Time Catches Up With A Pitcher
In 1978 Perry was pushing forty—an old pro in a young man's game. He was traded to the San Diego Padres and quickly put to rest any implication that he was past his prime, pitching a 21-6, 2.72 ERA season and leading the National League in wins. But Perry reportedly wasn't happy with San Diego, a team he regarded as lacking in ambition. The pitcher responded in kind, letting his win-loss record slow to 12-11 in 1979. Over the next year the pitcher ping-ponged from San Diego, back to Texas, then to the New York Yankees, who acquired Perry in late 1980.
Perry became a free-agent in late 1980, and chose to sign with the Atlanta Braves; a players' strike that year shortened his season to 8-9, with a 3.93 ERA. He was released from that team at the end of the 1981 season. By now nearly forty-four years old, branded as a spitball artist, and known for a fiery temperament that sometimes alienated his teammates, Perry seemed an uncertain prospect for future employment. But in 1982 Seattle Mariners did sign the pitcher at a cost of $50,000, a fraction of what Perry had earned playing for Atlanta.
The year turned out to be one of highs and lows for Perry. He recorded his 300th career win on May 6, after beating the New York Yankees 7-3. But the occasion was also notable for three inspections of Perry's baseball looking for signs of tampering. No evidence was found that day, but two months later, in a game against the Boston Red Sox, an umpire ruled that Perry had doctored the ball, fining him $250 and suspending him for ten days. But Perry's signature spitballs did have an influence on the Mariners, helping lift the struggling team from the ratings basement to land in fourth place in the American League West.
If Perry's best days were behind him—he hadn't posted an ERA under 3.0 since 1978—he continued to show his determination, playing for Seattle and, in late 1983, for the Kansas City Royals. Time writer Tom Callahan characterized Perry, at nearly forty-five, as "the most elderly player in either league." But the pitcher had few doubts about his ability to keep playing. "For me, it's a pretty good job and it pays well—that's why I'm still playing," he remarked to Callahan. At the end of the 1983 season Perry retired from professional play, having posted 314 wins in twenty-two years in big-league baseball representing both the American and National leagues. He and his brother, Jim, held a record as the winningest pitching siblings until 1987, when brothers Phil and Joe Niekro took the title.
- Gaylord Perry - Awards And Accomplishments
- Gaylord Perry - The Spitball Artist
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