Maury Z. Levy

The Last Steve Carlton Story

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on January 23, 2011 at 11:44 am

By Maury Z. Levy

THERE WAS NO REAL SENSE in splitting hairs over it. The decision to get rid of the moustache was made by a very distinguished committee. Danny Ozark, the new 
manager of the Phillies, told him he’d rather see him without it. He told him this to his face. He said he just didn’t 
care for moustaches on ballplayers but that, of course, he wouldn’t demand that he shave. It’s hard to demand anything from the best pitcher in baseball, from the man who was voted the professional athlete of the year, from a guy who makes $165,000 to start. You can only suggest.

This is what Paul Owens, the second member of the 
three-man committee for the resolution of the moustache, did in his office at Veterans Stadium while he was packing 
up to go to spring training. Owens is the general manager of the team. Last year he was field manager for a while too, after they finally got rid of the Italian guy. Owens is looking over a pile of publicity pictures to help decide what will be used in this year’s yearbook. There are some with the moustache and some without. He separates them 
into two piles.

“I think we’ll be safest going with these,” he said, holding up the clean-shaven shots. “Now don’t quote me on that. I mean, he doesn’t know about this yet. He’s still 
got the moustache, you know.”

The third and deciding vote came from a 46-year-old 
schoolteacher from Buena Park, California. Larue Harcourt is president of the Athletes Financial Services Inc., a company of some 35 highly trained professionals who help make such momentous decisions. Larue Harcourt would 
like to see him take off the moustache because at this very 
moment he is working on getting him lined up with a big 
sponsor to do a shaving commercial. The marketing men 
have decided that people prefer to buy shave cream and 
razors from people who shave their whole face. There 
are just a couple inches more credibility in it.

The selling of Steve Carlton will call for a flawless product. There’ll be no trouble selling him locally. But the national picture is too fuzzy. Joe Namath could have a 
moustache because he’s a bachelor who plays for a winning team. On those counts, Carlton has two strikes 
against him.

The only one who had no real say in the moustache matter was Steve Carlton himself, in spite of the fact 
that it was his lip. But Carlton really didn’t care that much. “I don’t like to think about those things,” he said. “I just 
want to go out there and pitch and win. The moustache is only a distraction. I hate distractions. I can always grow a moustache. I can’t always win 30 games.”

Last year, Steve Carlton won 27 games for the Phillies, which came out to almost half of what the whole team won. It is indeed something to win 27 games for a team 
that ends up in dead last place with the worst record in baseball. Steve Carlton came out of last season like a perfectly cut 27-carat diamond in a setting of zircon 
baguettes.

He won the Cy Young Award, which meant he was the 
best pitcher in the league. And he won the Hickok Belt, which meant he was the best athlete in the country. He became quite an item. This shy guy who’d spent the first 
six years of his major league career in St. Louis, piling up 
a not-so-overwhelming 77-62 record, needed only a few weeks after his trade to Philadelphia to show that he was 
going to be the biggest thing to hit this town since Robin 
Roberts.

Last spring, Steve Carlton came walking into this city 
almost unnoticed. He walked alone. He sat down in a Phillies’ office and signed a contract for $67,500 for one 
season. He started off slowly, perhaps slowed down by the 
players’ strike that lopped off the first two weeks of the season. But then he warmed up. He won 15 games in a 
row and grew a moustache. He became the only real superstar in the City of Losers.

It was a feat of national significance. He became very 
much in demand as a speaker, spending the winter on the 
banquet circuit eating burnt roast beef and talking about 
winning and clean living and all those things that go 
hand-in-hand with the former great American pastime. Strangers bearing money came to him for product endorsements, everything from shaving cream to house paint. There were those who would try to take advantage of him. It was a rough and busy winter.

Steve Carlton came back to Philadelphia this year a 
changed man. And he didn’t walk alone. He was represented by 35 people from Buena Vista, California. He sat 
down with some of them and with some people from the 
Phillies and they worked out a contract that will pay 
Steve Carlton almost $100,000 more than he got last year. 
It was the beginning of a new era. And it was the end 
of a man.

THERE IS NO MORE Steve Carbon. There is no more 
lanky country kid who scrapes his feet every time somebody asks him for an autograph. Only in rare personal 
moments is there any semblance of an individual human being having total control over his personal destiny. At 
age 28, Steve Carlton has become a corporation, a highly 
marketable and very neatly boxed product. He is part 
machine and part circus act. The machine has only one 
function. It goes out and wins baseball games. The machine has one moving part. It’s a golden left arm. Without 
it, there could be no circus act.

The circus act appears wherever the money is. It tells 
you to paint your house with MAB Rich-Lux. It tells you 
to shave your face with frothy foam. In coming weeks, you’ll be seeing it almost every time you turn on the tube. Steve Carlton selling you a new Pontiac. Steve Carlton selling you a new suit. And, all the while, Steve Carlton selling you Steve Carlton. The circus act gets paid very 
well for all of this, of course. Only Steve Carlton never 
really sees the money. All of his money, including his 
salary from the team, is sent straight to Buena Park. In 
return, Carlton—like all good boys—gets an allowance. He takes some for pocket money and gives the rest to his wife and two kids. The rest of his money is tied up in oil
wells and apartment buildings. He’s not exactly sure how 
many or how much. The people in Buena Park keep track 
of all that. To Steve Carlton, it’s all a distraction, some 
loose bolts in the machine.

It would be easy to get the wrong impression from all 
of this. Through it all, he’s been a very reluctant hero.

Yes, Steve Carlton has become a commodity. But, no, he’s 
not a whore.

“I’ve been going to these banquets all winter,” he says. 
”I just can’t go to all of them. Everybody and his brother wants to give me an award just to get me to town. It’s not 
that I don’t appreciate it. But if I had my way, I wouldn’t 
go to any of them.

“Look what happened to Roger Maris a few years back. 
He broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. It was the biggest 
thing to happen to baseball in years. But he spent so much 
time at banquets afterwards that he lost his concentration, 
he got out of shape, he could hardly swing a bat. He was 
never the same player after that. The Yankees got rid of 
him. He ended up being an overweight pinch-hitter. I 
won’t let that happen to me.

“And I really don’t enjoy speaking at those things. It just distracts from my concentration. Everybody’s always 
telling you things you don’t want to hear. I came into 
spring training in not such great shape. I didn’t have a 
chance to work out all winter. I didn’t have a chance to 
run and do a lot of exercise, which I normally do. That upsets me. I just haven’t been in one place long enough. 
If I go back to my home in St. Louis, I can’t stay more 
than a couple days. I’ve got to go wherever they want me 
to go. Usually, I’d spend that time working out. But instead, I’ve been spending it with my family. I just don’t 
see them that much anymore.

“But I’ve got some good financial people behind me and 
I guess that’s what it’s all about now. We’ve looked into 
a lot of areas. And we’ve turned a lot of things down.

Sometimes the people behind the promotions aren’t the 
right people, or the contracts aren’t drawn up right. Everybody wants an exclusive with you. We’ve turned down a 
lot of things for those reasons. The money isn’t that great in a lot of cases anyway. So you’re just selling yourself.

“I’d rather do something that’s really good. Because I 
just wouldn’t put anything on the market that’s garbage. I wouldn’t let it happen. That gives me a bad reputation. If it’s not right, it’s not going to be done.

“We’ve talked about going past just the straight endorsements. We’ve talked about marketing different products 
using my name. Like maybe Steve Carlton baseballs or 
T-shirts or something. I don’t know. It bothers me a little 
bit. I don’t like to be exploited. There’s money in those 
areas and there’s exposure. Those are the only reasons I’d 
go into them. But I just don’t like the whole idea. I’d 
rather go off hunting. Be by myself.”

HE’S BY HIMSELF in Key Biscayne. Just him and the 
camera crew and a lot of cans of MAB paint. He’s a pro 
at these things by now. He’s already done three 30-second 
spots for the local Pontiac dealers. They show him sitting 
on the hood of a car in an orange plaid sport jacket and 
zip-front shirt. (He never wears a tie.) Carlton sits there and tells you, “I don’t want you to buy this car just because I’m Steve Carlton the ballplayer. Don’t buy it just 
because I won 27 games for the Phillies last year and will 
win 30 games this year. I won’t get mad if you don’t buy 
it. I’ll just go back to St. Louis.”

The MAB people have allowed a full five days to tape 
the paint commercial, even though it’ll only take a few 
hours. They just wanted to make sure they had Carlton 
long enough in case they ran into bad weather. And, of 
course, Carlton gets paid for all five days.

It’s a ‘little windy and cold for this time of year in 
Florida. The high’s around 60. But Steve Carlton is used 
to the freaky Florida weather. He grew up just a short 
throw from here in North Miami. He was always an athletic kid, always big. In high school, while he was quickly 
growing toward his current 6’5″ status, he played a few 
sports. He knew then he wanted to be a professional. 
Except to go into basketball or football, he’d need to go 
through four years of college, and he wasn’t really sure he 
was up to that. So he went to Dade Junior College, a two-
year program he never really finished. A St. Louis scout 
spotted his pitching and signed him to a contract for a 
walloping $5,000 bonus. Carlton would come to learn 
more about money. In fact, it was probably his insistence 
for more money that got him traded from St. Louis to 
Philadelphia. The Cardinals just didn’t think he was worth 
all that much.

From the paint commercial in Key Biscayne, Carlton 
moved on to Clearwater, the Phillies’ spring training home. 
The opening of camp had been delayed for about a week 
by the threat of another players’ strike. Steve Carlton wasn’t very happy about this, about the delay. He knew 
things would be tough enough in spring training.

“I’m getting a little upset,” he said. “There are a lot 
of people down here for interviews, to do tapes with me, 
and I’m down here to try to get into shape, to try to get 
ready to have another good year. I just don’t want the 
distractions. But what can I do? Either I do it all or I tell 
them no, cut them off and create a bad image. That’s what 
I’m fighting against right now. You try to do everything 
they want you to do, but there have got to be some limits 
on it.

“The biggest thing about this game is the mental approach to it. That’s why all the interviewing is distracting 
to me. Physically, I can still run and throw, get myself in 
shape. But it’s just hard to concentrate on the game when 
you’ve got all these questions thrown at you.”

It’s only natural that all the reporters, all the radio and television people 
head straight to Carlton. It’s not that 
he’s such a bubbling interview, but 
he’s the only superstar they’ve got. 
Last season, when he was rising and 
the Phillies were dying, they labeled 
him “The Franchise.” Carlton found 
that very embarrassing.

“I’m not the only guy on this team,” 
he says. “All the guys are good. They 
all give it everything they’ve got.”

Funny how all baseball players talk 
like that. Give them a piece of apple 
pie and a flag and they’d all fit into 
the Johnny Mann singers. The truth 
is that if the other guys were giving 
it all they’ve got, they sure wouldn’t 
have much. Carlton seems to feel this 
will be the year the Phillies could turn 
things around. Some of the guys 
who’ve been sentenced to cover the 
team tend to agree with him. Nobody’s talking World Series yet, but a general consensus says the team just might win more games than it loses. 
And, for the Phillies, that’s a start.

Steve Carlton credits the projected progress to the new attitude of management. The new field manager, 
Danny Ozark from Los Angeles, is 
supposed to know what he’s doing. The new general manager, Paul Owens from the Phils’ farm system, is a lot closer to the players than old John Quinn ever was. And the new owner, Ruly Carpenter, away from his father Bob Carpenter, is even letting his hair grow a little longer.

They’ve made some interesting trades to bring new players here but, more importantly, they’ve loosened the purse strings to the players they’ve already got. This is the first year in recent history that anybody can remember the team not having any major holdouts. There were always at least a couple top players left without a signed contract come spring training, having to bust balls and bats with 
the management to get a few extra bucks.

The Phillies were notoriously the 
tightest team in the league. When everybody else was dealing out $100,000 contracts, they just wouldn’t hear of it. That’s one of the reasons 
they lost so many good players in the 
past. You get what you pay for. The former Richie Allen was a malcontent here. He’s now the darling of 
Chicago, having recently signed a 
White Sox contract that will give him 
$675,000 over the next three years.

Steve Carlton more than broke the 
Phillies’ $100,000 barrier. Considering 
what he’s done, he’s probably worth it. In spite of finishing so dismally 
last year, attendance was very good, 
although it was very uneven. Carlton pitched every fourth game. And every 
fourth game there’d be 30,000 or 
40,000 people in the stands. On the 
days in between, they’d be lucky to 
get 10,000. But it all evened out.

Steve Carlton figures to have another super season. He says it’s all in 
his head. “I just go out there and 
know I’m going to win. Every game. 
I don’t lose. I never mention that 
word. That’s not necessary. I never look back. You can’t look back in 
this game. Live now and in the future. 
I never think of losing. If I start 30 
games, I’m going to win 30 games. If I 
start 40, win 40. The other team’s got to beat me. I don’t have to beat 
them.”

They don’t call these guys jocks fm 
nothing, you know. But Steve Carlton 
is pretty much a nice, folksy, country 
guy. He looks just like Dennis Weaver
—long, lanky and seemingly easy to 
be had, but smarter than he looks. He’s got these very beady eyes. They stare at you and follow you around and, whenever he’s ready, they penetrate you. They’re the eyes of a man 
of single focus.

Carlton managed to get in some 
training in Clearwater. The season that opens this month will tell everybody whether it was enough. As predicted, he did have a hard time getting away from the interviewers and the autograph hounds. He doesn’t mind 
the autograph hounds that much, though, because most of them are 
kids and most of them don’t ask 
questions.

He’ll sign for whomever asks and he’ll sign with his right hand. It’s 
about the only thing he does with that hand. He throws left, he bats 
left, but he signs right. Big baseball 
players are funny like that. Especially pitchers. They get paranoid about their arms. They don’t really 
like to talk about it, but there’s this constant terror they live with, a nightmare about waking up one 
morning and not being able to throw right anymore.

Steve Carlton carries his left arm 
like a violinist with a Stradivarius. It dangles a few inches behind where it should, just for protection. His hand 
is always open, like it’s gripping some 
invisible ball. And, unconsciously. he’ll move his fingers around, wiggle them back and forth to make sure he hasn’t been hit by some sudden paralysis. It’s a touchy way to make a living. A season could be lost by a 
hangnail.

WHILE CARLTON KEPT WIGGLING his fingers and signing autographs, an older, more professional-looking man stood quietly in the background. Larue Harcourt was a teacher for 25 years, business administration at a Los Angeles college. Around ten years 
ago, a doctor friend of his who was 
making a lot of money asked Harcourt 
if he’d help manage it for him. It turned into a profession. From doctors he went onto baseball players. He’s got some 35 people working for him now; and contracts with over 100 big athletes.

“If you can’t be a big athlete,” 
Harcourt says, “the next best thing is 
to handle their money.”

The members of Harcourt’s staff are all experts in different fields—banking, insurance, investment, promotion and so on. They all work on 
salary. Together they pretty much 
determine the financial well-being of 
their clients. They handle everything.

For instance, Steve Carlton the 
person has become Steve Carlton Inc. 
All of his salary is directly forwarded 
by the Phillies to a trust account in 
California. He never even sees the 
checks. He gets his spending and 
living allowances mailed to him, and 
the balance goes into savings accounts 
and investments. This is where Harcourt and his people make their money. They take nothing at all from 
his salary. Their profit is made from 
Carlton’s profit on the investments 
they make for him.

Like they’ll spot a good piece of 
real estate, say an apartment building 
that’s being sold for $300,000. So 
they’ll buy it. But they’ll buy it for 
themselves. They’ll then turn around and sell it to Carlton for $310,000, which gives Carlton a sound investment and gives his advisors an immediate $10,000 profit.

Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that, since the profit technically goes to the company, Athletes’ Financial Services, and the ballplayers are all stockholders in that company.

Harcourt says he never goes out 
and hustles business. It’s all done with 
referrals. Steve Carlton came to him, 
having heard of him from a friend.

Harcourt negotiated Carlton’s contract with the Phillies. It was hardly 
a matter of negotiation, though. It was 
more like just naming his price. But Carlton needed the help, he says, because he just doesn’t know how to read a contract. Carlton’s real problem now is all those people running at him with money in their fists, if you want to call that a problem.

It’s pretty much up to Harcourt and his marketing men to decide just what money Carlton will take and what he’ll do to get it. All personal appearance requests are filtered straight through to California, as arc all requests for endorsements.

They went for the paint commercial 
because the money was right and the 
product was proven. They’re now giving serious looks to offers from shaving cream, cars, clothes and hunting 
and fishing equipment. Hunting and 
fishing is Carbon’s real passion. And 
when he has any time to himself. that’s what he does.

He has a great love of the land and 
most of his investments are in that 
area. Carlton’s a real sucker for the 
outdoors.

In fact, it was the lure of fishing that hooked him up to his first promotional strikeout at the hands of a guy Larue Harcourt likes to call the “Philadelphia Lawyer.” His real name is R. Jere Bloche. Bloche approached 
Carlton directly.

“He had this deal,” Carlton says, 
”at least he said he had this deal with 
a rod and reel company. And I was 
very interested in it. That’s my bag. So I come to town and all of a sudden the rod and reel thing wasn’t there and they started throwing a whole bunch of other things at me”

Bloche was going around town 
passing himself off as Steve Carlton’s 
agent for promotional activities. Under that guise, he even persuaded City Council to present Carlton with an official City award. He set up a meeting at a center city restaurant between 
Carlton and a whole crew of people whom he’d offered a piece of the pie. 
One of them, a former PR man named 
Johnny Bond, had this recording 
studio over in Jersey. Bloche and 
Bond wanted Carlton to cut a record. Since he couldn’t sing very well, it would have to be a talking record, an instructional record for kids, to teach them how to pitch a baseball. (Bloche 
says he got out at this point because 
the whole deal had turned into “an 
abortion.” He says Johnny Bond made 
his own deal for the recording, that 
he’s concentrating more on the book.)

Carlton was very wary of the 
whole thing, but the money looked 
good. At least the promise of it did. 
He spoke to his people in California 
and they gave him the go ahead. 
Larue Harcourt flew in with the 
signed contract in his hand, just to 
make sure everything came off all 
right. The contract called for a substantial amount of the money up 
front, plus a percentage of the take. 
All parties agreeing, they went to the recording studio in Jersey.

Everything was set up there. All 
the mikes in place, all the recorders 
ready to roll. “Wait a minute,” Larue 
Harcourt remembers saying to Johnny 
Bond and associates. “I think you’ve 
forgotten something. The money. We 
were promised the money up front.” 
There was a lot of fumbling and 
mumbling, and Harcourt says he was 
told that the money wasn’t actually 
on the spot, but they had put it away 
in a bank account for safekeeping. That was easy enough, Harcourt said, he’d just call into Philadelphia and check with the bank. There was 
some more mumbling. Well, the 
money really wasn’t in a Philadelphia bank, Harcourt and Carlton were told. 
No, it was in a bank somewhere in 
California.

“Well, that should be easy to 
check,” Harcourt said, “our company’s in California. I’ll just call out 
there and have one of our people 
check it.” He says he called. There were long periods of silence in the studio interspersed with some very worried looks. Finally, the word came 
back long distance. There was no California bank account. Harcourt turned 
to Carlton, grabbed him by the arm 
and pulled him out of the studio, 
leaving the Philadelphians with their 
mouths open and their mikes dangling.

STEVE CARLTON SAYS that was his 
first bad experience with Philadelphia. Everybody had always been good to him. In fact, he set a Philadelphia 
sports record of sorts by going through 
an entire season without being booed 
once. He’s been feted with a Steve Carlton Night at the ballpark, given 
cars and televisions and all kinds of 
goodies. His family has been well received too. His wife Beverly and their 
two young sons still live most of the 
year out in St. Louis. But during the 
season Carlton has rented a big old 
Main Line mansion for them out in 
Rosemont. It’s one of the few places Carlton’s got left to enjoy some private moments.

He can’t even eat in peace anymore. Last year he was able to go into a place like Gatsby’s on Montgomery Avenue in Narberth practically without being noticed, which is a pretty neat trick when you’re 6’5″. But this 
year is going to be something else 
again. His first trip back to Gatsby’s came just before he was ready to leave to do the paint commercial. He went there with some baseball buddies. They sat in the back, in the dark, under one of the scrolls of the lords of the castle. It didn’t work. He was spotted right away. The restaurant 
started to buzz and a lot of heads 
started turning.

Carlton tried to ignore it all by not 
looking up. He sat there sipping a Mediterranean Stinger—a concoction 
of Galliano and mint and cognac—from a very big brandy snifter. One 
of the more forward of the crowd 
came up and asked for an autograph. She was a nice-looking young girl 
with long brown hair. She tried to 
start a conversation. She asked him if 
he’s ever been to a place called the 
Rusty Nail, a less formal spot.

“No,” he snapped. “I wouldn’t go 
there because right away all you 
hippies think I’m a fag because of 
the way I look. I mean, just because 
my hair’s a little long and I’ve got 
this moustache, that doesn’t make me 
one of you. All you hippies do is 
smoke pot. And I don’t do things like 
that.”

Carlton’s reaction seemed a bit extreme, but not when you consider his fear that this kind of hounding could eventually blow his concentration, and with it his career.

“What makes you think I’m a 
hippie?” the girl asked.

“Well, you’re wearing pants. Girls 
wear dresses.”

For some reason, she continued the 
conversation. Carlton went on to tell 
her how good he was at sizing people 
up, how he liked to study psychology.

“Really,” she said, “what kind of 
books do you read?”

“Well, the Bible. It’s in every room 
I stay at on the road.”

“What can you learn from the 
Bible?”

“Well, there’re a lot of people in 
the Bible. And I like people. But
don’t get me wrong. I like to go to 
places to meet people and talk to 
people—not to pick up girls or be 
picked up. Say, do you want to come 
to The Library with us?”

Carlton got up and threw his coat 
over his right arm and started to 
leave. He didn’t see the little bald guy 
until it was too late. The guy came up 
from out of nowhere and grabbed his 
only available hand, the left one, and 
started grabbing and shaking and 
pumping it.

Carlton suddenly looked scared. 
The guy was squeezing his hand very 
hard and shaking it. But he wasn’t 
just shaking his hand, he was shaking his whole career, all his money, all his endorsements—everything.

Carlton quickly pulled back his arm and tentatively wiggled his fingers around. His face turned very 
pale and his forehead very wet.

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