Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, best known for his prodigious use of the spitball, has died at the age of 84 according to the Associated Press. Perry won 314 games in a 22-year career, ending his career with 14 starts with the Royals in 1983. He was the first pitcher to win the Cy Young in both the American and National League, and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.
Perry signed with the Giants in 1958 out of Campbell University, and by 1966 he was a 21-game winner and an All-Star. In 1970, he led the league with 23 wins, the first of three seasons he would accomplish that feat, with a whopping 328 2⁄3 innings pitched, the second year in a row he would lead the league in that category. He was traded to Cleveland in 1972 to join his brother Jim, and promptly won his first Cy Young Award, going 24-16 with a 1.92 ERA.
The right-hander was notorious for his spitball and applying other substances to the ball to achieve more break, all of which was outlawed. In 1974, he admitted to applying substances to the ball, trying “everything on the old apple except salt and pepper and chocolate sauce topping”, but many questioned whether Perry was inflating his claims to psyche out opponents.
Perry began to bounce around in his later years, going to the Rangers, then the Padres. He won his second Cy Young Award in 1978 with San Diego at the age of 39, winning 21 games with a 2.73 ERA. After another stint with the Rangers, he went to the Yankees, Braves, and then Mariners, where he won his 300th career game. Seattle released him in the summer of 1983, and the Royals claimed him off waivers to join an old rotation that already featured Vida Blue, Larry Gura, Paul Splittorff, and Steve Renko, all age 34 or older.
“I think Gaylord can teach some of our young hitters something about how to attack a hitter. He doesn’t fool around out there.”
-Manager Dick Howser
Perry would be involved in an infamous play in Royals history when Yankees manager Billy Martin challenged a George Brett home run for having too much pine tar. It was Perry who attempted to hide the bat from the umpire crew in what became known as the “Pine Tar Game.” Perry would go 4-4 with a 4.27 ERA in 14 starts with the Royals, passing Walter Johnson on the all-time strikeout list in his time with Kansas City.
Perry is 13th all-time among pitchers in Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference. He is 17th in wins, 8th in strikeouts, and 6th in innings pitched. He died at his home in Gaffney, South Carolina on Thursday morning.