Glancing Back, and Remembering Gaylord Perry
Gaylord Perry was a great pitcher partly because he was also a great mound psychologist.
Notorious for being the last great spitball pitcher (a pitch outlawed four decades before Perry’s career began), he deftly used the uncertainty of that pitch to keep batters thinking about it rather than concentrating on his “stuff,” which was considerable … wet or dry.
Perry was signed by the San Francisco Giants in 1958 and made his debut with the team at the end of the 1962 season. He was used primarily as a long reliever and spot starter during his first three seasons with the Giants, but gradually moved into the Giants’ starting rotation and posted a 21-8 record with a 2.99 ERA in 1966.
Perry was always an “innings eater” and, from 1967 through 1975, never pitched less than 280 innings in a season. He pitched more than 300 innings six times in his career. He won 50 games for the Giants from 1967 through 1969, and led the National League in victories with a 23-13 record in 1970 (the same year that brother Jim Perry led the American League with 24 wins and won the American League Cy Young award).
Perry went 16-12 in 1971 with a 2.76 ERA, and over the winter the Giants dealt Perry and shortstop Frank Duffy to the Cleveland Indians for Sam McDowell. Perry responded with the best season of his career: a 24-16 record (one-third of the Indians’ 72 victories), a 1.92 ERA over 342.2 innings pitched, and 29 complete games, including five shutouts. He was named American League Cy Young award winner for the 1972 season.
Perry won 19 games for the Tribe in 1973 and 21 games in 1974. He pitched 57 complete games over those two seasons. During the 1975 season, he was traded to the Texas Rangers for Jim Bibby, Jackie Brown, Rick Waits and $100,000. He won a combined 18 games that season, and followed up with a pair of 15-win campaigns over the next two seasons. Then Perry was traded to the San Diego Padres, and posted a 21-6 record with a 2.73 ERA in 1978 – good enough to claim his second Cy Young award. Perry was the first pitcher to win that award in each league.
He hung on for five more years, pitching for Texas, the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals. He closed out his 22-year career with a 314-265 record and a 3.11 ERA. He pitched 5,350 innings over his career, the sixth highest total in major league history.
A five-time All-Star, Perry was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.