Thursday, March 10, 2011

#477 Cardinals Rookie Stars: Fritz Ackley and Steve Carlton

#477 Cardinals Rookies: Fritz Ackley and Steve Carlton
Whoa! Lefty is almost certainly my biggest rookie card "get" from this set thus far. I'm still chasing down Phil Niekro, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, and Catfish Hunter. Of course none of those other cards feature a unibrow as lush and rich as the one sported by Mr. Fritz Ackley.

Fun facts about Fritz Ackley:

-A native of Hayward, WI, Fritz was 17 when he signed with the White Sox in 1954.

-He was in his ninth year of pro ball when he finally made it to AAA Indianapolis. It was worth the wait, as the righty earned International League Pitcher of the Year honors with an 18-5 record and a 2.76 ERA.

-Ackley earned a September callup and made two starts for Chicago. In his debut on September 21, he allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings and departed trailing 3-1. The Pale Hose tied it in the eighth before falling 4-3. The rookie singled off of Denny McLain (also making his debut) for his first career hit.

-He won his first and only career game in his second start, September 27, 1963. The 26-year-old held the Senators to one run on two hits and four walks in seven innings, striking out seven. He won 7-1, as the Sox picked up four runs of insurance in the eighth inning. Hoyt Wilhelm earned the save.

-Fritz allowed six runs in six and one-third innings spanning three appearances in early 1964. The White Sox demoted him to AAA, and he never did return to the majors.

-In his only two plate appearances in 1964, he walked and hit a run-scoring double against Minnesota's Jim Roland on May 4.

-His cumulative big league record was 1-0 with a 4.19 ERA.

-The Cardinals acquired Ackley that offseason, and he remained in the minors until calling it quits in 1967. In parts of 13 minor league seasons, he won 95 games.

-Fritz returned home to Wisconsin and operated the Chip-a-Flo Lodge for 13 years. He later became a salesman for North Country Business Products.

-He passed away in 2002 at age 65.

Fun facts about Steve Carlton:

-Steve was born in Miami, FL and signed with the Cardinals as a teenager in 1963 for a $5,000 bonus.

-He debuted in St. Louis in 1965, putting up a 2.52 ERA in 15 appearances, mostly in relief.

-By 1967, Carlton was a regular in the Cards rotation. He went 14-9 with a 2.98 ERA for the World Champs. The following year, he was named to the All-Star Team for the first of 10 times. His finest season with the club was 1969, when he was 17-11 with 210 strikeouts and a 2.17 ERA; only Juan Marichal's 2.10 mark was better in the entire National League.

-Steve won 20 games for the first time in 1971; the following spring, owner Gussie Busch tired of contract disputes with the pitcher and had him dealt to the Phillies for Rick Wise. The newest Phillie worked like a man possessed, going 27-10 for a last-place club to lead the league in wins. He was also tops in ERA (1.97), starts (41), complete games (30!), innings pitched (346.1), strikeouts (310), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.56-to-1). He received his first Cy Young Award in a clean sweep of first-place votes. With only 59 wins total, the Phils relied on their ace for 46% of their victories on the season!

-He remained an elite pitcher for more than a decade, winning three more Cy Youngs (1977: 23-10, 2.64 ERA; 1980: 24-9, 2.34 ERA; 1982: 23-11, 3.10 ERA). He became the first pitcher to win the award four times.

-An excellently-conditioned athlete, Carlton completed at least 10 games in each of his first 16 full seasons. He used a number of training methods considered unorthodox at the time: karate, distance running, weight training, and kneading his pitching hand through a tin of uncooked rice.

-He pitched in the postseason eight times over his career, but was at his best in 1980 as the Phils captured their first World Series. He put up a 2.19 ERA in the NLCS victory over Houston, winning the opener with one run allowed in seven innings. He won both of his Fall Classic starts, including the deciding Game Six, while striking out 17 batters in 15 innings.

-Late in his career, he and Nolan Ryan jockeyed for the all-time strikeout record. In 1983, Ryan was the first to break Walter Johnson's previous record of 3,509, but Steve caught Johnson within a month and passed Ryan by season's end. Carlton led as late as September 4, 1984, but Nolan eventually outlasted him and retired with an incredible 5,714 whiffs.

-The Phillies released Carlton in June 1986, and he stubbornly soldiered on with a number of teams in short succession, also pitching for the Giants, White Sox, Indians, and Twins over the next three years. Minnesota released him in 1988, and he finally retired the following spring after failing to catch on with another club. In parts of 24 seasons he was 329-244 with a 3.22 ERA, 254 complete games, and 55 shutouts. His 4,316 strikeouts were second-best in history at that time; he has since been passed by Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson.

-He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1994. The Phillies retired his #32 in 1989 and erected a statue in his likeness outside of Veterans Stadium. The statue was transported to Citizen's Bank Park when that stadium opened in 2004.
#477 Cardinals Rookies: Fritz Ackley and Steve Carlton (back)


  1. That 1980 Astros-Phils series you referenced was a fabulous one, Kevin. Full of close games, extra inning affairs and crushing comebacks.

    I saw Carlton pitch in the Game 4 Phillie win. He walked more than his usual number and the Astro fans though they were on to the World Series. Nope, lost that one and were stunned in the 5th and final game.

  2. Carlton's picture looks like a rendering rather than a photograph.

    Interesting juxtaposition with one guy with one career win and another with 329. Fritz's claim to fame is probably being on the same card with Steve Carlton.

  3. Bob - The Astros really have lost some heartbreakers...the 1986 NLCS was a tough one too.

    Marc - Yeah, looks like they got overzealous with the airbrushing.