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In style
[ Non-fiction : Sports/ ]

I don’t recall when it was in the year. Probably late in the season. It was the Phillies and the Montreal Expos. A huge crowd turned out for that one because Steve Carlton was had 2997 strikeouts. Three shy of 3,000 and a career milestone.

If I remember correctly, the Phils weren’t doing well that year. No chance of the playoffs, but that didn’t matter. This was going to be Steve’s night. My father had gotten the tickets not knowing about Steve’s attempt at making history. So we sat there, in the nosebleed section waiting for the game to start.

Finally, the players were introduced and Carlton took the mound. Now if you know anything about Steve, he wasn’t the most media friendly guy. Not that I knew that then, but he was pretty shy around the cameras. He could perform though. Like nobody since. He had this awesome delivery that fooled the heck out of everyone. Batters, guys on base, and sometimes even his own teammates! And he had a wicked slider and fastball, the latter which he used to throw inside near the batter’s head to brush them back, the former afterwards to make them swing and miss, looking like they belonged in the minor leagues.

Well. Steve was several years past his best year, 1972 when he had I think, 27 wins. And it was beyond the glory years of the 70s and the World Series win in 1980. But he still had great stuff. And he still knew how to pitch.

The first batter came up and everyone was excited. 3,000. 3rd or 4th place on the all time list. (I think) We all knew it was going to happen that night. I mean when was the last time Steve had less than five strikeouts in a game? Or even seven? So when the first batter struck out, everyone just nodded their head and cheered. Two more and he would have 3,000. I had predicted the second inning. Or maybe the third. Doesn’t matter, because when he struck out the next batter, it was possible he was going to do it in one inning with only a few more than nine pitches.

So there came Tim Wallach to the plate. He was either a rookie or in his first or second year and he was a pretty good hitter – especially against the Phils. I remember thinking how awesome it would be if he reached three thousand in style. Three batters. One inning. Three strikeouts. Wallach gave him a hard time at the plate, if I recall, fouling off a couple pitches, but in the end he was no match for Carlton. Struck him out, struck out the side. They stopped the game for a while, handed out certificates that we were at the game when Steve Carlton reached three thousand strikeouts. With his mimeographed signature as well.

I don’t remember if the Phillies won or lost the game. All I recall is that Steve Carlton struck out the side in the first inning to reach 3,000 strikeouts. He did it…in style.

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