“I’d always have grease in at least two places, in case the umpires would ask me to wipe one off. I never wanted to be caught out there with anything though, it wouldn’t be professional.” – Gaylord Perry
Gaylord Perry spent some time in the Indians TV booth over the weekend, talking baseball with announcers Rick Manning and Matt Underwood.
We’re old enough to remember – barely – when Perry pitched for the Indians in the early ’70s and we knew he was good – he’s in the Hall of Fame after all – but we’d forgotten just how good he was.
Thirty-six years after Perry last wore an Indians uniform, his name is still all over the team’s record list.
Perry pitched three full seasons in Cleveland (1972 to 1974) and part of the 1975 season. He went 70-57 from ’72 to ’74 for a team that was 40 games under .500 during that time, and won 39 percent of the Tribe’s games while he was in Cleveland.
He won the Cy Young Award in 1972, with a 24-16 record and an ERA of 1.92 (his 10.5 WAR was also tops in the league).
His 24 wins in 1972 are the eighth most in team history and are still the highest for an Indian pitcher since 1946. He was also the last 20-game winner for the Tribe until Cliff Lee in 2008.
He is eighth in career ERA while an Indian at 2.71.
Perry pitched an incredible 344 innings in 1974 (third most in team history) and 342.2 in 1972 (fifth most). Those innings are the most for a Tribe pitcher since 1946 and no one has come within 60 innings of that total since Wayne Garland in 1977.
Perry’s 238 strikeouts in 1973 are 13th in franchise history.
We still remember staying up late in the summer of 1974 to watch Perry go for his 16th consecutive win. The Tribe was in Oakland and it was a rare TV game that Ch. 43 (if we remember correctly) televised because of the streak. Perry and the Indians lost the game, 4-3, on a 10th-inning single by Claudell Washington.
As with most things involving the Indians in the 1970s, Perry’s tenure with the team ended on a sour note. He was traded to Texas midway through the 1975 season after feuding for more than a year with manager Frank Robinson.
But while Perry was gone, his legacy lived on with the Tribe. His Cy Young in 1972 was the last for a Cleveland pitcher until C.C. Sabathia in 2007 and then Cliff Lee in 2008. Coincidentally, the Indians traded all three within three years of winning the award.
But that’s a story for another day.
(Photo by The Plain Dealer)