadelphia would rather be in first place. And that's just where the Phillies found themselves Monday night after their 3-2, 10-inning victory over the cardinals.
The move into the penthouse became possible when the Pittsburgh Pirates dumped the Expos 4-2, ousting the Expos from first place and giving the Phils a half-game lead.
"We’ve worked hard all year to get here and we're tickled to death," said Phillies manager Dallas Green. "We felt all along that we belong here."
It was poetic Justice that man who has carried the Phils all year, Steve canton, pitched the game that moved the team into first. Carlton (23-8) beat his ex-Cardinal teammates for the 29th time in 37 decisions since St Louis dealt him to Philadelphia for Rick Wise eight years ago.
"I don't think there's a more powerful pitcher around than Lefty," said Green. "It was a super effort in a really clutch game."
The Phillies provided Carlton with the winning run In the 10th when pinch hitter Keith Moreland doubled home Larry Bowa from second base. Bowa had singled and was sacrificed to second before Moreland’s hit. Tug McGraw came in and pitched a scoreless inning to pick up the save.
In Pittsburgh, the Pirates kept their pennant hopes alive by beating the Expos for the 12th time in 17 games. Mike Easler belted a two-run home run and Dave Parker doubled in two runs, leading the Pirates to their "must" victory. Jim Bibby (18-5) received credit for the triumph.
"I'm more proud of this team than last year's team because they've had to overcome more," said manager Chuck Tanner of the world champions. "We've had guys playing hurt all season, and we didn't have those kind of problems last year."