Gaylord Perry's pitching career remains a sticky subject

2013-01-09T21:30:00Z 2014-09-09T19:34:09Z Gaylord Perry's pitching career remains a sticky subjectAl Hamnik, (219) 933-4154
January 09, 2013 9:30 pm  • 

HOBART | Gaylord Jackson Perry was known for "doctoring" pitches.

He allegedly used enough condiments during his 22-year baseball career -- 13 in the National League, nine in the American -- to stock a buffet line.

Perry's use of foreign substances on baseballs and the head games he played to torment opposing hitters helped him be a five-time All-Star, win 314 games, compile a 3.11 ERA and get elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991.

"Cincinnati had the best-hitting team in the mid-60s and late '60s, eight guys who could hit the ball out of the ballpark," Perry said. "I'd go shake their hand the day before I pitched, have my hand full of Vaseline, and they'd think about it all night and all day."

Perry was the featured guest speaker at Wednesday night's 67th annual Gary Old Timers Banquet at Avalon Manor in Hobart.

And though he did not confess to doctoring the baseball in any of the 5,350 innings he threw, the crafty right hander didn't flat out deny it either.

Gary native Ron Kittle, the 1983 American League rookie of the year with the White Sox, recalled facing the 44-year-old Perry in a game at Kansas City.

"Honestly, I wore glasses and on one of his pitches, the spit hit my glasses and they threw the ball out," Kittle said. "Another time, I had a 2-2 count on me and he stood out there off the mound, handling the rosin bag for what seemed like 10 minutes.

"He threw me a pitch about 82 miles per hour, straight down the middle, and there was such a big dust cloud comin' at me that I forgot what the count was."

Perry's infamous Puffball eventually was outlawed.

"Reggie Jackson told me it happened to him, too," said Kittle. "He was a great pitcher. Bottom line: He wasn't afraid to go out there and pitch, unlike today's players."

Perry was not ejected from a game for throwing a spitball until August of his 21st season.

His infatuation with the rosin bag was another story.

"I could get some good puffballs out of that," Perry said. "The umpire would come out and (complain) about the (ball) being too dry. I'd tell him you (complained) about it being too wet, now you (complain) about it being too dry. I can't please you.

"They'd throw their hands up and go back. I knew all the umpires by their first names, so we had many, many visits."

Perry started 690 games and completed 303.

He won 20 or more games five times, including 23-13 with the Giants in 1970, 24-16 with the Indians in '72 and 21-6 as a member of the Padres in '78.

In all, Perry played for nine different teams.

He claimed his best pitch was a slider, which he said moved around as if it had a foreign substance on it, followed by a forkball and a fastball in the mid-90s.

"I can guarantee you I was examined 500 times in my career," Perry said. "The only time I got ... was when one umpire said he found something on the ball but I didn't put it there.

"I had to change uniforms (a lot), which is OK. That was part of my game plan -- to get 'em thinking."

To those who say Gaylord Perry cheated, he has a bulletin for you.

"If I was a cheater, there's 10,000 more out there," Perry said. "Not just pitchers, they got hitters stealing signs, corking bats, using (performance enhancing drugs).

"It's the way the game was played and is played now."

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