Philadelphia Phillies History: Steve Carlton Acquired from Cardinals

There are some moves that immediately change the direction of a franchise. The Philadelphia Phillies made such a move on this day in 1972, acquiring Steve Carlton from the St. Louis Cardinals.

During his time with the St. Louis Cardinals, Steve Carlton had displayed flashes of brilliance. He was second in the National League with a 2.17 ERA in 1969, and won 20 games for the first time in 1971. However, the Cardinals were looking for more consistency in their rotation, and the somewhat erratic Carlton was made available.

On this day in 1972, the Cardinals found a trade partner. Carlton was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for the steady, if somewhat unspectacular, Rick Wise. This trade, which may have been understandable at the time, proved to be a steal for the Phillies, and one of the worst trades in MLB history.

Carlton immediately changed the fortunes of the Phillies. Previously, the team had made the postseason only twice in the first 90 years in franchise history. With Carlton on the team, the Phillies made the postseason six times, reached the World Series twice, and finally captured their first title in 1980.

That trade did wonders for Carlton as well. He blossomed into an ace, making seven All Star games and winning four Cy Young awards. Carlton even became the second pitcher to surpass Walter Johnson‘s all time strikeout mark, which he swapped with Nolan Ryan until finally wearing down in 1985.

Wise, meanwhile, was pretty much what the Cardinals expected. He won exactly 16 games in both seasons in St. Louis, and made the 1973 All Star Game. However, he never brought the Cardinals back to the postseason, and after the 1973 campaign, was traded to the Boston Red Sox. Those two years definitely were not worth the price of Carlton.

One has to wonder how much the Cardinals fortunes would have changed if they held on to the future superstar. St. Louis finished 1.5 games behind the Mets in 1973, and one has to imagine that Carlton could have been the difference that year. The burgeoning Reds dynasty in the National League could have had a lot more competition without that trade.

Sometimes, all it takes is one move to change the fortunes of a team. That move took place for the Philadelphia Phillies on this day in 1972, as they acquired Steve Carlton from the St. Louis Cardinals.

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