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“Gaylord was fantastic, simply fantastic. His contributions were even better than the records show, and they show plenty. He was such a great influence on the younger players. Perry was far and away the best pitcher in the American League,” said Cleveland Indians President Gabe Paul.
Gaylord Perry was also the best pitcher in the National League. He was the first to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues, winning in 1972 with the Indians and in 1978 with the Padres. He mixed an outstanding repertoire with a spitball, real or imagined. His reputation for doctoring the ball preceded him, and some speculated that it was not so much the spitball itself, as the threat of it which played with opposing batters heads. “I watched Gaylord like a hawk,” said umpire Bill Haller. “I’ve never found anything. I’ll tell you what he’s got: a good curve, a fine fastball, a good change, and a fine sinker. I’ll tell you what Perry is: He’s one helluva pitcher, and a fine competitor.”
For his part, Perry played to type – he would fidget with his glove, touch his cap, belt, glove, or pockets repeatedly, and play both with the hitters and with his reputation. Despite constant surveillance, he was not ejected for doctoring the ball until 1982, his 21st season. Perry debuted in 1962 with the San Francisco Giants, and had his breakout season in 1966, when he carried a 20-2 record into August, before cooling off to finish 21-8. He pitched a no-hitter at Candlestick Park in 1968, shutting out Bob Gibson 1-0.
Perry was traded to the Indians prior to the 1972 season, and won his first Cy Young Award, leading the AL in wins (24) and complete games (29). He was joined there in 1974 by his brother Jim, who won 215 games to his brother’s 314—they trail only the Niekro brothers in total wins, 539 to 529. During their one full season together, they recorded 38 of the team’s 77 wins. Gaylord Perry, who pitched for eight teams in 22 years, was traded in 1978 to the Padres, where he won the NL Cy Young Award at age 39, going 21-6. He won his 300th game for Seattle in 1982 at age 44.
Perry, a five-time All-Star and five-time 20-game winner, won 314 games and notched 3,534 strikeouts.