GAFFNEY, SC — Gaylord Perry, a Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner, a spitball master who wrote a book on the use of the pitch, died Thursday.
He was 84 years old.
Perry died at his home in Gaffney around 5 a.m. Thursday of natural causes, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details.
The Williamston, North Carolina, native made history as the first player to win Cy Young Awards in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 and San Diego in 1978 shortly after his 40th birthday.
Perry went 24-16 in his debut season with Cleveland after 10 years with the San Francisco Giants. He went 21-6 in his first season with the Padres in 1978 for his third and final 20-win season.
“Before I won my second Cy Young, I thought I was too old, I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted for my performance, so I won it.”
Perry, who pitched for eight major league teams from 1962 to 1983, was a five-time All-Star and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991.
He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3,554 strikeouts, and used a pitching style in which he either tampered with baseballs or led hitters to believe he was tampering with them.
His 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter,” and he wrote it by saying that when he started in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11-man pitching staff” for the Giants. He needed an edge and learned spitball from his San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.
Perry said he first pitched it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 scoreless innings, and entered the Giants’ starting rotation soon after.
He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to accumulate his saliva, and eventually stopped throwing the pitch in 1968 after the MLB ruled that pitchers could no longer put their fingers in their mouths before touching the baseball. .
According to his book, he looked for other substances, such as Vaseline, to cure the baseball. He used various moves and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to make hitters think he was applying a foreign substance.
Perry was ejected from a game just once for tampering with a baseball, when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts tried to hide the infamous pine tar bat. of George Brett in the clubhouse, but was stopped by a guard. Perry was also ejected for his role in that game.
After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and coached it for the first three years.