Gaylord Perry

Gaylord Perry

September 15, 1938
6' 4"
205 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-14-1962 with SFN
Allstar Selections:
1972 CY, 1978 CY
Hall of Fame:

Gaylord Jackson Perry (born September 15, 1938 in Williamston, North Carolina) is a former right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball. Elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1991, Perry win-loss record 314 games over a 22-year career starting in 1962.

Perry, a five-time Major League Baseball All-Star Game, was the first pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in each league, winning it in the American League in 1972 with the Cleveland Indians and in the National League in 1978 with the San Diego Padres. He is also distinguished, along with his brother Jim Perry (baseball), for being the second-winningest brother combination in baseball history--second only to the knuckleballing Niekro brothers, Phil Niekro and Joe Niekro. While pitching for the Seattle Mariners in 1982, Perry became the fifteenth member of the 300 win club.

Despite Perry's notoriety for doctoring baseballs (throwing a spitball), and perhaps even more so for making batters think he was throwing them on a regular basis – he even went so far as to title his 1974 autobiography Me and the Spitter – he was not ejected for the illegal practice until August 23, 1982, in his 21st season in the majors.

Like most pitchers, Perry was not renowned for his hitting ability, and in his sophomore season of 1963, he is said to have joked, "They'll put a man on the moon before I hit a home run." Other variants on the story say that someone else said it about him, but either way, on July 20 1969, just minutes after the Apollo 11 spacecraft carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, Perry hit the first home run of his career.

Gaylord Perry was named after a close friend of his father's, who died while having his teeth pulled.

Pitching style

Perry claims he was taught the spitball in 1964 by pitcher Bob Shaw (baseball). Perry had a reputation throughout his career for doctoring baseballs, and was inspected on the mound by umpires and monitored closely by opposing teams. On August 20, 1982, he was ejected from a game against the Boston Red Sox for doctoring the ball, and given a 10-day suspension.

Perry reportedly approached the makers of Vaseline about endorsing the product and was allegedly rebuffed with a one-line postcard reading, "We soothe babies' backsides, not baseballs." Former Manager Gene Mauch famously quipped "He should be in the Hall of Fame with a tube of K-Y Jelly attached to his plaque."

Gene Tenace, who caught Gaylord Perry when they played for the San Diego Padres, said: "I can remember a couple of occasions when I couldn't throw the ball back to him because it was so greasy that it slipped out of my hands. I just walked out to the mound and flipped the ball back to him."

Minor leagues

Perry was signed by the San Francisco Giants on June 3 1958 for $90,000, which was a big contract at the time. He spent 1958 with the St. Cloud, Minnesota team in Class A Northern League (baseball), compiling a 9-5 record and a 2.39 ERA. In 1959 he was promoted to the Class AA Corpus Christi Giants, where he posted a less impressive 10-11 record and 4.05 ERA. He remained with the team as they became the Rio Grande Valley Giants in 1960, and an improved ERA of 2.82 earned him a promotion to the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers for the 1961 season. At Tacoma, he lead the Pacific Coast League in wins and inning pitched in 1961.

He had a brief call-up to the Major Leagues in 1962, making his debut on April 14 against the Cincinnati Reds. He appeared in 13 games in 1962, but had a high 5.23 ERA and was sent back down to Tacoma for the remainder of the year.

At Candlestick Park on September 17, 1968, two days after his 30th birthday, Perry, pitched a 1-0 no-hitter over the St. Louis Cardinals and Bob Gibson. The run came on a first-inning home run by light-hitting Ron Hunt—the second of the only two he would hit the entire season. The very next day, the Cardinals returned the favor on the Giants on a 2-0 no-hitter by Ray Washburn—the first time in Major League history that back-to-back no-hitters had been pitched in the same series. Jersey Retired by San Francisco Giants; : Gaylord Perry: P, 1962–71

Cleveland Indians (1972-75)

Before the 1972 season, the Giants traded the then 32-year-old Perry and shortstop Frank Duffy (baseball) for 28-year-old flamethrower Sam McDowell. After that trade Perry went on to win 180 more games in his career while McDowell won only 24 more. Perry went 24-16 in 1972 with a 1.92 ERA and 1 save, winning his first Cy Young award. He stood as the only Cy Young winner for Cleveland until 2007 (CC Sabathia). Perry continued as Cleveland's staff ace until 1975. He went 70-57 during his time in Cleveland, but the team never finished above 4th place. Perry accounted for 39% of all Cleveland wins during his tenure. Tensions between him and player-manager Frank Robinson led to Perry's trade to Texas in June 1975. Gaylord Perry remained as Cleveland's last 20-game winner (21 wins in 1974), until Cliff Lee in 2008.

Texas Rangers (1975-77)

On June 13, 1975, at the start of a three-game series with the Texas Rangers (baseball), the Indians traded Perry to the Rangers in exchange for pitchers Jim Bibby, Jackie Brown (baseball), and Rick Waits. Perry would win nearly 80 more games in his career than the three combined. With the Rangers, Perry formed a one-two punch with Fergie Jenkins, with Perry earning 12 wins, and Jenkins 11, during the remainder of 1975. However, the Rangers, who had finished 2nd in the AL West in 1974, slipped to 3rd place that year.

The next year, with Jenkins moving to Boston, the 37-year-old Perry became the staff ace, winning 15 games against 14 defeats. The Rangers, however, slipped to 4th place in the AL West. But then, in 1977, the Rangers surged to 2nd place in the AL West, winning 94 games, a total that the franchise would not surpass until 1999. Perry again won 15 games, this time against only 12 defeats, in a rotation that included double-digit winners Doyle Alexander, Bert Blyleven, and Dock Ellis.

San Diego Padres (1978-79)

Before the 1978 season San Diego acquired Perry from Texas in exchange for middle reliever Dave Tomlin and $125,000. The 39-year old Perry wound up winning the Cy Young Award going 21-6 for San Diego while the 29-year-old Tomlin never pitched for Texas and pitched barely 150 innings the rest of his career. Perry's 21 wins in 1978 accounted for 25% of the club's victories all year long, and he became the first pitcher to win Cy Young awards in both leagues. In this season he became the third pitcher to strike out 3,000 batters, accomplishing the feat two weeks after his 40th birthday.

In 1979, Perry posted a 4.05 ERA and an 12-11 record before quitting the team on September 5, saying he would retire unless the club traded him back to Texas. The Padres traded Perry to the Texas Rangers (baseball) on February 15 1980. Many Yankees players had complained about Perry during his stints with the Rangers, and the club even used a special camera team to monitor his movements during one of his starts at Yankee Stadium. Perry finished the season with a 4-4 record for the Yankees.

Atlanta Braves (1981)

Perry's contract was up after the 1980 season and he signed a one-year, $300,000 contract with the Atlanta Braves. During the 1981 Major League Baseball strike 1981 season, Perry, the oldest player at the time in Major League baseball, started 23 games (150.7 innings) and had a 8-9 record. and won his 300th game on May 6 1982, the first pitcher to win 300 since Early Wynn did so in 1963. On August 20 he was ejected from a game against the Boston Red Sox for doctoring the ball, and given a 10-day suspension. It was the second time Perry had been ejected in his entire career, and it was his first ejection for ball doctoring. In August, Perry became the third pitcher in history to record 3,500 strikeouts. In the final months of the season, Perry experimented with a submarine delivery for the first time in his career and took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the first-place Baltimore Orioles on August 19.

In 1983, he became the third pitcher in the same year to surpass longtime strikeout king Walter Johnson's record of 3,509 strikeouts. Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan were the others.

He announced his retirement on September 23 1983.

Post-playing career

Perry retired in 1983 after pitching for eight teams (the San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers , San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals). It was during his time with Seattle that he kicked noted The Second City actor Jim Zulevic out of a late night party in a Chicago hotel.

Perry retired to his farm in Martin County, North Carolina, North Carolina farm where he grew tobacco and peanuts, but had to file for bankruptcy in 1986. He briefly worked for Fiesta Foods as a sales manager, and later in the year Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina chose Perry to be the College’s first baseball coach. Perry was there until 1991 when he retired.

Despite his admission of illegal pitches he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991 and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. In 1999 The Sporting News ranked him 97th on their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players.

Perry supported the Republican Party (United States), campaigned for Jesse Helms and contemplated a bid for Congress himself in 1986.

On July 23 2005 the San Francisco Giants retired Perry's uniform number 36.

Perry was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame on March 9, 2009.


Due the number of Games Perry lost (265) and lack of postseason glory, the Washington Post called Perry's bid for the Hall of Fame "dubious". Bill James lists Perry as having the 10th best career of any right-handed starting pitcher, and the 50th greatest player at any position. In 1999, The Sporting News placed Perry at number 97 on its list of "The Sporting News list of Baseball's Greatest Players." One eerie thing about Perry's career is his similarity to Phil Niekro's: each had a special pitch they used almost exclusively (Niekro's was a knuckleball), each had a brother who were good, but not as good as their Hall of Fame brothers (Phil's brother was Joe Niekro), each had a short stint with the Yankees at the end of their career (Niekro's was in 1984 to Perry's 1980), each played at the same time period, born within one year of each other, and are 4 wins apart (Perry has 314; Niekro has 318), and each of the Hall of Famers has a nephew who is a pro athlete, who is a son to the lesser brother. Gaylord's nephew Chris is a pro golfer, while Phil's nephew Lance is a pitcher.

Pitching statistics

Perry is one of five pitchers to win the Cy Young Award in both the American and National League (Pedro Martínez, Roger Clemens, & Randy Johnson being the others). He held the record for most consecutive 15-win seasons since 1900 with 13 (1966-1978) and was 2nd all-time to Cy Young, who had 15 (1891-1905). Greg Maddux surpassed both men, with 17 in a row (1988-2004).

Personal life

Perry's wife, Blanch Manning Perry, died on September 11 1987 when another car ran a stop sign and hit her car broadside on U.S. Route 27 in Lake Wales, Florida, Florida.

His nephew, Chris Perry (golfer), is a professional golfer who has won a tournament on the PGA Tour.

300 wins, 3000 strikeouts, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Cy Young Award, Gaylord Perry, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers
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