Cards All-Time Top 40 – Steve Carlton #33

Our Top 40 countdown of the greatest St. Louis Cardinals of all time continues with the former left-handed starting pitcher, Steve Carlton.

Steven Norman Carlton

The Basics



Total Yrs

Yrs in StL













The Awards

Hall of Fame

Retired #

World Champ



Cy Young

Gold Glove








Note: All stats and awards listed are for years as a Cardinal only.
Carlton's career stats available from

Voter Comments

Jerry Modene (37): Carlton rates this low only because he only spent seven years in St. Louis and had only the two great seasons – 1969 and 1971 – before his untimely demise – I mean, trade to the Philadelphia Phillies in a deal that to this day rates as among the worst in team history.

As it was, had Lefty stayed in St. Louis, his Hall of Fame career would probably propel him into the top five or ten all-time Cardinals. For what it's worth, at the time of the deal, it didn't seem all that bad – Rick Wise had just come off a 16-win season of his own in which he pitched a no-hitter and hit six home runs (two of them during his no-hitter; he remains the only ML pitcher ever to accomplish that feat).

Unfortunately, Carlton went right out and won 27 games while Wise won another 16. We forget, though, that Carlton went out in 1973 and lost 20 games, while Wise won 16 and also started the All-Star Game. Wise was gone by 1974, though, to Boston in the Reggie Smith deal, and Carlton would pitch another 15 years on his way to the Hall of Fame. Oh, well.

Rob Rains (NR): The hardest part in placing Carlton among the greatest Cardinals is realizing how much higher he would have been on the list had he never been traded to the Phillies in what still ranks among the worst trades in franchise history.

That difficulty is compounded by realizing how many additional pennants the Cardinals would have won in the 1970s with Carlton at the front of their rotation. He won 77 games for the Cardinals, and his 951 strikeouts as a Cardinal were enough to rank him sixth on the all-time charts.

Ray Mileur (26): Granted, when I think of Steve "Lefty" Carlton, I think of the Philadelphia Phillies first, then St. Louis. One of the great left-handers in the history of the game, Carlton won three Cy Young awards and 392 games in his illustrious career, all the awards and all but 77of those wins coming with the Phillies. In 1989, the Phillies retired Carlton's #32, recognizing him as the greatest pitcher in the team's history. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1994 in his first year of eligibility, his time with St. Louis is often overlooked.

Carlton played for St. Louis from 1965-1971, leading the Cardinals to National League pennants in 1967 and 1968 with a combined record of 27-20 over those two seasons. In 1969 Carlton went 17-11 with a 2.17 ERA and in 1971, his last season with St. Louis, he won a career high (at that time) 20 games for the Redbirds.

A three-time NL All-Star for St. Louis, my take on Carlton has always been that he learned how to pitch in St. Louis and for what amounted to about $5,000 in a contract dispute, we traded a future Hall of Famer to the Phillies. Where was Walt Jocketty when you needed him? :)

Brian Walton (31): As noted above, Carlton delivered 27 wins for the pennant winners in 1967 and 1968 – but did you know he was just 22 and 23 years old at the time? At 24, he fanned 210 batters and posted a 2.17 ERA, his third straight season with a sub-3.00 mark. By the time he was 26, Lefty had posted his first 20-win season and already won 77 in his short career. Carlton had been selected as an All-Star in three of the previous four campaigns. The sky seemed the limit.

Then, it happened. The sky fell. That fateful salary dispute and the subsequent trade banished a man who could have eventually rivaled his-then teammate Bob Gibson as the greatest Cardinals pitcher ever. Even so, his many successes with the club in five full seasons and parts of two others make Carlton a worthy addition to this list.

It is not his fault, but to this day, I curse the name Rick Wise, just as I do Neil Allen and several others who had the misfortune of being traded for Cardinals heroes like Carlton and Keith Hernandez. In fact, I rank the Carlton trade as the very worst by the Cardinals in (at least) the last 40 years. (link here)

Voter Comments Key: Voter (Individual Ranking); NR = Not Rated

Master List: To see our entire list of the greatest 40 Cardinals players of all-time as they are unveiled daily, click here.

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories