Tag Archives: Tim McCarver

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

Legal dispute could make Phillie Phanatic a free agent

For more than four decades, the Phillie Phanatic has entertained fans of the Philadelphia Phillies, first at Veteran’s Stadium and now at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phanatic, as he is more simply and frequently referred to, also represents the organization on not only the broader baseball landscape, making appearances at numerous MLB and MiLB events, but also makes numerous non-baseball public and private appearances, including many at charity events.
In recent days, rumors have begun to spread that the Phanatic could soon possibly become a free agent.
As with a player, the Phillie Phanatic’s contract with the organization may be up, and he could conceivably take his services elsewhere. Or so those hyped headlines – including the one accompanying this piece – would have you believe.
What is the truth? What is really going on here? Could the Phillie Phanatic become the ‘Phoenix Phanatic” or the ‘Florida Phanatic’ or the, gulp, Dallas or Atlanta or New York Phanatic? Or just simply a broader free agent known as ‘The Phanatic’ free to go wherever he pleases?
Before we get into the current legal situation, a quick background on the history of the Phillie Phanatic.

BIRTH OF A FURRY, GREEN LEGEND

CLEARWATER, FL – MARCH 02: Managing Partner John Middleton high fives the Phillie Phanatic as he walks out moments before the press conference to introduce Bryce Harper to the media and the fans of the Philadelphia Phillies on March 02, 2019 at the Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
While his “official” biography says that the Phanatic suddenly appeared in South Philly from his native home in the Galapagos Islands, in reality he was the brainchild of former Phillies Director of Marketing Dennis Lehman and Promotions Director Frank Sullivan.
From the opening of Veteran’s Stadium in 1971 through the remainder of the decade of the 1970’s, a pair of characters named Phil and Phyllis, dressed in colonial garb, had taken on a sort of unofficial mascot role with the Phillies. Lehman and Sullivan wanted to come up with a unique character, similar to the controversial but popular “San Diego Chicken” character that had developed with the San Diego Padres organization.
Lehman and Sullivan approached Jim Henson, creator of the famous Muppets for Sesame Street, to help develop the original Phillie Phanatic costume. Henson directed them to  Bonnie Erickson of the New York firm known then as Harrison/Erickson, now Acme Mascots. Erickson had worked with Henson previously, creating the iconic Miss Piggy character among others. She would take on the assignment of creating the basic idea for the now iconic costume.
I wasn’t aware of the game as much as I was aware of the fact that they must be coming to us for entertainment,” Erickson told Mike Rubin for the Victory Journal. “When they told me mascots, I went ‘Oh, really? I don’t know that I want that. That’s not what I want to do.’ But then I realized what kinds of crowds would be seeing this.”
An intern with the Phillies in those days, David Raymond, was chosen to take on the role of making the costume come to life. Raymond was athletic, a former football player at the University of Delaware. That athleticism was a necessity to carry and carry-on in the heavy costume on hot summer days at the ballpark. But also, Raymond’s mother was deaf. His experience communicating with his mother helped him to project personality without speaking.
“We wanted to try to suspend disbelief that there was a human being in there,” Wayde Harrison, Erickson’s husband and business partner, told Rubin. “We want the Phillie Phanatic to be the Phillie Phanatic. We don’t you to think, ‘Hey, there’s a guy running around in a big green costume.’
In April of 1978, the Phillie Phanatic was introduced to the local fan base on the morning children’s television program “Captain Noah’s Magical Ark”, in an appearance with Phillies veteran catcher Tim McCarver. And on April 25, 1978 the fans at The Vet got their first look at the comical character.
The rest, as they say, is Philadelphia show business history.
An executive with the club at the time, Bill Giles approved the whole venture, hoping that the Phanatic would help lure more families to Veteran’s Stadium, even beyond the average baseball fan. Giles then made a fateful decision involving the character. As told by Daniel Craig at The Philly Voice in January 2016:
“They had offered Phillies executive Bill Giles the choice between paying $5,200 for both the Phanatic costume and the character’s copyright, or purchasing just the costume alone for $3,900. Giles opted for only the costume, a move he would describe in his auto-biography as “the worst decision of my career.” Five years later he paid $250,000 for the Phanatic’s copyright.
Dave Raymond would portray the Phanatic until 1993, when Tom Burgoyne took over the role. Burgoyne, who calls himself the Phanatic’s “best friend” in order to maintain the character’s personal as separate from himself, has filled the role ever since.

THE LAWSUIT

Flash-forward a few decades. The Phillie Phanatic is cemented as both an integral part of the Philadelphia community and an indelible part of the fabric of the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

Like millions of other kids of all ages over the last four decades, Elysia Bellina grew up loving the Phillie Phanatic. (Matt Veasey/Phillies Nation)
But last June, Harrison/Erickson sent a letter to the Phillies claiming that under a section of the Copyright Act, they were free to terminate their 1984 agreement and negotiate a new one.
Smelling a rat, or at least a money grab, the Phillies filed a lawsuit against Harrison/Erickson in which the club claimed that they were actually co-creators of the costume. The suit claims that Harrison/Erickson thus cannot make a claim to the origination of either the Phanatic character or the costume.
In the legal action between the Phillies and Harrison/Erickson, there is a claim which basically states that if a new agreement is not reached, then the Phillies would not be able to continue use of the Phillie Phanatic in any way after June 15, 2020.
So, there you have it. That’s what is happening in reality. The Phillies claim to be co-creators of the Phillie Phanatic, and to have purchased the copyright to the character “forever” back in 1984. Harrison/Erickson says that it has the right to cancel that agreement and negotiate a new one.
Now, lawyers for the two parties will fight it out, and a court will decide the matter. That is, unless the two sides actually do find a way to hammer out a new agreement and reach some mutually acceptable out-of-court settlement. That is the most likely resolution.
Don’t expect the Phillie Phanatic to ever become a true free agent. It is, after all, the “Phillie” Phanatic. Beloved by millions in our area, the Phanatic has entertained generations of Philly sports fans as a uniquely identifiable symbol of the Phillies and the overall Philadelphia landscape. That is not going to change, in June of 2020, or any time that any of us will see in our lifetimes.

Philography: Dick Allen

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Allen starred with the Phillies in the 1960’s, returned in the mid-70’s, and became a Wall of Famer

Dick Allen belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Let’s get that out of the way with right off the bat. I’m one of them, the growing list of supporters for this man to be enshrined there as a player.

He is a finalist on the ‘Golden Era’ ballot, which selects an old-timer once every three years. The results for that slot will be announced in a little over a week from now.

Allen was born on March 8th, 1942 in the middle of World War II out in Wampum, Pennsylvania, a tiny borough less than an hour from Pittsburgh, not far from the west-central state line.

Raised in a rural part of the state, Allen developed a love of horses early in life from his father. It would be a love that he would carry into and through adulthood, right up to the present day.

One of five boys raised in a mostly white town, he doesn’t remember much personal experience with prejudice, despite the 1950’s still being a time of segregation in much of the country.
Allen and his brothers were tremendous athletes, helping their local school sports programs become regional powers, which went a long way towards their being accepted.

Dick and his brothers were especially talented as basketball players, and two of those brothers, Hank and Ron, would each earn college basketball scholarships before eventually turning to baseball and each briefly reaching the Majors themselves.

Dick became a baseball fan and player after watching some of the top Negro League games and players in his early years as a boy, and then following the career of the great Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente, his first real baseball idol.

After an aggressive push by one of their scouts, Allen signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, but almost immediately had problems with the organization when they decided, without his input, to begin referring to him in official organizational materials as “Richie” Allen.

His own pro baseball career would begin at just age 18, with Elmira in the NY-Penn League, and over the next couple of years his prodigious power allowed him to quickly rise through the Phils minor league system. In 1963, after a salary power play with Phils GM John Quinn failed, Allen was shipped to Arkansas for another year in the minors, and here he was subjected to his first real taste of extended racism from fans.

After destroying minor league pitching for 33 homeruns in that 1963 season, Allen eventually won over many of the fans who had begun the year vilifying him. He finally got the call up to the big club in September of that year. Playing in parts of 10 games, he got to experience being a part of the best Phillies team in a decade. The club finished that year with 87 wins, good for 4th place in the National League.

The 1964 season dawned with great optimism in Philadelphia. The Phils had already shown they were becoming competitive the previous year, and now would be adding the mega-hyped rookie Allen for a full season for the first time. His powerful presence in the lineup was felt immediately.

In that ’64 campaign, Allen produced a season that would result in his being named the NL Rookie of the Year. He also would come in 7th in the NL MVP voting for a season in which he hit .318 with a .382 on-base percentage, crushed 29 homers, 38 doubles, knocked in 91 runs, and scored 125 runs.

Unfortunately, that 1964 season is largely remembered in Philadelphia for the historic losing skid by the team at the end of the year. Holding a 6 1/2 game lead in the NL Pennant race with just 10 games remaining, the Phils blew it all. The collapse was no fault of Allen’s, however. He hit .442 with 3 homers, 12 runs, and 11 rbi in those final 10 games. But it wasn’t enough to halt the team’s unforgettable collapse.

Over the next three seasons, Allen continued to develop his game, becoming one of the most domainant and feared hitters in all of baseball. He was an NL All-Star each season from 1965-67. He received MVP votes each of those years as well, finishing as high as 4th in the 1966 balloting.

Allen tailed off a bit in 1968 and ’69, likely still recovering from a freak career-threatening hand injury that ended his 1967 season early. He had hurt the hand while fixing his car one day. Still, his power remained, and he topped the 30 homerun mark in each year.

In his first 6+ seasons in a Phillies uniform, from his September callup in ’63 through the 1969 season, Allen hit for an even .300 batting average with a .380 on-base percentage. He had 966 hits, 177 homeruns, 544 rbi, and 591 runs. And he was just entering his prime years, as the 1970 season would see him turn 28 years old.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, he wouldn’t play any of his prime here in the City of Brotherly Love. Following that near-miss campaign of 1964, the Phillies did not contend again. From 1965-67 they continued to record winning records, but never finished higher than 4th.

In 1968, the club slid back to 76-86, the franchise’ first losing record in years. Many in the town’s fan base turned on it’s enigmatic slugger as a symbol of their frustrations, and frankly there was still an element of the team’s fan base that could be described as nothing less than racist in that late-60’s civil rights era.

Some of the fans in the left field bleachers at old Connie Mack Stadium took to throwing pennies, even batteries, at him. He began to wear a batting helmet in the field, a practice that would follow him throughout the rest of his career.

In 1969, Allen was off to a hot start, but then in June of that season he was suspended by new manager Bob Skinner for showing up late to a game. For Allen, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. During his down time, he had purchased horses for his growing stable on a farm in Bucks County. Happy to get away from the abusive fans and what he felt was some unfair treatment by the team, Allen told the Phillies that he wouldn’t return from suspension.

Fearful of losing a prized asset in the prime of his career at the peak of his trade value without compensation, GM Bob Carpenter talked Allen into returning with a promise that he would be traded at the end of the season. Allen returned, and while the team was pitiful, he finished out another strong individual season.

The trade came on October 7th, 1969 as the Phillies sent Allen, Cookie Rojas, and Jerry Johnson to the Saint Louis Cardinals in exchange for outfielders Curt Flood and Byron Browne, catcher Tim McCarver, and pitcher Joe Hoerner. But as with seemingly everything involving Allen at the time, even his trade would not come without major controversy.

These were the days before free agency, when baseball’s “reserve clause” was still in effect, basically binding players to a team unless they were traded. Flood wanted no parts of going to a losing situation in Philly, and balked at reporting. In the end, he would not only refuse the trade, he would take on all of baseball in fighting for the elimination of that reserve clause.

Though Flood’s fight would ultimately prove of major historical importance for all Major League Baseball players, it didn’t help the Phillies at all. The young outfielder was considered a key piece in the deal from their perspective. Saint Louis would ultimately send along Willie Montanez as compensation to complete the deal.

His stay in Saint Louis would prove short, just one season, but it was a highly productive season. Allen returned to his place among the game’s top stars. He was voted the starter at 1st base for the NL in the All-Star Game, his 4th All-Star appearance. He hit 34 homers and drove in 101 runs. And still, again there was controversy.

A series of late-season injuries, including a torn hamstring, ended his season early while the Cards were still in contention. It would prove to be a fatal blow for the team. But also, Allen chose to recover at his home near Philadelphia, rather than back in Saint Louis where the team could monitor him, a decision with which Cardinal management was not happy.

Almost immediately after the season concluded, the Cards dealt him away to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2nd baseman Ted Sizemore and catcher Bob Stinson. The deal appeared to be a steal for LA, and Allen did indeed produce for the Dodgers, but it was again only a one year performance. In that one season out west, Allen hit .295, slugged 23 homers, knocked in 90 runs, and nearly led the Dodgers to an NL West crown.

Still, he was gone in the off-season, this time to the Chicago White Sox in a deal in which the Dodgers in return received a talented southpaw pitcher by the name of Tommy John. It would be Allen’s first time in the American League, and it would prove to be a perfect fit for player and franchise.

The AL West seemed up for grabs behind the Oakland A’s, who had become the team to beat in the division after winning the 1971 World Series. To challenge them in ’72, the Sox believed that Allen’s power was just what they needed. They were right, as Chicago battled Oakland all year, leading the race as late as late-August.

Though Oakland would eventually inch slowly away to an eventual 5 1/2 game division victory, the 2nd place 87-win season was a big step in the right direction for the Sox. The step forward was indeed led by Dick Allen. He was named the American League Most Valuable Player after hitting .308 and leading the AL in on-base percentage (.420), Walks (99), Homeruns (37) and RBI (113) in what was the first of 3 consecutive AL All-Star seasons.

The success would not repeat in 1973 due to injury. In late-June, Allen was in the midst of another big campaign when he broke his leg in a 1st base collision. At the time of the injury he was hitting .310 with 16 homers and 41 rbi, and he was voted to another All-Star Game appearance. He would only return for parts of 3 more games that year. The Sox, tied for first at the end of June, faded to a 5th place finish.

The 1974 season saw Allen return healthy, but also saw yet another controversy develop. Future Hall of Famer Ron Santo arrived from the cross-town Cubs. A Chicago baseball icon, Santo was basically playing out the final season of his career. A clubhouse power struggle ensued between the two, and by the end of the year, Allen confided that he was retiring. He left the team in mid-September and would not return.

Realizing that he was discontented, the Sox sought to get a return for their powerful 1st baseman while they could still get some value. He had shown that he still had that power with a 32 homer season in a 1974 during which he also hit .301 on the year. In December of ’74 they dealt him to the Atlanta Braves, but Allen remained retired and never played in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, back in his old Philly stomping grounds, the Fightin’ Phils were indeed beginning to fight their way back up the standings once again. Allen was courted by a number of current Phillies including Mike Schmidt, as well as old-timers such as Richie Ashburn and his former teammate Robin Roberts. They convinced him that things had changed in Philly, both on and off the field, and Allen relented to a return.

The Braves traded Allen’s rights to the Phils, and on May 14th, 1975, Dick Allen returned to the Philadelphia Phillies lineup for the first time in a half dozen years. He played 7 innings at 1st base that night at Veteran’s Stadium, going 1-3 with a single as the Phils shutout the Cincinnati Reds 4-0 behind a Steve Carlton complete game.

In that 1975 season, Allen helped the Phillies young sluggers Schmidt and Greg Luzinski in their development while providing a veteran slugging presence behind them in the batting order. He only hit a dozen homers, but drove in 62 runs in just 488 plate appearances.

The 1976 season opened with a ton of excitement around the team. They were expected to challenge the Pirates for the NL East crown, the All-Star Game would be held in Philly that year, and the nation would be celebrating it’s Bicentennial, with many of the important festivities centered in the city.

1976 would not play out as a healthy year for Allen. Two separate injuries at the end of April and the end of July cost him a month each time. Still, despite just 298 plate appearances, basically half a season, he managed to bomb 15 homers and drive in 49 runs. And the team did indeed finally win the NL East, setting a franchise record with 101 wins and pulling away in September to a 9-game victory in the division.

The 1976 playoffs would be the only postseason appearance of Allen’s career. The Phillies were matched up with the defending World Series champions, ‘The Big Red Machine’ era Cincinnati Reds. It would prove to be a quick knockout for the champs, as the Reds swept the Phils with 6-3, 6-2, and 7-6 wins. Allen went 2-9 with a run scored. It was mostly uneventful for the veteran slugger, except for his Game 2 error that led to the ultimate winning run.

That off-season, for the first time in his career, Dick Allen was a free agent. Unfortunately for him, it would not result in the kinds of big paydays that future free agents would enjoy. He was now 35-years old, clearly at the end of his career. Allen signed with the Oakland Athletics during Spring Training of 1977, but despite getting regular playing time through June, Allen was not happy.

Following a June 19th doubleheader in Chicago against the White Sox team for whom he had enjoyed success just a few years earlier, Allen retired. In his final at-bat, as a pinch-hitter in the top of the 7th inning, Allen struck out. In what was a more complete story to the goodbye, he had started the opener for the A’s at 1st base and gone 2-4.

Dick Allen retired having played in parts of 15 seasons. Just 11 of those were full seasons due to either youth, age, or injury. He had blasted 351 homeruns, drove in 1,119 runs and had a career .292 average. He had been the 1964 NL Rookie of the Year, and the 1972 AL Most Valuable Player, as well as a 7-time All-Star.

Allen’s retirement years were difficult. He went through a divorce that included a major financial settlement against him, and then suffered further with a destructive fire at his home which also destroyed his horse stables. Having said he would never be a coach in the game, he would indeed return as a hitting instructor with both organizations for which he had his most career success, the White Sox and Phillies.

In retirement there have been few players whose Hall of Fame credentials have been more vigorously debated. Many of his detractors point to two main negatives: that he was a “clubhouse lawyer” type who sowed discord behind closed doors and caused friction that hurt his teams. Also, that he simply didn’t produce over a long enough period of time.

However, almost every major player and coach who was a part of Allen’s career has stepped forward to refute the claims of his negativity in the clubhouse, including two of the game’s greatest managers, Chuck Tanner and Gene Mauch. Among players, no less than the greatest 3rd baseman and greatest Phillie in history, Mike Schmidt, has called Allen a mentor.

A reasonable evaluation of the dominance of the numbers produced by Dick Allen, largely during that decade of the 1960’s that is universally regarded as having been historically dominated by pitching, is absolutely worthy of his enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

If there is any justice in this great game, in a little more than a week Dick Allen will get a phone call that is long overdue. That call will be one letting him know that he has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and that in the summer of 2015, he will finally get his long-deserved day in the Cooperstown sun