Starting Nine: Carlton Left All Others Behind

Written by: Craig Muder

The Hall of Fame's Starting Nine includes must-see artifacts from every big league team. Check out the Phillies Starting Nine online.

On the day Steve Carlton moved to the top of the list of left-handed strikeout artists, only four pitchers had ever reached the 3,000-K mark.

Carlton, whose 2,833rd strikeout came against the Cardinals’ Tony Scott on July 6, 1980, would one day join that club and – for a time – hold the all-time strikeout record.

Phillies Gear

Represent the all-time greats and know your purchase plays a part in preserving baseball history.

But on the day Lefty set the new southpaw record, large strikeout totals were far from common.

Carlton’s record-setting strikeout bumped Mickey Lolich off the top of the left-handers list. With a total of seven strikeouts that day against the Cardinals, Carlton had 2,836 Ks for his career – then seventh on the all-time list.

Nolan Ryan had joined the 3,000-strikeout club just two days before, and only Walter Johnson (3,508), Gaylord Perry (3,218) and Bob Gibson (3,117) ranked ahead of Ryan at the close of play on July 6, 1980.

Carlton, who reached the 3,000-K mark on April 29, 1981, and Ryan would go back and forth atop the all-time list for a while in 1983 before Ryan eventually took command in the later years of the decade. Ryan finished his career with a record 5,714 strikeouts, while Carlton totaled 4,136.

Randy Johnson, who amassed 4,875 strikeouts, eventually passed Carlton on the all-time list for lefties.

But on that July day in 1980, Carlton – with his nearly unhittable slider – stood alone at the top. His glove from that game is on display the Museum’s One for the Books exhibit.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Starting Nine

The Hall of Fame's Starting Nine is a lineup of must-see artifacts from our vast collection containing tens of thousands of pieces that preserve the magical moments and memorable stories of our National Pastime. Our curators have spent countless hours hand-picking special objects from every major league team to create a lineup of pieces you simply won’t believe we have!