Steve Carlton (Trading Card DB)

April 16, 1974: Steve Carlton’s pitching and hitting vanquish Bob Gibson, Cardinals

This article was written by Steve Ginader

Steve Carlton (Trading Card DB)During the first six seasons of his stellar 17-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals, Bob Gibson won 71 games, achieved All-Star status, and pitched on a World Series winner. Early in Gibson’s seventh season, 1965, the 20-year-old Steve Carlton joined Gibson on the Cardinals’ pitching staff.1

The two were teammates for seven years, and by 1971 they were entrenched as the top two pitchers on the Cardinals team that finished second in the National League East Division. Throughout their years together, Carlton gained valuable experience observing Gibson prepare for and pitch in games. When both pitchers returned to St. Louis in 2018 to honor the 1968 NL championship club, Carlton was asked to reflect on their time together. “He was a teacher by his presentation on the field,” Carlton said.2

After the 1971 season, Carlton, in a salary dispute with the club, was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Rick Wise.3 A 1-0 win over Gibson and the Cardinals in his second start for the Phillies set the tone for Carlton’s 1972 season. He won 27 games for a team that managed only 59 wins, and received the NL Cy Young Award.

Carlton tumbled to a 13-20 record in 1973, with his final defeat coming in another matchup with Gibson.  During his struggles, however, Carlton always maintained a positive attitude. “You don’t abandon yourself,” he said. “I wasn’t throwing well, had lost my control. They were things I would regain.”4

Gibson remained the mainstay of the Cardinals staff into 1974, but at age 38 he no longer had the stamina and strength to pitch with the overpowering style that was his custom.5 Carlton, in his third year with the Phillies, was trying to recapture his 1972 form. The two pitchers squared off for the third time since the trade at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, April 16, 1974. Both pitchers had started twice in the season but had no decisions.

In the top of the first inning, St. Louis leadoff hitter Lou Brock smacked a liner to right-center off Carlton. Center fielder Del Unser hustled toward right field and snagged the hard-hit ball, robbing Brock of extra bases.6 Ted Sizemore walked and Reggie Smith lofted a fly ball to left. Greg Luzinski lost the ball in the lights and it dropped for a double.7 After Joe Torre was intentionally walked, Ted Simmons lifted a drive into center, deep enough to plate Sizemore with the Cardinals’ first run. 

Unser drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the first, his first of two off Gibson. Of the two walks, Unser said, “That’s not like Gibson. He always used to challenge me.”8 But Luzinski struck out to end the inning. He went 0-for-4 in the game and his early-season average dropped to .108.9 “Everybody’s picking me up,” said Luzinski, the Phillies’ leader in home runs (29) and RBIs (97) in 1973. “I’m swinging at some bad pitches and giving myself up.”10

St. Louis made it 2-0 in the second inning as Mike Tyson doubled to center with one out and scored on back-to-back singles by Gibson and Brock. The Phillies responded against Gibson in the third. Mike Schmidt walked, advanced to second on Carlton’s grounder, and scored on a single by Dave Cash, who had come to Philadelphia in an October 1973 trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In the fifth Brock singled and stole second – his fifth stolen base on his way to setting a major-league season record of 118 – and scampered home on Sizemore’s double to center. Philadelphia got the run back in the bottom of the inning. Bob Boone singled to left. One out later, Carlton moved Boone to second with a single and Cash drove him home with another hit. At the conclusion of the fifth inning, the Cardinals were on top, 3-2.

Carlton kept it a one-run game by striking out Tyson with a runner on third in the top of the sixth, and the Phillies went ahead when they scored five runs off Gibson in their half. Unser led off with a bunt single. One out later, Tommy Hutton, who was playing first base in place of the slumping Willie Montañez, singled to center. Mike Anderson followed with a two-run double down the left field line, putting the Phillies in front 4-3.

Boone was intentionally walked and Schmidt – headed for his first of eight home-run crowns in 1974 but batting eighth at the beginning of his second full big-league season – followed with a base hit to left. Anderson scored, and the runners advanced on the throw from the outfield. Boone scored on Carlton’s sacrifice fly.

Cash stepped in and hit a liner to left that bounced over the head of Brock. Schmidt scored and Cash scooted to third. The triple was Cash’s third hit of the game. “I know what to expect facing Gibson. He’s a gutty pitcher and you have to stay in there and battle him,” Cash said.11

The Phillies were ahead 7-3. Gibson’s day was finished; he had surrendered seven runs on nine hits and four walks. “The Gibson of old would have closed the door,” lamented Cardinals coach George Kissell.12

As Gibson left the game, Carlton was settling in. Through the first six innings, Carlton had surrendered six hits, four walks, and three runs. Now with the lead, he put up a scoreless seventh, getting Sizemore to bounce into a double play after Brock’s single.

Pete Richert replaced Gibson in the seventh and the Phillies added three more runs.13 Unser drew his third walk and stole second. Hutton tapped a one-out grounder back to the mound. When Richert made an errant throw to first, Unser scored and Hutton landed on second. Anderson’s sharp single to left advanced Hutton to third, and he scored on Boone’s sacrifice fly to center. Schmidt walked and Carlton’s second hit and second RBI extended the lead to 10-3.

The Phillies’ defense helped Carlton in the final two innings. Simmons stroked a two-out double in the eighth and Luis Meléndez followed with a sharp single to center. Unser fielded the ball on one hop and fired to Boone to nail Simmons at the plate. Kissell praised Unser’s all-around effort after the game.14 “Unser’s made himself an excellent player. With his bunting ability. … And you don’t have to tell him more than once where to play a certain hitter,” Kissell said.15

Ken Reitz started the Cardinals ninth with a hard grounder to the second-base hole. Cash dived to his right, scrambled to his knees, and fired to first in time to retire Reitz. “The Phillies are doing everything right,” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said. “They have better defense than a lot of people give them credit for.”16

Carlton retired the next two batters, and his first win of the season was in the books. After the game Carlton said, “I feel I’m throwing as hard as I did in 1972.”17 Reflecting on Carlton’s performance, Phillies manager Danny Ozark said, “His concentration was so much better. He was pitching to one man, the batter, not every guy in the stands.”18 Carlton finished the season with a 16-13 record and his fifth All-Star Game appearance.

Gibson lost for the first time in 1974. His season-ending 11-13 record was his first below .500 since 1960.

Gibson retired after the 1975 season with a career record of 251-174 and an ERA of 2.91. During his 17-year career, he accumulated nine Gold Glove Awards, eight All-Star Game appearances, and seven World Series wins. His brilliance was rewarded with a first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame in 1981.19

Gibson’s counsel influenced Carlton throughout his 24-year career. Tim McCarver, a teammate of both pitchers and Carlton’s longtime catcher, said years later, “Steve learned more from Gibson than he did from anybody.”20 After amassing 329 wins with six different teams, Carlton was reunited with his mentor when he entered the Hall of Fame in 1994.



This article was fact-checked by Bruce Slutsky and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball Reference and Retrosheet for information including the box score and play-by-play.



1 Carlton made his major-league debut on April 12, 1965, walking the only batter he faced in the Cardinals’ 10-10 tie with the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day.

2 St. Louis Cardinals television broadcast (May 18, 2018), “Steve Carlton on Bob Gibson,” YouTube video (Bally Sports Midwest, 6:54, accessed February 9, 2024,

3 Larry Shenk, “50 Years Ago, Carlton Trade,”, February 22, 2023,

4 Associated Press, “Carlton Goes Route, as Phillies Clout Cards 10-3,” Vineland (New Jersey) Daily Journal, April 17, 1974: 13.

5 Terry Sloope, “Bob Gibson,” SABR BioProject, accessed March 2, 2024,

6 Bruce Keidan, Phils Rip Cards for 5th in Row,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 17, 1974: D1.

7 Keidan.

8 Neal Russo, “Gibby Fails Again as Phils Rip Cards,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 17, 1974: 8E.

9 He recovered at the plate, hitting .272, but played in only 85 games in an injury-marred season.

10 Bill Conlin, “Phils Turn On While Bulls-Eye Is Off,” Philadelphia Daily News, April 17, 1974: 72.

11 Associated Press, “Dave Cash Excited as Phillies Extend Win Streak,” Shamokin (Pennsylvania) News-Item, April 17, 1974: 14.

12 Russo, “Gibby Fails Again as Phils Rip Cards.”

14 The Cardinals’ coach knew Unser well because he used to room with Unser’s father, Al.

15 Russo, “Gibby Fails Again as Phils Rip Cards.”

16 “Gibby Fails Again as Phils Rip Cards.”

17 Associated Press, “Phillies Drub Cards, 10 to 3” Hazelton (Pennsylvania) Standard-Speaker, April 17, 1974: 30.

18 Associated Press, “Carlton Goes Route, as Phillies Clout Cards 10-3.”

19 Gibson and Carlton were opposing starters twice more in their careers. On April 12, 1975, both received no-decisions in the Cardinals’ 7-5 win at Veterans Stadium. Gibson was the winning pitcher and Carlton was the loser in the Cardinals’ 11-3 win on May 5, 1975, at St. Louis’s Busch Stadium.

20 Cosme Vivanco, “Steve Carlton,” SABR BioProject, accessed March 2, 2024,

Additional Stats

Philadelphia Phillies 10
St. Louis Cardinals 3

Veterans Stadium
Philadelphia, PA


Box Score + PBP:

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1970s ·