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Carlton, McCarver a pair for the ages

Hall of Fame lefty, personal catcher won games and entertained fans
MLB.com

There have been some interesting pairs in the entertainment world: Abbott and Costello, Edgar Bergen and Charles McCarthy, Rowan and Martin, Batman and Robin, just to name a few.

In the Phillies' world, a pair that entertained back in the 1970s was Steve Carlton and Tim McCarver. Carlton is a Hall of Fame pitcher, and McCarver was often his personal catcher. During this year's Toyota Wall of Fame Alumni Weekend, the former players dined in the Executive Dining Room at Citizens Bank Park. Guess who sat next to each other?

There have been some interesting pairs in the entertainment world: Abbott and Costello, Edgar Bergen and Charles McCarthy, Rowan and Martin, Batman and Robin, just to name a few.

In the Phillies' world, a pair that entertained back in the 1970s was Steve Carlton and Tim McCarver. Carlton is a Hall of Fame pitcher, and McCarver was often his personal catcher. During this year's Toyota Wall of Fame Alumni Weekend, the former players dined in the Executive Dining Room at Citizens Bank Park. Guess who sat next to each other?

During their careers, Lefty opted for the silent world as far as the media, while Tim liked to talk, which led to a lengthy and outstanding broadcasting career. McCarver won the 2012 Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence and was honored in Cooperstown, N.Y., as part of the Hall of Fame Weekend. During Alumni Weekend that summer, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch with Carlton as his catcher, a reversal of roles.

Lefty did his talking on the mound, winning 329 games and four National League Cy Young Awards. Distractions were the enemy, and he felt at times the media could be a distraction. There was a certain mystique about him, and he liked it that way.

Lefty and Tim were batterymates with the St. Louis Cardinals before enjoying notoriety with the Phillies.

As a rookie, Carlton once displayed his mindset to McCarver. 

"I was shaving after a game when I realized somebody was standing behind me," recalls McCarver. "It was Steve, this tall skinny kid with a big Adam's apple. He looked me in the eye and said, 'You should call more breaking pitches.' I lost it. 'Who do you think you are telling me how to call a game?'"

When Carlton was acquired from the Cardinals in a trade in 1972, he was reunited with McCarver, but only for a short time. McCarver was traded to Montreal that June 14 for another catcher, John Bateman.

Fast forward to 1975. When McCarver was released by the Boston Red Sox, general manager Paul Owens brought him back to Philadelphia. At 35, he evolved into "Carlton's catcher."

Was it the case that Carlton was more comfortable throwing to McCarver?

"No, not really," says McCarver. "It was a difference of opinion with many people. After having faced Lefty and having talked to hitters, I knew the slider was his best pitch. Others felt he should throw more fastballs, but the hitters told me the slider was the killer. If you recall, a lot of hitters would shake their heads after swinging at that pitch."

From 1976 through most of '79, McCarver was in the lineup when Carlton started. At one point, McCarver caught 90 consecutive Carlton starts. Lefty's record during that stretch: 48-26. Overall with the Phillies, Carlton was 81-45 with McCarver behind the plate.

While McCarver spurred Carlton, Lefty seemed to spur Tim's bat. For his Phillies career, McCarver hit .272, with 26 homers and 168 RBIs. While catching Carlton: .306, 10 homers and 66 RBIs.

McCarver is being inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame on August 26. He's joining Carlton, a 1994 inductee.

"When Lefty and I leave this world, they should bury me 60 feet, 6 inches from him," laughed McCarver.

Larry Shenk is editor/author of the Phillies Alumni page.

Philadelphia Phillies