100 Greatest Indians: Gaylord Perry
Master of spitball pitches way to two Cy Youngs, a Hall plaque
CLEVELAND -- Gaylord Perry always played a shell game. Did he throw a spitball or didn't he throw one?
"I reckon I tried everything on the old apple, but salt and pepper and chocolate sauce topping," Perry once said.
That remark was pure Perry, because the folksy Southerner often played it coy when asked about the little "extra" he was accused of putting on the Rawlings baseball.
Yet did he or didn't he doesn't much matter anymore, because Perry's now put so much distance between his playing days and all the rumors that to bring up the spitball almost seems too insensitive to the achievements of the man.
And Gaylord Perry had achievements aplenty in his Hall of Fame career.
In his 22 years in the Majors, he achieved rare distinctions. He won more than 300 games and struck out more than 3,500. The list of men who have achieved both can be counted on a person's fingers.
But even rarer still was this achievement: a Cy Young Award in both leagues. People can count the men on that list on one hand.
Perry, whose brother Jim also pitched for the Indians, won the first of his two while pitching with the Indians. It came in 1972 when he won 24 games, struck out 234 batters and had a 1.92 ERA. He was 33 at the time.
In 3 1/2 seasons with the Indians, Perry went 70-57 with a 2.51 ERA. He also represented the Tribe in two All-Star Games.
For those successes, Perry was selected as one of the 100 Greatest Indians, an honor that complements his selection to the Cooperstown.
"He should be in the Hall of Fame with a tube of KY jelly attached to his plaque," longtime baseball manager Gene Mauch once said.
It might be a fitting addition to his display. That is, of course, if Perry did throw a baseball with a little something extra on it.
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.