When it comes to Steve Carlton, there are two numbers in particular that still jump out at St. Louis Cardinals fans — 242 and 38.
The first is 242, the number of wins Carlton recorded in his career after being traded from St. Louis.
The second is 38, the number of those wins in which he beat the Cardinals.
The Hall of Famer was in St. Louis this past week as part of the ceremonies honoring the 1967 World Series Champions and admits that there have been times he wished he would have never been traded away.
“Hell yeah, of course,” replied Carlton with a laugh. “But I think it was Auggie’s deal. I used to make jokes about hunting at Grant’s Farm and I think he took that personal.”
Those jokes and maybe a second contract holdout were factors that contributed to then-owner August A. Busch Jr. ordering the left-hander to be traded rather than pay the additional $5,000 Carlton had requested after winning 20 games in 1971.
In exchange from Philadelphia, the Cardinals received Rick Wise — who had won 75 games in the seven season prior to the trade. But Carlton went on pitch his way into Cooperstown and Wise went 32-28 in two seasons before moving on from St. Louis. And the Cardinals went all of the 70’s without a playoff appearance. Carlton and the Phillies were in three straight NL Championship Series from ’76-’78.
If he hadn’t been traded, the numbers for Carlton might not have been the same.
“When I went to the Phillies, I got 40 or 41 starts — I had 30 complete games,” he explained. “I wouldn’t have gotten that here because I would’ve only got like maybe 34 starts because I’m pitching every fifth or sixth day with days off and stuff like that. If they had a rainout, when I went to Philly, whoever was going to pitch that day, if we got rain or a day off, they put me in that slot. So every fourth day, I’m pitching. Every time. There’s no fourth, fifth, and sixth days. I wouldn’t have got that opportunity here because of the way the staff was set up.”
Not only did Carlton pitch frequently, but he also threw a lot of pitches–sometimes as many as 185 in a game.
“Oh yeah, because that’s just the way it was,” he stated. “Nobody knew any different. It’s different now. I don’t think they’re in shape, pitching wise. They’re in great physical shape, but I don’t think they throw enough. We’ve got that pitch count mentality in this country. I don’t think it’s beneficial.”
These days, Carlton works happily on his tree farm in Colorado.
“I was kind of raised on a nursery a good part of my young life,” he said. “Comfortable doing that. Being in the woods. Planting trees, potting trees — stuff like that. I’ve got 150 fruit trees and a big orchard. Peace of mind. Presence. It’s how I enjoy myself. The simple life.”
Steve Carlton is among the finalists for the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame class.