There was “Super Steve” on “Winday” 50 years ago at 1-year-old Veterans Stadium. Not many other wins but some interesting moments and some crazy ones, too.
Steve Carlton was acquired from St. Louis for Rick Wise, not a popular spring training trade. After a 5–1 start, Lefty lost 5 straight. On June 7 he began a club-record 15-game winning streak. “Super Steve” was electrifying. In the end, Carlton won 27 games; the Phillies only 59. Lefty set a major league record for most wins on a last-place team and percentage of his team’s wins (45.8%). In his 10 losses, Phillies scored a total of 16 run.
He won the Triple Crown, leading the league in wins, ERA (1.97) and strikeouts (310). He also led with 8 shutouts and 346 innings pitched. 11 of his 41 starts were less than 2 hours. In November, his first of four Cy Young Awards.
Keep in mind the season started late because of a player’s strike. The Phillies missed six games which meant Lefty probably missed two starts.
Larry Bowa proclaimed days when Lefty was pitching as “Winday.” Not much excitement the rest of the week.
So, who was second on the staff in wins? Darrell Brandon at 7–7. Mac Scarce led in saves with 4.
Lefty was the lone constant. Bowa (SS), Don Money (3B), Greg Luzinski (LF) and Willie Montanez (CF-1B) where in the lineup for Lefty’s first and last starts.
Farm Director Paul Owens replaced Quinn as GM on June 3. A little more than a month later (July 10) Owens took over as manager, removing his friend, Frank Lucchesi. His mission: find out which players could play, and which couldn’t. Thought the best way was to live with them, in the clubhouse and dugout and on the road.
Tim McCarver, who caught Carlton when he broke in with the Cardinals in 1965, was behind the plate for 12 of his first 13 starts. McCarver was traded to Montreal for John Bateman on June 14. Bateman caught Lefty’s final 28 starts.
One other change, Dan Baker was the new PA announcer. Like the Energizer Bunny, he’s still going.
Bill Giles was the executive vice president in charge of the business end of the organization, a promoter who understood that we were in the entertainment business. Goal was to entertain the fans regardless of the wins or losses. Some of the promotions were hatched in the off-season, some in-season. Well, 1972 wasn’t so good so we were challenged during the season.
**April 17 home opener: Kiteman would sail in from the 700-level upper deck and deliver the first ball. He never got air borne, crashed into the 600 level seats and gamely tried to toss the ball to the field. It didn’t make it. Amazingly, he wasn’t seriously injured. He officially became Kiteman I with II, III, IV, V to follow over the years.
**June 6: In the midst of a losing 18 of 19 games, we tried to change our luck with “Turn it Around Day.” The lineup was announced in reverse order, last names first. The seventh inning stretch took place in the third inning. The scoreboard welcomed groups not in attendance. Ushers wore their hats backwards with their nametags on their backs. Houston 4, Phillies 3.
**June 10: The Phillies powder blue road uniforms were popular. So, let’s wear them at home. Atlanta won, 15–3. End of the road uniforms at home.
**August 13: Between games of a Sunday double-header with Montreal, 67-year-old Karl Walenda walked on a high wire, 640 feet across the top of the stadium.
**October 4 was the best day of the season, the final game. But, hey, we ended the season on a positive note, a two-game winning streak.
Despite the gloomy, 97-loss, last-place finish, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Two years later yet another losing season but a major improvement at 80–82.
A foundation was forming in 1972.
Carlton obviously could be a longtime anchor of the staff. Bowa, a career-low 9 errors, was going to be a fixture at shortstop. Rookie left fielder Greg Luzinski led the club with 18 home runs. Catcher Bob Boone and third baseman Mike Schmidt made their major league debuts in September.
Owens would eventually use Don Money, Willie Montanez and Mike Anderson to acquire the likes of Jim Lonborg, Ken Brett, Garry Maddox and Ron Reed.
1976 began the greatest era in franchise history. It all started four years earlier.