When Carlton was finished playing, he was a first-ballot inductee in 1994. As was customary, the new inductees were expected to attend a press conference in New York the day after the announcement. Lefty asked me to be there and also in Cooperstown. Guess I was his security blanket.
The night before, we had dinner in his suite. Carlton seemed very excited. I attempted to "coach" him on some of the potential questions he would face, especially why is he talking now after not doing so most of his career. His focus wasn't there so there was no use in pushing my case.
Next day Carlton stood behind the microphone and answered question after question. After 30 minutes, the president of the Baseball Writers' Association of America asked me to end the press conference. I stepped forward and announced we had time for one more question. He gently pushed me aside, "No, let's keep going." He did.
When he got to the podium on induction day, Lefty began, "This is a very special moment for me. Most of you probably don't know that I got my big break in baseball right here in Cooperstown. Back in the spring of 1966, I had been sent down by the Cardinals to work on a few things in the Minor Leagues. It just so happened that the Cardinals played in an exhibition game here that year against the Twins and the Cardinals invited me up from Tulsa to pitch in that game.
"I had the good fortune to strike out 10 Twins in seven innings that precipitated my return to the Major Leagues."
Carlton concluded his talk, "Memory is baseball's fourth dimension and I know the memory of this day will be with my family and me forever. Thank you so much. You are very kind."
Larry Shenk is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.