GAFFNEY, SC –
Gaylord Perry, Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner, a spitball master who wrote a book on the use of the pitch, died on Thursday. He was 84 years old.
Perry died at his home in Gaffney around 5 a.m. Thursday, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details. A statement from the Perry family said he “passed away peacefully at home after a short illness”.
“Gaylord Perry was a constant workaholic and a memorable figure in his Hall of Fame career,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, adding, “He will be remembered among the Giants of San Francisco’s most accomplished of all time…and remained a popular teammate and friend throughout his life.”
The Williamston, North Carolina native made history as the first player to win the Cy Young in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 and San Diego in 1978 just past his 40th birthday.
Perry went 24-16 in his first season with Cleveland after 10 years with the San Francisco Giants. He was 21-6 in his first season with the Padres in 1978 for his fifth and final 20-win season.
“Before I won my second Cy Young, I thought I was too old — I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in a post on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted on my performance, so I won it.”
Perry, who pitched for eight major league teams from 1962 to 1983, was a five-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3 554 strikeouts and used a pitching style where he tampered with baseballs or tricked batters into thinking he was tampering with them.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement that Perry was “one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.” The Texas Rangers, for whom Perry played twice, said in a statement that the pitcher was “a fierce competitor every time he took the ball and more often than not gave the Rangers the opportunity to win the game.” .
“Rangers express their sincere condolences to Gaylord’s family at this difficult time,” the team statement read. “This great baseball player will be missed.”
Perry’s 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter”, and he wrote it in the sense that in his debut in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11 pitching team” for the Giants . He needed an edge and learned spitball from San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.
Perry said he first pitched it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 innings without giving up a run, and soon after entered the Giants’ starting rotation.
He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva and eventually stopped pitching the pitch in 1968 after MLB ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouth before touching the baseball.
According to his book, he looked for other substances, such as petroleum jelly, to cure the baseball. He used various moves and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to trick batters into thinking he was applying a foreign substance.
Perry has only been ejected from a game once for tampering with a baseball – when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts attempted to hide George Brett’s infamous pine bat in the clubhouse, but was stopped by a guard. Perry was also ejected for his role in this game.
After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and coached it for the first three years.
Perry is survived by his wife Deborah and three of his four children to Allison, Amy and Beth. Perry’s son, Jack, had previously died.
Deborah Perry said in a statement to the AP that Gaylord Perry was “an esteemed public figure who inspired millions of fans and was a devoted husband, father, friend and mentor who changed the lives of countless people. with his grace, his patience and his spirit.”
The Hall of Fame statement noted that Perry often returned for induction weekend “to be with his friends and fans.”
“We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Deborah, and the entire Perry family,” Baseball Hall of Fame President Jane Forbes Clark said.
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