Lefty & Tim – New Book Celebrates Baseball’s Best Battery
During their celebrated baseball careers, Steve Carlton and Tim McCarver needed each other.
Carlton, the hall of fame pitcher (Class of 1994) and McCarver, (the two-time all-star catcher) matured into arguably baseball's best battery in modern history. On and off the field, during their days with the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies, the duo were inseparable. World Series championships were won, multiple individual awards gained, and legends were born.
Thanks to author William C. Kashatus, sports fans now have the most detailed account of just how successful Carlton and McCarver were, when working as one on the diamond.
Lefty & Tim - How Steve Carlton and Tim McCarver Became Baseball's Best Battery (nebraskapress.uni.edu) offers 257 pages of connecting the two stars' dots during their times wearing, first, St. Louis Cardinals jerseys, then as Philadelphia Phillies' teammates. There's not a dull page to endure.
And the project had major hurdles to climb, in order for Kashatus to deliver his usual home run work. Previous titles concentrating on Phillies greats Mike Schmidt and Dick Allen, as well as telling the story of former major leaguer Pete Gray, who played the 1945 season with the St. Louis Browns without his right arm, guaranteed the same high standard expected with Lefty & Tim.
With Carlton not one to grant interviews in many years, especially during his playing days in Philadelphia, and only three conversations agreed upon by McCarver, Kashatus relied on his research prowess to turn in a hall of fame effort.
"I came up with the idea years ago about writing a biography on Steve," said Kashatus during a recent phone conversation . "Larry (former Phillies' pitcher Larry Christenson) is a neighbor of mine. I thought maybe Steve would talk with me for the book if Larry would introduce me to him. Maybe, or maybe not."
But it was Christenson who encouraged Kashatus to write a duel biography.
"You can't tell Carlton's story without talking about Tim," Kashatus was told by Christenson, who was teammates to both players.
Three "very long" phone interviews between Kashatus and McCarver, who is retired and living in Southwest Florida were helpful in answering many questions. The rest of Kashatus' research consisted primarily of digging through interviews Carlton participated in many decades back.
Kashatus' love of baseball allows his work to be heads and tales above the rest of the pack. He's been writing baseball books since 1995. His fondness of the Phillies dates way back to the club's 1964 season.
"I was 10-years old when Tim came to Philly," recalls Kashatus. "Sports Illustrated published a book for Kids on baseball. The chapter on McCarver gave a good idea on what a catcher should be. He hit for average, had speed, and was a defensive genius."
It's Carlton's pitching performance during the 1972 season that Kashatus details in Lefty & Tim, that for the first time, you actually feel like you're inside the Phillies' clubhouse and on the field as history is being made.
Perhaps the initial catalyst for Kashatus to one day chronologize Carlton and McCarver's working relationship came about when he was a 12-year-old Phillies fan in 1972. He, like so many other baseball fans in Philadelphia believed that the club had a solid chance to win when Carlton went to the mound.
"His (Carlton) numbers were outrages. He had the town buzzing," states Kashatus.
Put aside Carlton's ten all-star game selections, four Cy Young Awards, collecting a Rawlings Gold Glove, and playing for two World Series championship clubs. When the 1972 National League season was in the books, Carlton's statistics were "super human."
In his 41 games started, Carlton compiled a winning record of 27-10 (30 complete games), a 1.97 ERA, and 310 strikeouts. However, even more astonishing as documented in Lefty & Tim, Carlton, with McCarver behind the plate as his receiver, the club's bottom line was favorable with each start made.
As bad as the Phillies were in 1972 (59-97), fans made special plans to be at Veterans Stadium, when Carlton was billed as the starter.
When Carlton took to the hill, he was good to attract between 20,000-30,000 fans into the stands during the 1972 season. For his 20 starts that season at home, 484,595 Phillies fans came to cheer him on. Per Carlton start that season, an average crowd at the Vet was 24,230. As July and August came around during what would be his first Cy Young Award winning season, the home crowds swell to 33,510. This has much to do with Carlton's 15-game winning streak.
Carlton attracted nearly half of the Phillies total home attendance in 1972.
Where McCarver fit in with the Phillies' ace pitcher, and his battle with the local newspaper beat reporters is well documented by Kashatus in Lefty & Tim.
"Between 1976 and 1979, they (Carlton and McCarver) were the best battery in baseball," reminds Kashatus.
When researching Lefty & Tim, there wasn't much Kashatus didn't already know about his two subjects. Having already written four books on the Phillies, it was former Phillies first baseman Bill White who reinforced to Kashatus what he knew.
Carlton comes off of not having a likeable personality. On the field, he resented anyone coming to the mound. That was his office.
Even with Christenson (who wrote the foreword for Lefty & Tim) acting as a conduit for Kashatus and Carlton, there would be no breaking of the ice. There is enough news offered on the off-season hunting trips taken by Carlton and McCarver to cement your attention. The fine dining and wine connoisseur adventures experienced between the two friends shows both in regular settings, minus the spikes and gloves, to personalize them in a way nowhere until now has been done.
Two friends, two teammates, one goal - to win championships, and the trail they travel together makes great reading in Lefty & Tim.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.