Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
There was much more to him than the spitball.

He was a horse. He didn't become a full-time starter until he was 27 years old, but over the next fifteen seasons, through his age 41 season, his average year was 18-13, 2.87, pitching 285 innings and completing more than half of his starts. Year after year after year. You'll take that on your team. He never had a bad season - at least not until he had turned 42 and had declined to the level of roughly league average inning eater. He threw strikes and he kept the ball in the yard.

Perry was notorious, if not legendary, for the mind games he played with hitters his whole career. His mid-career autobiography was entitled Me and the Spitter and it blithely catalogues all the various ways Perry knew how to doctor a baseball, tricks he claimed to have learned from Bob Shaw, who was himself a notorious spitballer. Before every pitch, Perry fidgeted endlessly on the mound, touching various parts of his head and his neck and his uniform. It made the opposition crazy, but no one ever caught him until August 1982, by which time he'd already won 300 games.

He was a redneck, a country boy from a very small town in North Carolina called Williamston - back home his name was pronounced "Gay-lerd" (rhymes with "bird".) His big brother Jim preceded him to the majors, and also had trouble establishing himself as a full-time starter. Jim spent the first ten years of his career as a swingman  before finally getting his chance and giving the Twins a couple of 20 win seasons.

Perry was at the centre of one of the game's more lopsided trades. In November 1971, the Giants sent him to Cleveland for Sudden Sam McDowell. Perry was four years older, and  McDowell was the AL's premier fireballer, a big southpaw who had led the league in Ks (and walks) in five of the previous six seasons. But McDowell's strikeout rate had fallen sharply in 1971 (with no improvement whatsoever in his control) and he would go 19-25, 4.16 over what was left of his career. Perry - who had another 180 victories in his future - immediately went out and had one of the greatest seasons a pitcher has had in the last half century, winning 24 games with a 1.92 ERA over 342 IP for a team that won just 72 games. By some weird coincidence, Steve Carlton was doing exactly the same thing in the other league for his new team, and Carlton's achievement was somehow even more spectacular (27 wins, 1.97 ERA in 346 IP for a team that won just 59 games.)

Perry was a lousy hitter, even by the standards we set for pitchers. He hit .054 (3 for 56) for the Giants in 1964. His first manager, Alvin Dark, once prophesied that men would land on the moon before Gaylord Perry ever hit a home run. Well, on 20 July 1969, at 8:17 UCT (which would be 1:17 in California) the Eagle landed in the Sea of Tranquility. The Giants had just started an afternoon game against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, and when Perry came up to bat in the third inning he promptly hit his first career homer, off Claude Osteen.

Gaylord Perry (1938-2022) | 2 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Thursday, December 01 2022 @ 03:53 PM EST (#424633) #
Gaylord Perry.  Brazenly cheating and getting away with it.  Of course, he was a redneck.  I should speak ill of the dead even if he would gladly accepted both "insults". 

I wondered how it was that Cleveland could have such a bad ball club for so many years.  They did make some FA trades, like the Perry one.  But they were on the other side of trades too.  So, what happened with the 1972 club that Perry starred on, for instance?

The pitching, led by Perry, was good.  He had good support from Dick Tidrow who was 25, Milt Wilcox (22) and Steve Dunning (23).  The offence was well below average, but there were some good young pieces- Ray Fosse (25), Chris Chambliss (23), Graig Nettles (27) and Buddy Bell (20). Bell played right field with Nettles holding down third.  So, after the season, they cleared a spot for Bell by trading Nettles to the Yankees for John Ellis, Jerry Kenney, Charlie Spikes and Rusty Torres.  Like I said, they were on the other side of trades too.  Bell was good in 1973 and would be for the duration of his tenure in Cleveland but hit his peak when he turned 27.  By that time, he was playing for Texas.  Cleveland debuted more good offensive talent in 1973- George Hendrick (23) playing centerfield and Oscar Gamble (23) DHing plus Alan Ashby (21) and John Lowenstein (26), but the pitching took a step backwards.  In April 1974, Cleveland traded Chambliss and Tidrow to the Yankees for Tom Buskey and Fritz Peterson.  Another trade they were on the wrong side of, and again the Yankees were the beneficiaries (the Chambliss and Nettles trades would be key elements of the Yankees World Series triumphs in 1977 and 1978). Flash forward to 1975 when Cleveland had its best year of the decade to that date going 79-80 and almost scored as many runs as they allowed.  They debuted a 20 year old Dennis Eckersley in the rotation and he was great.  Gaylord Perry started off well but was traded in mid-season for Jim Bibby, Jackie Brown, Rick Waits and 100K. Fritz Peterson was OK, and Dave LaRoche and Tom Buskey were surprisingly good in the pen.  Rick Manning (20) broke into the lineup in centerfield at age 20 and was also quite good; Boog Powell was brought in to play first base and had a fine last hurrah year.  They passed .500 at 81-78 for the only time in the decade in 1976, but there were visible problems.  The middle infield combination of Frank Duffy and Duane Kuiper which had been OK were aging fast and all of Boog's hurrahs had been had.  By 1977, they were back under 75 wins despite the presence of the Blue Jays to beat up on; Dennis Eckersley had a very good year and was promptly traded just before the season to Boston for Ted Cox, Bo Diaz, Mike Paxton and Rick Wise.  He had two even better years for Boston immediately afterwards.

One thing you do notice is 3 players brought up at age 20, none of whom were with the club and performing well at age 27.  That's not good.  Eckersley ended up in the Hall of Fame and Bell could easily have.  In particular, Bell was not absolutely breaking down the door at age 20.  Why would you call him up when you've got Nettles there?  Impatience is what I think I see.  

Magpie - Thursday, December 01 2022 @ 05:14 PM EST (#424635) #
I was always fond of the 1968 Indians - Luis Tiant, at the peak of his powers, went 21-9, 1.60 with 264 Ks; Sudden Sam led the league with 283 Ks and posted a nifty 1.81 ERA himself. Tiant and McDowell were 1-2 in the league in ERA, and the rest of the staff was pretty good, too. They still finished 16 games back.
Gaylord Perry (1938-2022) | 2 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.