Baseball History: Ron Swoboda and Steve Carlton

ron swoboda 1969As a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Steve Carlton was striking out the New York Mets hitters at a record pace.

The future National Baseball Hall of Fame legend finished with an all-time best 19 strikeouts in an amazing performance against the Mets on Sept. 15, 1969.

Despite setting a new standard, Carlton had a problem. Ron Swoboda, who fanned twice, also had the decisive blows.

The Mets managed nine hits against Carlton, but it was a pair of two-run homers by the Mets right fielder that made the difference as New York won 4-3 in St. Louis.

With the Cardinals leading 1-0 in the top of the fourth Swoboda hit his first blast to put the Mets in front 2-1.

In the fifth, St. Louis scored two times to take a 3-2 lead to set the stage for Swoboda.

Carlton had one out in the eighth when he surrendered what turned out to be the winning two-run shot to Swoboda.

The win by the Mets kept them on their way to the title in the first year of the National League East. New York eventually beat the Atlanta Braves in the initial NL Championship Series.

Swoboda’s famous catch is an indelible part of World Series lore as he made the incredible play in the fourth contest against the Baltimore Orioles.

The Amazin’ Mets then won the fifth game to complete their historic run. Swoboda had a .300 batting average in the series and knocked in the winning run game fifth and final game.

Start with Mets

Swoboda began his major league career in 1965 with a career-high 19 homers. In 1969, Swoboda hit nine homers with 52 RBI and batted .235 for the season. In his nine years, he hit 73 home runs with 344 RBI, while batting .242.

Before the 1971 season, Swoboda was traded to the Montreal Expos. Midway through that summer, the Expos sent him to the New York Yankees where he finished his career in 1973.

steve carlton 1981 donrussHall of Fame Lefty

Carlton, who started his career the same year as Swoboda, ended the 1969 season with a 17-11 record. After posting a 20-9 record with the Cardinals in 1971, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. In 1972 with the Phillies, Carlton had the best year of his career winning the triple crown with a 27-10 mark with 310 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.97. He captured the first of his four Cy Young Awards.

Carlton was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994 after 24 years with six teams as he posted a 329-244 record with 4,136 strikeouts. He was a member of the World Series champion Cardinals in 1967 and Phillies in 1980.

The Strikeout Record

Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood would surpass Carlton’s mark, which was equaled by several other players.

Clemens had his first 20-strikeout performance in 1986 against the Seattle Mariners. He did it again in 1996 against the Detroit Tigers. Wood had his effort against the Houston Astros in 1998.

Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, David Cone and Randy Johnson are the other hurlers in the modern era to fan at least 19 in a nine inning contest. Johnson, who did it twice, and Carlton are the only ones to do it in a losing effort.


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