Duane Kuiper, a second baseman for the Cleveland Indians, made his major league debut in 1974 and made his first start behind veteran star pitcher Gaylord Perry. Perry said, “If you make an error behind me today, you’ll never play another day in the big leagues,” just before Kuiper ran to his position to start the game. Do you comprehend?
That person was Gaylord Perry, who accomplished much more than just throwing spitballs. He was a large, powerful, gruff farmer from North Carolina with excellent stuff. Like most great pitchers, he was also fiercely competitive, fearless, and hated to lose. He expressed himself freely, even if it meant upsetting a rival or comrade. He played for eight different teams during which time he threatened to leave the game, demanded to be traded, almost got into an altercation with teammate Frank Robinson, and, in the infamous Pine Tar Game of 1983, stole George Brett‘s bat before being caught by the umpires and being dismissed from the contest. Perry never backed down from his debut in 1962 with the San Francisco Giants at the age of 22.or in 1983, 22 seasons later and at the age of 44, with the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners (he was known as the Ancient Mariner).
Perry, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 84, is frequently remembered for throwing a spitball, which makes it seem unfair. That made him an overrated pitcher in the eyes of some. He was probably underrated, to put it more accurately.
With a 3.11 ERA and 3,534 strikeouts, Perry won 314 games. Walter Johnson and Tom Seaver are the only pitchers in history who can equal all three of those figures. When Perry won the Cy Young Award for the first time in each league, it was in 1972 for Cleveland and in 1978, when he was 39 years old, for the San Diego Padres. Only he and his brother Jim have each received a Cy Young award. In the 1960s and 1970s combined, Gaylord Perry was the pitcher with the most victories. Perry was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991 after three failed tries.
“Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Stargell once remarked, “He was tough. “He was superb. And he threw out indignant.
Naturally, Perry did use a spitball, a pitch he is said to have learned from teammate Bob Shaw in 1964. He would occasionally draw criticism for loading up. Ralph Houk, the manager of the New York Yankees, charged the field in 1973 and yanked Perry’s cap off his head. When he absolutely needed a huge out, Perry reportedly only threw two or three spitters every game, according to at least one of his catchers from the 1970s. On the mound, Perry displayed the same gyrations while appearing to touch his cap, his hair, and his jersey. Perry told me after his playing career was over, “I wanted the hitters to think I might throw a spitter. I would have a better chance of escaping them if I could influence their thinking and strategy.
Willie McCovey, a former teammate, famously remarked, “There were so many terrific pitchers in the National League in the ’60s and ’70s.” Juan Marichal was one of the top players on our team. Gaylord was not universally adored. Every time he pitched, I believed we would prevail.
Perry was a basketball and football star in high school in North Carolina; he also excelled at hitting, but he ended up with a career.
six home runs and a 131 average. However, a writer informed Giants manager Alvin Dark in 1964 that pitcher Perry, who was 24 at the time, was a good hitter and might one day hit a home run. Mark my words, a man will set foot on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run, Dark retorted.
Five years later, on July 20, 1969, at 1:17 p.m. Pacific time, Apollo 11 touched down, becoming Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin the first humans to walk on the moon. Perry blasted his first major league home run off Dodgers pitcher Claude Osteen at Candlestick Park in the third inning, some 30 minutes later and approximately 238,900 miles away.
Three years later, the Giants dealt Sam McDowell—a star pitcher who would go on to win 19 games over the course of his career—to Cleveland in exchange for pitcher Perry. Perry would score a 180. In recognition of the ten years Perry spent there to launch his career, a statue of Perry was unveiled at Oracle Park in San Francisco in 2016. Perry is still well-liked there.