Monday, December 16, 2013

HALL OF FAME LEADERS IX: 1973 STRIKEOUT LEADERS

Today we will look at quite possibly my favorite leader card from the decade: the 1973 "Strikeout Leaders" card (#67) featuring two budding superstars of the 1970's, Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan.
The reason I was SO into this card was the fact that both Carlton and Ryan had HUGE breakout years in 1972, and this card was a marker of some sort of what was to come in the next 10-15 years.
Let's take a look:
 
Just an awesome card of things to come...
 
Carlton's 1972 season was one for the ages, as he exploded onto the baseball world with a monstrous 27-10 record along with a 1.97 earned run average and the lead leading 310 K's.
Of course we all know that what made this performance even more extraordinary was the fact that he was pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies, who went 59-97!!! 
Quite simply, the guy almost won HALF his teams games that year! Incredible.
Carlton went on to collect four Cy Young Awards (the first to do so), as well as 329 career wins, 4136 strikeouts and 55 shutouts in 24 seasons on the mound.
Needless to say, when Cooperstown came calling he was in without a problem, getting elected in 1994.
Steve Carlton was THE dominant pitcher in the game between 1977 and 1983, and this card was a great kick-starter as far as the legend of "Lefty" was concerned.
Luckily for all of us, it just so happened that someone else burst onto the baseball world with an amazing 1972 season, giving us all a glimpse into what was about to be a SICK 27-year career unmatched on the mound before or since: Nolan Ryan.
After pitching for the New York Mets for five years and having moments of brilliance, it wasn't until he was famously traded to the California Angels that Ryan became an instant legend.
His 1972 season took everyone by surprise, as he went 19-16 with a 2.28 E.R.A. But what got everyone going was his Major League leading 329 strikeouts and nine shutouts.
He was an instant force on the mound, blowing everyone away and giving us a peek at what we were about to witness for the next 20+ years!
The very next year Ryan whiffed a Major League record 383 batters (which still stands), and was well on his way to throwing SEVEN no-hitters, 12 one-hitters, and 18 two-hitters! 
How ridiculous is that!?
By the time the "Ryan Express" gave the arm a rest after the 1993 season, he won 324 games, threw 61 shutouts, and struck out a STILL amazing 5714 batters.
I look at this league leader card and just sit amazed at how these two guys were on their way to Hall of Fame careers, dominating batters for the next two decades.
I also think back to the 1980 Topps set and remember how they both also had those nice "all-star" cards for the first time in their careers as well.
Amazing card for Hall of Fame collectors.

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