Inside a scrapbook Joseph Carlton keeps close at hand is a
photograph of his son, Steve, as he prefers to remember him. Steve
is standing with his older sister, Joanne, in this picture, and
there he is, just 12, with his eyes crossed, tongue out, and both
hands stretching at the ends of his ear lobes.
Joe snapped the shot himself, and it is just one of dozens that
clutter his dilapidated North Miami house. Arranged on end tables,
on walls and in folders, the image of Steve Carlton surrounds Joe
each waking hour, and, as he points to one photograph, he says
sadly: "That was before Steve became weird."
When Steve Carlton enters the Hall of Fame on Sunday in
Cooperstown, N.Y., it should be a day of celebration for Joe
Carlton, his wife, Anne, and their daughters, Joanne Garrard of
Merrilville, Ind., and Christina Carlton of Gainesville, Fla. But,
well . . . Steve did not invite them to the ceremony. In fact,
Steve has not spoken to his parents or his two sisters in years.
Curiously, he does occasionally drop in on his old hometown,
and he even has set aside 30 tickets to his induction for his
former teammates at North Miami High School. The question the
Carltons keep asking themselves is this: Why has Steve shunned us?
Only Steve Carlton himself knows the answer to that question,
but he declined to be interviewed for this article through his
close business associate, Mike Sheehan, who said, "The phone works
both ways." Carlton has been turning down all interview requests in
the days leading up to Sunday's induction.
Consequently, Joe Carlton has remained in the dark both
figuratively and literally. Legally blind (although he does possess
some peripheral vision), Joe, 87, has pleaded with his oldest
daughter, Joanne, to contact Steve and let him know that their
81-year-old mother has been hospitalized since May because of a
Joanne is unsure at this point if she should, concerned that if
she does and Steve rebuffs her that "Dad will be devastated." Joe
also has asked her to attend the Hall of Fame induction, but Joanne
is afraid that she will "drive two days" to Cooperstown and be
"Obviously, he is (holding) a grudge of some kind - but over
what?" said Joanne, 52. "No big blowups - just silence. . . . I am
hurt by this. I am not sure why he is doing this."
Christina, 45, said:
"You would have to ask Steve why he has not spoken to us.
Because he is the only one who knows."
Joe Carlton looked up from his old scrapbook.
"I am proud and fond of Steve - I love him," he said. "But I am
also disappointed in him."
DAD ALONE AT HOME
The place in which Steve Carlton grew up sits on 144th Street
in dangerous North Miami. Surrounded by deep weeds and the
occasional pineapple plant, the house is a Truman-era rancher
decorated with old pieces of drab furniture and steeped in the
stale air of neglect. Alone since Anne slipped and broke her elbow,
Joe Carlton visits her at the hospital three times a week. A taxi
picks him up at his door at 2 p.m., delivers him to the hospital
and then returns him to his door at 5 p.m.
Far removed from the fabulous estate that Steve now occupies
with his wife, Beverly, in Durango, Colo., Joe has been entrenched
on 144th Street since he bought the house for $4,000 in 1948. Then
a janitor with Pan Am World Airways - a job he would hold until his
retirement in 1972 - Joe Carlton remembers that the house was
"surrounded by wilderness" back then and was so small before the
additions were completed that the five Carltons slept in one
Steve, now 49, used to occupy himself for hours as a child
tossing the ball up in the air. When he started throwing it
horizontally instead of vertically, he become one of the top
scholastic pitchers in Florida at North Miami High School. The
newspapers called him "King Carlton," and Joe Carlton still can
remember the day Steve signed his first pro contract with the
Cardinals, in October 1963. …