Tag Archives: Rick Wise

Philography: Steve Carlton

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Carlton has been honored by the Phillies as a member of the franchise Wall of Fame and with a statue outside of Citizens Bank Park

 

This is the 22nd entry in the Philography series of mini-bios highlighting the careers of the most interesting and important individuals throughout Philadelphia Phillies history.

Links to the previous 21 entries, which include such notables as Mike Schmidt, Richie Ashburn, Dick Allen, Jim Bunning, Larry Bowa, Darren Daulton and many more can be found below.

It is a simple matter of fact to state that Steve Carlton is the greatest pitcher to ever pull on a Philadelphia Phillies jersey.

“Lefty” was enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1989, just a year following his retirement from baseball. He was also a first ballot enshrinee when eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame five years later in 1994.

Steven Norman Carlton was a South Florida kid, born and raised in Miami. He played Little League ball and then at North Miami High School, even staying home to play his college ball at Miami-Dade College where he was used primarily as a relief pitcher.

It was while still a college student that Carlton signed his first professional contract, receiving a $5,000 bonus to ink a deal with the Saint Louis Cardinals.

Chuck Hixson for 247 Sports noted in a May 2017 piece that the Cardinals nearly passed on signing Carlton, relating the following story from an unnamed scout:

Chase Riddle was the Cardinals scout that signed him, and when he had him pitch for the Cardinals brass, they weren’t overly impressed. Riddle practically threatened to quit if they didn’t sign him, and really stuck his neck out to get him signed.”

Hixson also quotes Carlton himself in his piece, which was written on the occasion of an appearance at a home game in 2017 for the Phillies Triple-A Lehigh Valley affiliates:

“...I didn’t really even know about the big leagues until I was a senior in high school. North Miami is rural, they have college football and horse racing, so that was all that I knew. I didn’t really know what was going on...”

Carlton’s talent was unmistakable from the get-go, as he rolled through three levels of the Cardinals minor league system during his first pro season of 1964. That summer, Carlton went 15-6 and reached Double-A at just age 19, giving up just 118 hits over 178 innings with 191 strikeouts and a 2.22 ERA.

At age 20, Carlton made his big-league debut the following season. He pitched in 15 games for Saint Louis that year, including his first two starts in Major League Baseball. Carlton described his first-ever outing on a mound with the Cardinals this way:

My major league debut came at old Busch Stadium on Grand Avenue in St. Louis, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The first pitch I threw was to third baseman Bob Bailey. It was a fastball, low and away. He ripped it for a home run down the left field line. I said, ‘Damn, that was a pretty good pitch.”

Among those early outings were a pair of appearances against the Phillies. On May 8, 1965 at Connie Mack Stadium, Carlton would first face the club with which he would ultimately become most famously associated. Entering in the bottom of the 7th inning, Carlton got Tony Gonzalez to ground into a force out and then struck out Clay Dalrymple swinging to end the frame.

After making nine more appearances with the 1966 Cardinals, Carlton earned a spot in their starting rotation for the 1967 season. He would go 14-9 over 30 games, 28 of those as starts, and helped Saint Louis to win 101 games and the National League pennant.

With the Cardinals leading the Boston Red Sox by three games to one in the World Series, he was given the start for Game 5 at Busch Stadium by manager Red Schoendienst. Carlton tossed six shutout frames, leaving with the Cards trailing 1-0 in a game they would end up losing by 3-1. On the mound that day for Boston shutting Saint Louis out on three hits was his future Phillies rotation mate, Jim Lonborg.

When the series returned to Fenway Park, Boston tied things up with an 8-4 victory. But Bob Gibson then bested Lonborg for his third win of the Fall Classic in Game 7, and the Cardinals became world champions, earning Carlton his first World Series ring.

Over the next four years with Saint Louis, Carlton developed into one of the top starting pitchers in all of baseball. He was a National League All-Star in 1968, 1969, and again in 1971. Just entering his prime at age 26, Carlton had already won 77 big-league games.

His 1970 season was marred by a contract dispute over which Carlton held out and missed spring training. When the season got underway, he suffered through an underwhelming 10-19 campaign.

After he rebounded with his first 20-win season in 1971, Carlton again demanded a raise. In those final years just prior to baseball’s reserve clause being eliminated and free agency instituted, he had little recourse but to hold out once again.

Gussie Busch, who had made a fortune with Budweiser beer and the Anheuser-Busch Companies, was the Cardinals owner from 1953 until his death in 1989. Busch was an old-school owner who had little time for what he felt were prima donna players trying to force his hand.

Instead of paying up, Busch ordered that Carlton be traded by general manager Bing Devine. So, as spring training was underway, Devine made a fateful deal. On February 25, 1972, Carlton was traded to the Phillies straight-up for right-handed pitcher Rick Wise.

There was no free agency, so he didn’t have the freedom to say, ‘Sign me or else.’ He was being very difficult to sign for the ridiculous amount of $10,000 between what he wanted and what we’d give him,” said Devine. “Many times Mr. Busch gave me a little leeway in the budget, but in the case of Carlton, Mr. Busch developed the feeling that Carlton was a ‘smart-aleck’ young guy, ‘and I’m not used to having young smart-alecks tell me what do.

Wise was no slouch. He was coming off a 17-win season with the Phillies at age 25 during which he was selected to his first National League All-Star team. Having made his big-league debut with the club at just age 18 during the ill-fated 1964 season, Wise was considered a solid and rising starting pitcher in his own right.

In fact, Wise would win 16 games for Saint Louis each of the next two seasons, and was again selected to the NL All-Star team in 1973. The Cardinals would end up packaging him with outfielder Bernie Carbo in a trade to the Red Sox in October 1973 for star outfielder Reggie Smith. Wise would ultimately pitch for 18 years in the big-leagues, winning 188 games with five different clubs.

The Phillies would, however, clearly get the best of this deal. In his first season with the club, Carlton would fashion one of the greatest pitching performances in baseball history. He went 27-10 with a last place Phillies team that won just 59 total games. That made for 45.8% of the club’s 1972 victories. Carlton allowed just 257 hits over 346.1 innings across 41 starts with 310 strikeouts.

It would all add up to the first of what would ultimately be four National League Cy Young Awards for Carlton, this one in a unanimous vote. He was also selected to his fifth NL All-Star team, and came in 5th place in the NL MVP voting as well.

Auggie Busch traded me to the last-place Phillies over a salary dispute,” he said. “I was mentally committed to winning 25 games with the Cardinals and now I had to re-think my goals. I decided to stay with the 25-win goal and won 27 of the Phillies 59 victories. I consider that season my finest individual achievement.

Over the next three years the Phillies began to slowly emerge as contenders. A homegrown group of young players developing from the minor leagues which already included left fielder Greg Luzinski and shortstop Larry Bowa would be joined by third baseman Mike Schmidt and catcher Bob Boone.

Carlton was solid but unspectacular during the 1973-75 seasons, going a combined 44-47 with 759 hits allowed over 839.2 innings while striking out 655 batters. He was an NL All-Star during a 16-win campaign in the 1974 season.

It was during this period that, feeling he was receiving unfair criticism from the local press, Carlton stopped talking to the media. In later years he would speak about the situation as follows:

I was tired of getting slammed. To me it was a slap in the face. But it made me concentrate better. And the irony is that they wrote better without access to my quotes…I took it personal. I got slammed quite a bit. To pick up the paper and read about yourself getting slammed, that doesn’t start your day off right.

In 1976, the Phillies broke through to win their first-ever National League East Division crown. Carlton won 20 games at age 31 on a staff that included fellow veterans Lonborg and Jim Kaat and a pair of talented 22-year-olds in Larry Christenson and Tom Underwood.

The Phillies would get swept out of the National League Championship Series in three straight games by the Cincinnati Reds. That was the heyday of the ‘Big Red Machine‘, and Carlton took the loss in the opener. He yielded four earned runs on seven hits in the game, including a sixth-inning two run homer off the bat of George Foster to break a 1-1 tie.

Carlton would finish fourth in the NL Cy Young voting that year. Both he and the club would do even better the following season.

In 1977, the Phillies set a franchise record with 101 regular season wins. For his 23-10 season, Carlton was an NL All-Star for the sixth time. He then was awarded a second career Cy Young, finishing 5th in the NL MVP voting once again.

However, the Phillies would again fall short in the National League Championship Series. This time it was the Los Angeles Dodgers knocking them out in four games. Included was the infamous ‘Black Friday‘ of Game 3, which set up Carlton’s start in Game 4.

In that Game 4 start, Carlton lasted just five innings on a miserable, rainy night at Veteran’s Stadium and the Dodgers eliminated the Phillies in front of their disheartened fans. Carlton allowed two runs with two outs in the 5th inning thanks largely to his second walk of the frame and a wild pitch, turning a 2-1 deficit into the final 4-1 margin of defeat.

Over the next two seasons of 1978-79, Carlton would fashion a combined 34-24 record. He was a 1979 NL All-Star, and stretched a personal streak of seasons during which he made more than 30 starts out to a dozen straight.

The Phillies tied the franchise mark with another 101-win campaign in 1978. But once again the Dodgers knocked them out in the NLCS in four games. Carlton wasn’t at his best when he was credited with the win in Game 3. But he helped himself with a home run and the Phillies bats exploded for their lone victory of the series, a 9-4 win at Dodger Stadium.

The 1979 season began with great promise. The Phillies were three-time defending NL East champions. They had signed free agent Pete Rose to help get them over the playoff hump during the off-season. They got off to a solid start, and the club wasa still tied for first place as late as May 27.

But there would be no playoffs in 1979. The Phillies would collapse thanks in part to a string of injuries. Following a legendary 23-22 shootout win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 17, they stood at 24-10 with a 3.5 game lead in the division. From that point onward, the Phillies would go just 60-68. They finished in a disappointing fourth place, 14 games behind the eventual world champion Pittsburgh Pirates.

As fallout from that collapse, manager Danny Ozark was fired late in the 1979 season. The laid-back ‘Wizard of Oze’ was replaced by director of player development Dallas Green, who displayed much more of a confrontational personality.

It was Green’s mandate from the front office to figure out which players were the problems, weed them out, and make changes to try and get the club over the hump to a title. Green made it clear that in 1980 the Phillies would either finally produce a championship, or the club would be broken up.

Carlton would produce his best season since 1972. He went 24-9 with a 2.34 ERA, allowing just 243 hits over 304 innings across 38 starts with a league-leading 286 strikeouts. The result was his third career Cy Young Award. The Phillies would emerge from a dramatic final week of the season with their fourth NL East crown in five years.

Carlton drew the starting assignment for Games 1 and 4 of what turned into perhaps the greatest National League Championship Series in history. The Phillies would defeat the Houston Astros in the full five games, all close, with the last four all reaching extra innings.

In the opener, Carlton went seven innings and allowed just one run in a 3-1 victory at Veteran’s Stadium. With the Phillies then trailing by two games to one and their backs to the wall, Carlton went 5.1, allowing two runs in Game 4. The Phillies would rally to win in 10 innings to force a decisive fifth game in Houston.

The Phillies finally ended their NLCS frustrations with an epic Game 5 comeback victory over Nolan Ryan and the Astros. The first National League pennant for the club in 30 years allowed them to move on to face future Hall of Famer George Brett and the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.

In the Fall Classic, the Phillies would win both of Carlton’s starts, each coming at The Vet. The first was a come-from-behind 6-4 win in Game 2, when the Phillies scored four times in the bottom of the 8th inning to rally for a victory that put them up two games to none.

The Royals rallied to take two games back in Kansas City to tie the series, but the Phils rallied from behind to win Game 5. With the Phillies leading 3-2 in the Fall Classic and just a win away from the first world championship in franchise history, it was Carlton who took the mound for Game 6 back in Philadelphia.

On October 21, 1980 at Veteran’s Stadium, Carlton went seven strong innings, holding Kansas City to one run on four hits while striking out seven batters. When the first two Royals batters reached base to start the top of the 8th, Green pulled him in favor of Tug McGraw.

McGraw would eventually load the bases and surrender a sacrifice fly, narrowing the Phillies lead down to 4-1. But he got the dangerous Hal McRae to ground out to second base with the bases loaded to end that threat.

In the top of the 9th, the Royals again loaded the bases, this time with just one out. McGraw then got Frank White on a foul pop near the Phillies dugout on which Pete Rose made a heads-up play for the second out. And then, on a 1-2 pitch, the Tugger pumped a fastball past Willie Wilson for the final out. For the first time in their history, the Phillies were the world champions of baseball.

Pete Rose came over to the Phillies in ’79 and he became the catalyst that helped us to put it all together,” said Carlton. “His example on the field and his leadership helped to bring everybody’s play up a notch. Hopefully, Pete will be reinstated by Baseball and he will have his rightful place in baseball history, a plaque in the Hall of Fame.

The following year would be a strike-shortened season in Major League Baseball. Carlton had a fantastic year, going 13-4 with a 2.42 ERA and 179 strikeouts over 24 starts despite losing more than two months to the labor strife. He would finish 3rd behind Fernando Valenzuela and Tom Seaver in an extremely tight Cy Young vote.

That vote for the NL’s best pitcher would not be as tight in 1982. Carlton captured his fourth and final career Cy Young Award with a 23-11 campaign in which he struck out 275 batters over 283.2 innings across 37 starts.

On September 13 of that 1982 season, Carlton struck out a dozen Cardinals and homered during a victory at Veteran’s Stadium. He is the only pitcher to homer during a complete game shutout in three different decades. Carlton accomplished that feat four total times.

Unfortunately, the team would crumble down the stretch. Leading the NL East as late as September 13, the Phillies would go just 9-10 over the final weeks. They finished in second place, three games behind Carlton’s old Saint Louis team. The Cards would go on to capture their first world championship since his trade.

The Phillies would have one last hurrah in 1983. With a veteran-laden squad nicknamed ‘The Wheeze Kids’, the Phillies got hot in September and pulled away, winning the club’s fifth division title in eight years.

On September 23, Carlton enjoyed a major career milestone when he struck out a dozen over eight innings against the Cardinals in Saint Louis for the 300th victory of his career.

In the NLCS, the Phillies exorcised their 1970’s demons, beating back the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games. Carlton won both Game 1 and Game 4 with a pair of stellar outings, allowing a total of just one run on 13 hits over 13.2 innings with 13 strikeouts.

With the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles then knotted at a game apiece, Carlton would pitch well in Game 3  at Veteran’s Stadium. But it would be a fellow future Hall of Famer, Jim Palmer, who would earn the pivotal victory. Palmer tossed a pair of shutout relief innings as the Orioles won 3-2.

Led by series MVP catcher Rick Dempsey, future Hall of Fame first baseman Eddie Murray, and a rookie shortstop named Cal Ripken Jr the O’s would go on to down the Phillies in five games in that 1983 Fall Classic.

It had been a great run of a winning decade for both Carlton and the Phillies, but it was coming to an end. He won 13 games and made 33 starts in 1984 at age 39. The Phillies were tied for first place on July 2, but would finished just .500 at 81-81 and in fourth place.

During the 1982-84 seasons, Carlton became involved in an ongoing battle for the top of Major League Baseball’s all-time strikeouts list. The record had been held for decades by Walter Johnson. Over that three year period Carlton, Ryan, and Gaylord Perry would duel for the top spot. Ryan would ultimately last the longest and remains the all-time strikeout king, the only man to surpass the 5,000 career mark.

Carlton’s signature pitch was a wipeout slider. It was a pitch he had developed during an exhibition series of games in Japan following the 1968 season, and one which was unhittable when he was on. He once described throwing the pitch in this manner:

It just rolls off of your index finger and begins it’s spin, which will take it down and across the plate. Just remember not to twist your elbow or wrist. It should be thrown, with the wrist and grip set, just like your fastball, slightly off center – with the same velocity and intensity.

His string of 16 consecutive seasons (not counting the 1982 strike-shortened year) making at least 30 starts finally came to a grinding halt when Carlton missed more than two months with an injury in the summer of 1985. He went just 1-8 over 16 starts that year at age 40, and it appeared to be the end of the line.

Carlton came back in 1986 for what would prove to be his swan song in Philadelphia. He ended up making just 16 starts that year for the Phillies, going 4-8 with a 6.18 ERA.

On June 21, 1986 against his old Cardinals team, Carlton made his final start in a Phillies uniform. He surrendered six earned runs over five innings at The Vet. But while he struck out six batters, he also walked six.

GM Bill Giles would hand him his release just three days later, bringing Carlton’s time with the club to an end after a mostly dominating decade and a half.

The San Francisco Giants were in first place in early July. Their general manager Al Rosen felt that Carlton could provide another veteran for his team’s rotation to help carry them to the playoffs, and signed him to a contract. But Carlton would make just six starts by the Bay before San Francisco realized he had nothing left. They released him on August 7.

Before he left, Carlton provided San Francisco with one big moment. On August 5 at Candlestick Park in his final appearance in a Giants uniform, Carlton struck out Eric Davis of the Cincinnati Reds. It was the 4,000th strikeout of his career and he joined Ryan as the only members of the 4,000 Strikeout Club to that point.

Five days later it was the Chicago White Sox turn to see if they could catch lightning in a bottle. Under first-year GM Ken Harrelson and new manager Jim Fregosi, the Chisox were going nowhere. They decided to give Carlton a shot as a late-summer drawing card.

Carlton finished out that 1986 season making 10 starts with the White Sox. Maybe it was the aid of the Designated Hitter taking the toll of batting and running the bases off the aging lefty, but something was different over in the American League. Carlton recaptured some of his old magic as he went 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA, allowing just 58 hits over 63.1 innings. He pitched into at least the 7th inning on seven occasions.

A free agent that off-season, his late season success with Chicago was enough to entice the Cleveland Indians into a one-year deal. Carlton would appear in 23 games, 14 of those starts, before the Tribe dealt him to a Minnesota Twins club that was competing for an AL West crown under GM Andy MacPhail and manager Tom Kelly.

As with San Francisco, there would be one historic moment during his time in Cleveland. On April 14 he came on in relief of 48-year-old starting pitcher Phil Niekro. The duo thus became the first teammates who were also 300-game winners to appear in the same game. This would also prove to be Carlton’s lone career appearance at Yankee Stadium. He had been selected to the NL team for the 1977 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium but did not play.

Carlton paid early dividends after arriving in Minnesota, pitching the Twins to a key victory with a big August 8 effort in a showdown with the Oakland A’s at the Metrodome. Minnesota led Oakland by two games in the standings at the time. Carlton turned back the clock at age 43, going 8.2 innings while scattering seven hits in a 9-2 victory. It was the 329th win of his big-league career, and would also prove to be his last.

Minnesota would finish four games ahead of the A’s and two ahead of Kansas City to capture their first-ever AL West crown. The club would then go on to capture the ALCS in five games over Detroit, and then stun the Saint Louis Cardinals in seven games to win the second World Series in franchise history, their first since moving to the Twin Cities in the 1961 season.

Carlton was not on the Twins postseason roster for that October championship run, but he would earn his third World Series ring with a third different organization following his earlier wins with the Cards in 1967 and Phillies in 1980.

He would come back to make four April appearances with the Twins, the first three in relief, at age 44 before finally calling it quits. Minnesota was classy enough to give Carlton one final starting outing before he bowed out.

On April 23, 1988 the big left-hander took the mound on a Saturday night in front of more than 40,000 fans at the Metrodome. It wasn’t pretty. The Indians scored four times off him in the 1st inning en route to a 10-2 victory.

Carlton allowed nine runs that night, eight of them earned, over five innings. He gave up a single to the first batter he faced, a second baseman who Phillies fans might remember by the name of Julio Franco. Carlton also surrendered a pair of home runs, one of those to a man who would become infamous in Phillies lore a few years later by the name of Joe Carter.

Carlton was officially given his final release from the Twins on April 28, 1988. While he was willing to continue pitching, no one offered him a contract.

The following spring, Carlton was offered use of their training facilities by the New York Yankees. But with no guarantee of even a spring training invitation, he finally opted to retire.

For the vast majority of his career in Philadelphia, Carlton, the greatest pitcher to ever don the Phillies uniform, was a teammate of Mike Schmidt, the greatest all-around player to ever wear that same uniform. Schmidt would hang up his cleats early in the 1989 season.

He’s the best third baseman that I ever played with, and maybe of all-time,” said Carlton. “Obvious Hall of Famer, even then. He retired while on top of his game. I thought for sure he was going to hit 600 home runs.

Fellow Phillies Wall of Famer and Baseball Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn is a Philadelphia baseball icon. He was a radio and television broadcast color man for the entirety of Carlton’s career, and had this to say about the left-hander:

Lefty was a craftsman, an artist. He was a perfectionist. He painted a ballgame. Stroke, stroke, stroke, and when he got through (pitching a game) it was a masterpiece.

In addition to his four Cy Young Awards, Steve Carlton finished among the top four in that voting on two other occasions. He was a 10-time National League All-Star, and was also the 1982 NL Gold Glove Award winner.

Carlton was an all-around player as a pitcher, priding himself on his defense and hitting prowess. He holds the all-time MLB record with 144 base runners picked off. Carlton hit .201 over his career with 13 home runs, 49 doubles, six triples, and 140 RBIs.

Happily retired to a 400-acre ranch in Durango, Colorado since his playing days ended, Carlton is content with a lifestyle led mostly out of the limelight. He was married to ex-wife Beverly for 33 years and they had two sons together, but the two divorced in 1998.

I came to Durango in 1989 to get away from society,” he told Pat Jordan for Philadelphia Magazine in 1994. “I don’t like it where there are too many people. I like it here because the people are spiritually tuned in. They know where the lies fall.

Carlton makes the occasional trip for a Phillies, Hall of Fame, or other baseball reunion event, but otherwise doesn’t have much time for the game. He was quoted in that Hixson piece from May 2017 on his lifestyle:

I don’t really know the players any more, I don’t follow it. I know some of the coaches, but I’ve moved on, I’ve got other stuff to do. I owned it for 24 years, I played it, so I don’t need to do it again. I’ve moved on to other things…I do as little as possible. I have an orchard and I watch the apples grow. I’m in the forestry program for the good of the nation and the planet; before Al Gore was green, I was green. I have my solar and an orchard of about 150 fruit trees and I plant trees under the forestry program.

Tim McCarver is renowned as a Hall of Fame baseball analyst and broadcaster to many younger fans of the game for his work over the last few decades. However, McCarver also played the game for a long time. In fact, he is one of the few to ever appear as an MLB player in four different decades.

McCarver and Carlton were teammates with Saint Louis from 1965-69, then again with the Phillies at the start of 1972, and finally from 1975-80. During that last stretch of seasons, McCarver became known as Carlton’s “caddy”, often catching many of his stars even though the club had an All-Star starting catcher in Bob Boone.

The relationship between Carlton and McCarver, who won the World Series together in 1967 with the Cardinals and then again in 1980 with the Phillies, was  extremely close.

When Steve and I die, we are going to be buried in the same cemetery, sixty feet, six inches apart,said McCarver.

Thankfully, both men are still with us today. McCarver turned 78 back in late October. Carlton will turn 75 years old just a few days before Christmas. I wonder if they’ve purchased that unique burial plot yet?

 

PHILOGRAPHY SERIES

Click on the “date” in order to read the Philography piece. Click on the individual name to view their stats page at Baseball Reference.

10.17.2014 – Greg Luzinski

10.24.2014 – Mitch Williams

10.31.2014 – Chris Short

11.07.2014 – Von Hayes

11.14.2014 – Placido Polanco

11.21.2014 – Jim Konstanty

11.28.2014 – Dick Allen

12.06.2014 – Dick Ruthven

12.12.2014 – Grover Cleveland  Alexander

12.20.2014 – Darren Daulton

12.13.2015 – Larry Bowa

1.09.2016 – Sherry Magee

1.26.2016 – Kevin Stocker

2.10.2016 – Granny Hamner

2.15.2016 – Edith Houghton

12.27.2016 – Bob Boone

1.19.2017 – Mike Lieberthal

2.02.2017 – Red Dooin

11.29.2018 – Richie Ashburn

2.03.2019 – Jim Bunning

2.10.2019 – Mike Schmidt

NL’s Cy Young Award has gone to a Phillies hurler seven times

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Denny won the 1983 NL Cy Young Award for his performance with the Phillies that season

 

Major League Baseball continues the announcement of its 2019 awards on Wednesday evening. The top pitchers in both the National and American Leagues will be honored as the Cy Young Award winners are publicly revealed in a 6:00 pm EST broadcast on the MLB Network.

Those will be the more formally recognized awards as voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America. However, a few hours earlier, the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America) will announce the winners of voting from their membership.

The 2019 American League Cy Young Award finalists are teammates Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander of the AL champion Houston Astros and former Phillies pitcher Charlie Morton of the Tampa Bay Rays. Verlander previously won the award back in 2011 and is a three-time runner-up for the honors.

In the National League, the finalists are last year’s winner Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets, Korean southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and three-time winner Max Scherzer of the world champion Washington Nationals. Both Ryu and Cole are free agents this off-season.

My choices are Cole and deGrom. Those are the two men who received my IBWAA vote.

MLB first began recognizing the best pitcher in baseball with this formal award with the 1956 season. For the first 11 years, just one winner for all of Major League Baseball was honored.

Due to an overwhelming outpouring of fan requests, a winner was honored from both the National and American Leagues beginning with the 1957 season.

In 1969, the American League vote ended in a tie between Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers and Mike Cuellar of the Baltimore Orioles, and for the only time in the history of the award it was shared. Voting rules were changed as a result, with just one winner honored thereafter.

While the Cy is generally considered to be an honor for the top starting pitcher in the game, that is not a requirement. Mike Marshall of the Los Angeles Dodgers became the first reliever to take the honors in 1974, and eight other relievers have since won the award across the two leagues. The most recent was Eric Gagne of the Dodgers back in 2003.

Roger Clemens holds a record for having won the award seven times. A pair of former Phillies pitchers, Roy Halladay and Pedro Martinez, are among a group of a half-dozen hurlers to be honored with the Cy in both leagues at some point during their careers.

The late Baseball Hall of Famer and Phillies Wall of Famer Halladay is one of just four pitchers to take home a National League Cy Young Award while a member of the Fightin’ Phils pitching staff.

Halladay was the unanimous winner of the award after a historic 2010 season in which he threw a Perfect Game as well as just the second postseason no-hitter in MLB history. He registered an incredible 8.6 WAR value that year, winning 21 games and tossing 250.2 innings with nine complete games.

In 1983, right-hander John Denny captured the honors with the Phillies “Wheeze Kids” team that would go on to win the National League pennant. Denny received 20 of 24 first-place votes to finish as an easy winner.

That Cy followed a 19-win season during which he tossed 242.2 innings over 36 starts. Denny was also the NL’s Comeback Player of the Year in that first full season after coming to the Phillies from the Cleveland Indians in a September 1982 trade.

Four years later, the only Phillies relief pitcher to ever win the Cy took the honors in one of the closest votes ever. Steve Bedrosian saved 40 games for the team that year, exactly half of their total 1987 wins total. He worked 89 innings over 65 games, allowing 79 hits with 74 strikeouts and a 2.83 ERA.

“Bedrock” received just nine of 24 first-place votes, but came out the winner with 57 total voting points. That total edged out the 55 received by Rick Sutcliffe (four first-place) of the Chicago Cubs and 54 for Rick Reuschel (eight first-place), who split the season between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants.

Halladay, Denny, Bedrosian. Those are three of the seven times that a Phillies pitcher has taken the NL honors. As I said earlier, four pitchers have won the award while with the club. Which means that the fourth hurler would put four Cy Young Awards into his trophy case.

That hurler was, of course, lefty Steve Carlton. The greatest pitcher in Phillies franchise history, Carlton won the Cy for his performances on the mound in the 1972, 1977, 1980, and 1982 campaigns.

That first win in 1972 was one of the most impressive pitching performances in Major League Baseball history. In his first season after arriving from the Saint Louis Cardinals in a spring training trade for Rick Wise, Carlton was the unanimous winner of what has been ranked as the ninth-greatest Cy Young season in history.

The man who became alternately known as “Lefty” or “Super Steve” won 27 games with a putrid Phillies team that would win just 59 games. He made 41 starts with 30 complete games, numbers that are unheard of in today’s game. Carlton allowed just 257 hits over 346.1 innings with 310 strikeouts, registering a 1.97 ERA and 0.993 WHIP.

In 1977, Carlton won 23 games while tossing 283 innings over 36 starts. He registered 17 complete games and struck out 198 with a 2.64 ERA and 1.124 WHIP. That performance allowed him to receive 17 of 26 first-place votes and finish comfortably ahead of runner-up Tommy John of the Dodgers.

For his performance during the Phillies first-ever World Series-winning campaign in 1980, Carlton became just the third pitcher to ever win three Cy’s, joining Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver with that distinction.

That year, the lefty won 24 games, with 38 of his starts resulting in 13 complete games. He struck out 286 batters while allowing just 243 hits across 304 innings pitched. Carlton registered a 2.34 ERA and 1.095 WHIP, and received 23 of the 24 first-place votes as the runaway winner.

Two years later, Carlton became the first pitcher to ever win four career Cy Young Awards, and did so again in runaway fashion, receiving 20 of 24 first-place votes.

That season, Carlton won 23 games while making 38 starts, half of those resulting in complete games. He struck out 286 over 295.2 innings with a 1.147 WHIP for a Phillies team that would battle his old Saint Louis club for the NL East crown down to the last two weeks of the season before falling three games short.

Carlton and Halladay went on to become both Baseball Hall of Famers and Phillies Wall of Famers. Carlton’s 84.1 career WAR mark is the fifth-best in baseball history among left-handed pitchers, while Halladay’s 65.4 mark leaves him among the top 50 hurlers in the history of the game.

Denny had a nice career, winning 123 games over 13 big-league seasons, 37 of those with the Phillies over parts of four years. Bedrosian registered 184 career saves and 76 wins in a 14-year career.

At this time last season, Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola was a finalist for the award after winning 17 games and allowing just 149 hits over 212.1 innings across 33 starts with 224 strikeouts.

Will Nola some day become the fifth Phillies pitcher to capture an NL Cy Young Award? Perhaps Zach Eflin will elevate his game to that level. Or maybe the club will be able to lure Cole or Ryu this winter in free agency and find one of them taking the honors in some future season.

One thing is certain, as the 2011 Phillies who won a franchise record 102 regular season games while featuring a “Four Aces” rotation of Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt showed, starting pitching is the name of the game in Major League Baseball.

The Phillies need to upgrade their starting pitching rotation by landing a pair of new, proven arms in the free agent market this winter. If they do, the club should finally once again become a serious challenger for a postseason berth in 2020. And perhaps they’ll also get a Cy Young winner in the bargain.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

 

Philography: Jim Bunning

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After retiring from baseball, Bunning entered politics, becoming a U.S. Senator from his home state of Kentucky

 

Earlier this off-season my “Philography” series highlighting the playing career of various important figures in Philadelphia Phillies history came here to Phillies Nation.

The series began a few years back and has now grown to 19 individuals for whom I have presented a mini-biography. This year I’ve chosen to go right to the cream of the crop, the five individuals for whom the Phillies organization has actually retired an official uniform number.
Back in late November it was Richie Ashburn, whose uniform #1 was retired by the Phillies when he became the second man honored with a spot on the franchise Wall of Fame in summer 1979.
Now the series resumes with the sixth person honored with a spot on that Wall of Fame in 1984, pitcher Jim Bunning. The right-hander who pitched with the Phillies from 1964-67 and again to close out his big-league career in 1970-71 had his uniform #14 retired on April 6, 2001.
Bunning actually played more seasons with the Detroit Tigers of the American League (9) than his half-dozen years in Philadelphia. And his second career as a politician in which he became a state senator, then a U.S. Congressman, and finally a United States Senator from his home state of Kentucky was perhaps even more notable than his baseball accomplishments.

But those baseball accomplishments were certainly more than just notable. They were strong enough that Bunning was elected for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame by the veteran’s committee in 1996.

 

Per a tremendous piece by Ralph Berger for SABR, which I urge you to read at that link, Bunning was born into a tightly-knit middle-class Catholic family who lived on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, just across from Cincinnati.
Per the Berger bio, Bunning became a pitcher as a boy since he owned the only ball among his friends’ group. He grew up as a Cincinnati Reds fan. His favorite player was pitcher Bucky Walters, who became the National League MVP in 1939 when Bunning was just seven years old.
Bunning played not only baseball, but also football and basketball as a teenager at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. Then as a freshman at Xavier University, Bunning was offered a contract by a scout with the Detroit Tigers. He would ultimately sign for a $4,000 bonus and $150 monthly salary.

One of the stipulations of his signing was that he be allowed to complete his college education at Xavier. Thus, he would start the first few seasons of his pro career a few months later than his teammates.

 

That pro career began with Richmond of the Ohio-Indiana League in 1950 at 18-years of age. Bunning advanced incrementally through the Tigers minor league system over the next few years, and by the 1953-54 seasons he had reached Double-A Little Rock. There he compiled an 18-23 mark and allowed 333 hits over 351 innings across 69 games, 48 of those as a starter.
He began the 1955 season at Triple-A Buffalo of the International League, just a step away from Major League Baseball. A solid performance in which Bunning went 8-5 with a 3.77 ERA over the first 20 games, 16 of those starts, put the 23-year-old pitcher squarely into the plans of a middle-of-the-road Tigers ball club.
The organization felt that he was developing “an excellent curve ball, a confusing delivery and a sneaky fast ball“, and in July of 1955 that combination would finally get him on to a big-league mound in Detroit.
On the night of July 20, 1955 at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, Bunning made his first Tigers start. He would go 7.2 innings and was beaten up a bit by the Baltimore Orioles to the tune of six earned runs on eight hits. He struck out five and walked two and was hung with the loss against one of the worse teams in the American League.
It was a bit of an ignominious beginning, and the rest of his rookie season wouldn’t go much better. Bunning finished that 1955 season with the Tigers having compiled a 3-5 record and 6.35 ERA, allowing 59 hits and walking 32 over 51 innings across 15 games, eight of those as a starter.
In 1956 he was back at Triple-A to start the year and again pitched solidly enough to remain in the Tigers plans. He got the call back to Detroit in late July and would remain with the big-league club for the remainder of the season.
Pitching mostly out of the bullpen, Bunning had a solid 2.58 ERA after his first 14 big-league outings that year. But his final appearance of the season on September 24 resulted in disaster when he was bashed for seven earned runs in just one inning against the Chicago White Sox.
Bunning earned a role in the starting rotation during spring training of 1957. In his first start on April 17 against the Kansas City Athletics, Bunning was driven from the mound without even finishing the first inning.

That poor outing caused manager Jack Tighe to lose confidence, and the skipper relegated Bunning to the bullpen for the next month. It would prove to be a career-changing experience for the right-hander. Berger wrote that “working in the pen helped Bunning become a much improved pitcher with a slider that he could consistently get over the plate. He became a pitcher, not just a thrower.”

 

Given another shot at the rotation, Bunning would not look back. On May 16 he beat the Boston Red Sox with a complete game five-hitter at Fenway Park. Remaining in the rotation for most of the remainder of that 1957 season, Bunning made the National League all-star team and won 20 games, finishing ninth in the AL MVP balloting.
This would prove to be the only 20-win season of what would become a 17-year career in the Majors for Bunning. But over the next half-dozen he would remain one of the American League’s most effective starting pitchers.
From the seven seasons from 1957-63 with Detroit, Bunning would go 110-81 with a 1.181 WHIP. He was consistently at or above the 250-innings pitched and 35-start marks, proving one of the league’s most durable as well. He was a 7x AL All-Star, and received MVP votes three times.
Perhaps the highlight for Bunning during this excellent stretch came on the afternoon of July 20, 1958 at Fenway Park in Boston. In the first game of a doubleheader that day, Bunning tossed a 12-strikeout no-hitter against Ted Williams and the host Red Sox.
During his nine total seasons with Detroit, the Tigers only took a run at an American League pennant once. That came during a tremendous 1961 campaign in which the club won 101 games, a total that would have won the pennant in all but two of the prior 15 seasons. Unfortunately for those 1961 Tigers, the New York Yankees led by Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle had a season for the ages, winning 109 games.

Entering September, the Tigers trailed the Bronx Bombers by just 1.5 games in the standings. But New York opened that final month by sweeping a three-game set between the two clubs, Detroit dropped 12 of their first 17 that month, and the pennant race was over.

 

Things began to sour for Bunning in Detroit during the 1963 season. A managerial change saw new skipper Chuck Dressen bang heads a few times with his star pitcher. The club was also apparently not enamored with Bunning’s second career as a stock broker, or with his outspoken role as the Tigers’ player representative – an early hint at his interest in politics.
It all came to a head on December 5, 1963 when Detroit general manager Jim Campbell and Phillies GM John Quinn swung a four-player deal. In that trade, Bunning and 32-year-old catcher Gus Triandos went to Philadelphia, with outfielder Don Demeter and young pitcher Jack Hamilton heading to the Tigers.

Bunning would take to the National League like a fish to water. Over his first three seasons with the Phillies, Bunning won 19 games each year and then won 17 in 1967.  He was an NL All-Star in three of the four seasons, and finished as the 1967 NL Cy Young Award runner-up.

 

Every Phillies fan who was around and old enough to follow the club (I was two years old that summer) is well aware of what happened during the 1964 season. What happened over the final two weeks that September has left a scar that remains visible more than a half-century later.
But that summer was filled with excitement for baseball fans in Philadelphia. Few days were more so than the afternoon of Sunday, June 21. On that Father’s Day at Shea Stadium in New York in the first game of a doubleheader, Bunning pitched a Perfect Game against the host Mets.
Berger describes the early innings of that afternoon as largely uneventful, with the Bunning and Triandos battery working the New York lineup perfectly. As the game wore on and the stakes grew higher, Phillies manager Gene Mauch began to juggle his defenders to get the best possible support behind his pitching horse.
In the bottom of the 5th inning, perfection was saved by a defensive gem. Berger wrote on it as follows:
Mets catcher Jesse Gonder smashed a line drive between second and first. Second sacker Tony Taylor lunged to his left, knocked the ball down, crawled on his knees to grab the ball, and nipped Gonder at first. That was the last play in the game that resembled a hit for the Mets.

Bunning got New York shortstop Charley Smith on a pop-out to Phillies shortstop Bobby Wine to open the bottom of the 9th inning. He then struck out a pair of pinch-hitters sent to the plate by Mets skipper Casey Stengel, getting John Stephenson swinging on a 2-2 pitch to clinch perfection.

 

An 18-year-old wunderkind named Rick Wise followed Bunning’s perfection with a solid performance of his own, with Wise gaining his first of what would be 188 career big-league victories in game two of that doubleheader. That Sunday sweep in the Big Apple pushed the Phillies two games in front in the National League pennant race.
An August spurt would lift the Phillies to a season high 7.5 games in front of their National League rivals a number of times during late August. They still held a 6.5 game lead as late as September 20.

And then, with just 12 games left, it all fell apart. The Phillies infamously lost 13 of 15 games after September 15, including 10 in a row. Despite winning their final two games, the club would finish a game behind the Saint Louis Cardinals.

 

Despite having a winning team in each of his four seasons with the club from 1964-67, the Phillies would never truly contend for a pennant aside from that 1964 club during Bunning’s first go-around in Philadelphia.
On December 15, 1967 with the Phillies looking to move into a rebuilding mode, Quinn shipped a now 36-year-old Bunning off to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for pitchers Woodie Fryman and Bill Laxton, minor league prospect Harold Clem, and a 20-year-old infield prospect named Don Money.
Bunning would split the 1968-69 seasons pitching for the Pirates and then the Los Angeles Dodgers. With Major League Baseball having expanded and moved to a divisional format for the first time, the Dodgers were involved in a four-team battle royale for  the newly formed National League West Division.
Los Angeles obtained Bunning in an August 15, 1969 trade from Pittsburgh, and the veteran righty would immediately join and remain in the Dodgers starting rotation. Within a week, LA took the divisional lead. But despite Bunning pitching well for them, the Dodgers would fade over the final two weeks in a performance that nearly mirrored the 1964 Phillies collapse.
That would prove to be Bunning’s final shot at the postseason. He never did pitch in a playoff game during his entire career. The Dodgers released him on October 22, 1969. Exactly one week later the Phillies brought him back, signing him as a 38-year-old free agent.
At that point the Phillies were preparing for their final season at Connie Mack Stadium, formerly Shibe Park, which had been a Philadelphia professional baseball institution since opening in 1909. The club wanted Bunning to provide some name recognition and experience for a team that had dealt away mercurial star Dick Allen and was looking to get younger in preparation for the 1970’s and a new era in a new ballpark.
Bunning made his final start at Connie Mack Stadium on Sunday, September 27, 1970. It was a classic pitching showdown with another future Hall of Famer, Fergie Jenkins, who had briefly been Bunning’s teammate with the 1965-66 Phillies. The 27-year-old Jenkins would come out on top, tossing a complete game, holding the Phillies to four hits in a 5-3 victory.
The following spring would mark the opening of a new multi-purpose sports stadium in South Philadelphia. Bunning was tapped by manager Frank Lucchesi with the honors of taking the mound for the first Phillies game at Veteran’s Stadium.

On Saturday afternoon, April 10, 1971 at approximately 2:21pm local time, Bunning delivered his first offering. Montreal Expos leadoff man Boots Day grounded that first pitch right back at him, Bunning turned and flipped to first baseman Deron Johnson for the out, and a new era in Phillies baseball was underway.

 

Bunning would remain in the starting rotation on a regular basis through July 1 but became less and less effective as the summer rolled on, finally relegated to bullpen duty over the last two months.
His final official Win in a Phillies uniform came on June 16, 1971 at The Vet in a 6-3 victory over Willie MaysWillie McCoveyBobby Bonds and the San Francisco Giants.
During his six total seasons with the Phillies, Bunning went 89-73 with a 2.93 ERA and 1.111 WHIP. He allowed 1,361 hits over 1,520.2 innings across 226 games, 208 of them starts, while striking out 1,197 opposing batters. He remains seventh on the all-time franchise strikeouts list today.

Including his years with Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles, Bunning fashioned a career 224-184 mark. He compiled a 3.27 ERA, 1.179 WHIP and struck out 2,855 batters over 591 games and 3,760.1 innings pitched.

 

After his retirement, Bunning was hired as a manager in the Phillies farm system and moved up through the ranks over the early-1970’s. As the big-league club was becoming a contender in the middle of the decade, Bunning appeared to be being groomed for the Phillies managerial job.
As told by Berger, there was apparently some falling out between Bunning and influential Phillies farm director Dallas Green. The two had been teammates during the mid-60’s and were longtime friends. But the Phillies unwillingness to give him the big-league job and Bunning’s own “brutal honesty“, as Berger put it, finally led to his being released after the NL East-winning 1976 campaign.
Following a failed attempt at becoming part-owner of the Houston Astros, Bunning returned home to Kentucky where he became a player agent. He was also recruited to run for a city council position in Fort Thomas and won, launching his political career.
In 1980, Bunning was elected to the Kentucky state house, where he would serve as a state senator through 1984. He tried a run for governor and fell short by 54-44% in that 1983 election, but his name was now growing statewide. He would win as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress just four years later and served in the House of Representatives for six terms.

When longtime Democratic Party incumbent Wendell Ford decided to retire and not run in the 1998 race for the United States Senate, Bunning accepted the Republican Party’s challenge to try to claim the seat. In a hard-fought campaign, Bunning edged out his Democratic Party opponent by 49.8-49.2% to claim a Senate seat.

 

Bunning would hold on to that U.S. Senate seat with a 50.7-49.3% victory over another strong Democratic challenger in 2004. But then as the 2010 election cycle approached, the then 78-year-old decided against seeking a third term. He had, however, played a large role in the Republican Party rise to power, and was succeeded in his seat by another Republican, Rand Paul.
Back in 1952 when he had received his first pro contract with the Tigers, Bunning purchased an engagement ring for his childhood sweetheart. He and the former Mary Catherine Theis would remain married for the rest of their lives and would have nine children. By 2013, that union had also produced 35 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

On May 26, 2017, Jim Bunning died from complications of a stroke that he had suffered in October 2016. He was 85 years of age. He is buried in the town of Fort Thomas, where his political career began, in his beloved home state of Kentucky.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Philography: Jim Bunning

Carlos Ruiz is the fan choice to become the next Phillies Wall of Famer

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‘Chooch’ is the clear favorite of fans for Wall of Fame enshrinement

A couple of weeks ago here at Phillies Nation, I published a piece speculating on which non-2008 players might be worth of a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame. Fans responded by tossing out a number of their own choices as commentary, either directly at the website or via social media.

Names not mentioned in my piece but suggested by fans included 1960’s-era players Rick WiseTony Gonzalez, and Cookie Rojas. The National League Most Valuable Player in 1950 and a key pitcher with the NL champions that year, Jim Konstanty was also mentioned. There was even someone who brought up some early-1900’s names such as Dave BancroftJack Clements, and Jimmie Wilson.
As a result of the comments, I decided to actually reach out and poll the fan base to see who their favorite might be to become the next Phillies Wall of Famer.
I decided to run the polling in a two-phase process. I would run a pair of four-player semi-final polls to kick things off. Then would take those receiving the most support and put them into a three-player finals poll. This was a simple Twitter poll, so I am claiming no special scientific method used.
As criteria, I left out most of the early-1900’s players. Fact is, those players historically receive little to no support from modern fans in such polls. Though this recency factor working against them is unfair, it is also a genuine phenomenon. However, I’ve always been a big supporter for 1910’s first baseman Fred Luderus, so put him into one of the semis polls.
The results in those semis with 241 total fans responding were as follows:
Poll #1: Carlos Ruiz 55%, Pete Rose 35%, Bobby Abreu 8%, Fred Luderus 2%
Poll #2: Shane Victorino 39%, Dan Baker 27%, Cliff Lee 18%, Manny Trillo 16%
As you can see, the two 2008 players received the greatest support, something that I anticipated. I decided to move Chooch and The Flyin’ Hawaiian into the final poll.

As the third choice, I made it public address announcer Dan Baker, who now has nearly 50 years with the organization and whose voice is recognizable to generations of Phillies fans. I also factored in that the club is not likely to actually consider Rose again any time soon, if at all.
That final poll resulted in tremendous response as 2,107 individuals cast ballots. The final voting result was a little more lopsided than I had anticipated:
If these are the only choices, your vote for next @Phillies Wall of Famer:
20%Dan Baker
59%Carlos Ruiz
21%Shane Victorino

Based on my little non-scientific polling it would appear that Carlos ‘Chooch’ Ruiz, the catcher for the 2008 World Series champions who played with the club from 2006-16, is the clear fan favorite to become the next honoree on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
If he does get selected by the team, Chooch would become the fourth backstop to be so honored. He would join Bob Boone (2005), Darren Daulton (2010), and Mike Lieberthal (2012) as catchers previously enshrined on the Wall of Fame.

If the usual timing is followed this year, the Phillies can be expected to announce the 2019 Wall of Fame honoree in late-February. There has been no announcement at this time as to whether fans will be included as part of the process for selection of that honoree.

Looking back at a key Phillies off-season trade on this date 37 years ago

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Bo Diaz slides home during Game Two of the 1983 World Series 

The Philadelphia Phillies are expected to be big players during this current ‘Hot Stove’ season in Major League Baseball.

Through both free agent signings and trades, if there aren’t a half-dozen interesting players swapped on and off the roster by spring training, fans of the team will be extremely disappointed.
With that in mind, today I’ll begin a regular ‘Phillies Hot Stove History’ series. In it, we’ll take a look back at some of the big free agent signings, trades, and other transactions made by the club on this date in history.
It was on November 20, 1981, 37-years-ago today, that the Phillies finally decided to turn the page at their catching position by swinging a three-team trade.
That deal involving the Cleveland Indians and Saint Louis Cardinals would ultimately have ramifications that reached up to Chicago and out to California as well.
Bob Boone, a future Phillies Wall of Famer, had turned 34 years old just a day earlier. Boone had been the club’s sixth round pick all the way back in the 1969 MLB Amateur Draft out of Stanford.
Boone made his big-league debut in 1972 and became the Phillies starting catcher the following year. For his outstanding play that first season, Boone finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
He would remain the starter right on through the 1980 World Series-winning campaign, capturing a pair of NL Gold Glove Awards and being named as a National League All-Star three times.
It was a combination of age, decreased production, and a younger player coming up through the system that finally began edging Boone out during the 1981 season.
That younger player was Keith Moreland, the Phillies seventh round pick in the 1975 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Texas. Moreland first broke into the big-leagues for a cup of coffee in 1978 and 1979.
In the 1980 World Series campaign, Moreland grew to become a key piece of manager Dallas Green‘s bench. He appeared in 62 games, 39 of those as Boone’s catching backup.
The Phillies captured their first-ever World Series championship against the Kansas City Royals that October. During that Fall Classic, Moreland started three of the six games behind the plate.
During the following strike-shortened 1981 season, the 33-year-old Boone caught in 75 games and a 27-year-old Moreland in 50. The writing was on the wall.
Boone would end up being sold to the California Angels on December 6, 1981. Two days later, Moreland was dealt away along with reliever Dickie Noles and pitching prospect Don Larsen to the Chicago Cubs. The Phillies received veteran righty starting pitcher Mike Krukow in return.
It was the trade two weeks earlier to bring in Diaz that allowed the Phillies to make those two moves. Baudilio Jose ‘Bo’ Diaz was born in Venezuela on March 23, 1953, apparently with a baseball in his hand.
At age 14, Diaz played with Venezuela’s Little League national championship team. The team was unable to travel to the United States for the finals due to a July earthquake which devastated the city of Caracas.
Diaz was good enough that he would be signed by the Boston Red Sox at age 17 in December 1970. That began a long, slow climb through the Boston farm system. He finally got a cup of coffee with the Bosox in 1977.
During spring training for the 1978 season, Diaz was included in a big trade between Boston and the Cleveland Indians. That deal was highlighted by the exchange of a pair of pitchers, with Rick Wise headed to Cleveland and future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley going to Boston.
Diaz would spend the next three seasons as a backup catcher in Cleveland, the first two seasons to Gary Alexander and then one year to Ron Hassey.
During that 1981 work stoppage campaign, the righty-hitting Diaz split the role in an even platoon with the left-handed batting Hassey. Diaz started red-hot, hitting .356 with 25 RBI in June. That start earned him a berth on the American League All-Star team.
Phillies general manager Paul Owens was trying to keep the veteran Phillies, winners of the NL East in four of five seasons between 1976-80 and a playoff team during the strike-shortened split 1981 season, as a contending ball club.
Owens believed that Boone was aging past his prime as a catcher. He knew that Moreland was an attractive piece who could possibly bring back the veteran pitcher in trade that the GM believed the Phillies still needed. And he liked what he saw both at and behind the plate from the 28-year-old Diaz during that 1981 campaign.
The big trade came down on Friday, November 20. In the deal, the Phillies would obtain Diaz from the Indians and send 26-year-old outfielder Lonnie Smith to the Cardinals. The Cards then sent pitchers Larry Sorensen and Silvio Martinezto Cleveland.
As a final part of the deal, the Phillies would send pitching prospect Scott Munninghoff to Cleveland on December 9 as a player to be named later.
Diaz would excel as the Phillies starting catcher for the 1982 season. He played in a career-high 144 games, starting 135 of those. At the plate he hit .288 with 18 homers, 29 doubles, and 85 RBI. Diaz finished second that year only to Montreal Expos all-star Gary Carter as a combined offense and defensive catcher in new computer rankings.
Unfortunately, the Phillies fell short of their team goal. The club held the lead in the NL East as late as September 13, but losses in 11 of their next 16 games left them three games behind Smith and the Cardinals in the final standings.
Compounding the Phillies frustrations, that Cardinals team would go on to win the World Series with Smith playing a key role. He finished as a close runner-up to Dale Murphy in the NL MVP voting and was a National League All-Star after hitting .307 with 51 extra-base hits, 68 steals, and a league-leading 120 runs scored.
Smith had finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting with the 1980 champion Phillies. But many around the team believed that he was simply a speedy outfielder who would never fully harness his talents.
In the end, they were wrong. Smith would enjoy a 17-year career in Major League Baseball, one that would see him win a third World Series in 1985 with the Kansas City Royals. He produced a career .288/.371/420 slash line with nearly 1,500 career hits 909 runs scored, and 370 stolen bases. He received NL MVP votes as late as 1989 with the Atlanta Braves.
Diaz and the Phillies would gain a measure of revenge during the following 1983 campaign. Dubbed the “Wheeze Kids” due to the age of most of their key players and as a nod to the youthful 1950 NL champion ‘Whiz Kids’, those 1983 Phillies would pull away down the stretch to reclaim the NL East crown.
Diaz caught 136 games that season with 15 homers and 64 RBI. On April 13, slammed one of only 11 “ultimate grand slams” in MLB history. With the Phillies trailing the New York Mets by 9-6 with two outs in the 9th inning and the bases loaded at The Vet, Diaz ripped a walk-off grand slam to win the game.
As the Phillies were pulling away down the stretch, Diaz had yet another memorable game. On September 28 at Wrigley Field he produced a five-hit game that included a pair of home runs as the Phillies romped the host Cubs by 13-6 to clinch the division title.
In Game Four of the NLCS, Diaz delivered two hits as the Phillies romped the Los Angeles Dodgers by 7-2 at Veteran’s Stadium to take the pennant and advance to the World Series.
The Phillies would capture the first game of that Fall Classic against Baltimore only to see the Orioles charge back to win the World Series in five games. Diaz would prove one of the few solid hitters for the team during the series, batting .333 with a pair of multi-hit games.
Diaz would open the 1984 season as the Phillies starting catcher, but it would prove to be a lost season for the 31-year-old in a year that would ultimately see his time in Philadelphia come to an end.
A pair of knee injuries kept him to just 27 games, nearly half of those coming over the season’s first few weeks. In his absence, 27-year-old Ozzie Virgil Jr took over behind the plate and produced 18 homers and 68 RBI.
Virgil would rip 19 home runs the following year and become a 1985 National League All-Star for the first of two times in his career. Diaz would be gone during that 1985 season, dealt to the Cincinnati Reds in early August as part of a mostly nondescript five-player trade.
Diaz’ story and life would ultimately have a tragic ending. On November 23, 1990 – 28 years ago this Friday – he was killed in an accident in Caracas. While adjusting a satellite dish on the roof of his home, the dish fell on him, crushing his head and neck. Diaz was just 37-years-old and left behind a wife and two sons. He was inducted to the Venezuela Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
So, it was 37 years ago on this very date that the Phillies swung a fascinating trade, one that brought them a new starting catcher who would help lead them to an NL pennant. But that deal also sent away a talented young outfielder who would enjoy a long, championship-winning career.
As a bit of a post-script to this particular trade, Boone would prove to be far from finished. He would enjoy seven full seasons with the Angels as their starting catcher. He would then play two more in Kansas City, the first of those as the Royals starter behind the plate.
Boone would win five more Gold Glove Awards during that time, four of those in a row from 1986-89 during his ages 38-41 campaigns. During the 1983 season when Diaz was helping the Phillies to the NL pennant, Boone was himself an American League All-Star catcher.
Diaz undeniably made contributions to a Phillies pennant winner. But would the franchise have ultimately been better off keeping Smith and Boone instead of making that trade with Cleveland and Saint Louis?
It’s often easy to judge these things with the 20/20 hindsight of history. However, that history can also serve as a warning. It remains one of the oldest but most wise of sayings: those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.
These are the deals from the Phillies past that we will examine as we move forward during this ‘Hot Stove’ series. The hope is that as we look back on the nostalgia of the past, the present Phillies management will be making wise moves which end up helping to improve the current and future versions of the team.