In 1972, I was 14 years old and just beginning to delve into the world of sports. As far I was concerned, sports didn’t begin until 1969 when I stumbled onto the World Series between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Mets.
From that time until now there have been many, many amazing athletic performances across the realm of sports ranging from golf to football to basketball to hockey. But today, we are gong to talk about baseball.
One of the most amazing seasons ever put together by a baseball player was delivered by Hall-of-Fame left-hander Steve Carlton during that amazing season.
First, let’s just talk about the numbers. A year after being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Phillies the then-27-year-old led the National League with 27 wins, a 1.97 ERA, 30 complete games on the mound, 346 1/3 innings pitched and 310 strikeouts versus only 87 walks. Those numbers are nearly unmatchable.
During that season, Carlton would win the first of his four Cy Young Awards as the best pitcher in the National League.
But that is not even the most impressive part of this story. While Carlton went 27-10 on the mound, the Phillies only won 59 games while losing 97 in the strike-shortened season. That’s right, Carlton was credited with 45.7% of his team’s wins. Carlton had a winning percentage of .730, while the rest of the pitchers on his team combined for just a .269 winning percentage.
In 11 of Carlton’s 41 starts that season, the Phillies scored two or less runs. Amazingly enough, Carlton won nine of those games.
Let’s talk about complete games. During the 2021 MLB season, there were only 29 complete games reported, meaning a pitcher started the game on the mound and pitched the entire game without needing relief help. During the 1972 season, Carlton recorded 30 all by himself.
Over his 24-year career, Carlton won four Cy Young Awards as the best pitcher in the league and won 20 or more games five times and led the league in wins four times.
He finished his career with 329 wins and 4,136 strikeouts and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994. Five times in his career, Carlton led the majors in innings pitched and five times in strikeouts.
Carlton pitched an amazing 254 complete games in his career, including 55 shutouts.
The great Nolan Ryan only won more than 20 games in a season twice, with 22 being the highest, and never pitched more than 333 2/3 innings in a season. The most complete games he ever pitched in a season was 26, pulling off the feat twice.
There have been many great single-season pitching performances in the history of MLB, but few, if any, can match up to the magic Carlton weaved in 1972.
Austin Bishop, AKA The Old Sports Dude, has been covering high school, college, amateur and professional sports since 1975. He is currently pastor of Great Commission Assembly of God in Philadelphia. He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.