SPRUCE PINE – Gaylord Perry is still surrounded by slippery matter.
Far from the days of accusations of Vaseline and spitballs and whatever else he may have used to make pitches dance as a controversial figure in baseball, now the country farmer in Mitchell County has to dodge the horse dung that is spread around his home and pasture in Spruce Pine.
The Hall of Fame pitcher who came to the WNC mountains to retire about 15 years ago was apologetic for running a few minutes late for a scheduled interview last week.
“I had to unload some feed for my horses,” said Perry, 76, who won 314 games and struck out 3,534 batters in a 22-year baseball career (1962-83) for eight teams.
A strapping 6-4 right-hander from Williamston who was the first pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in the American and National Leagues, Perry was a five-time All-Star who became famous — and infamous — for repeated accusations that he doctored the baseball.
Perry has for decades — both as a player and since he retired — had fun with the alleged illegal pitches.
He has both denied and admitted he used foreign substances to make the ball dip and dart dramatically — even writing a book in 1974 titled “Me and the Spitter,” in which he detailed how he did it.
Old footage of Perry on the mound includes exaggerated mannerisms designed to make batters, http://www.giantshotstore.com/will-clark-jersey-c-360.htm managers and fans think he was loading up — the dramatic wiping of his eyebrows, arm, cap and other areas that may have a substance on them, even a “puffball” he threw that exploded white dust in his catcher’s mitt after liberal use of the rosin bag.
Even after 32 years out of the game, Perry still likes to be coy about the possible illegal usage of outside influences.
“I always wanted to make them think I was doing something, all the time,” he said. “Anything you could put in their mind.
“If you are throwing 100 miles an hour, they are going to go back in the dugout and say he’s throwing really hard. And if they think you are doing something else, they will talk about that.”
Perry, http://www.giantshotjersey.com/will-clark-jersey-c-410.html who was often searched by umpires for illegal substances but only once was ejected (and suspended for 10 games) after being caught, said he loved toying with the heads of hitters.
“The more I could entice them to look for something or talk about it, I did it,” he said.
“I had a great forkball ( a pitch that also can dip dramatically) that acted a lot like an illegal pitch.
“You always wanted to throw that to the lead-off hitter so he would go back the dugout and tell the other hitters what I’m throwing, even if it was a regular pitch.
“Pete Rose was the lead-off hitter for the Cincinnati Reds, and if I could strike him out and get him talking, that was great for me.
“And it didn’t take much to get ol’ Pete excited.”
How often did you throw a spitter?
“I don’t know as I (ever) threw it,” he said with a slight grin. http://www.giantstopjersey.com/barry-bonds-jersey-c-500.shtm “And that’s all you’re going to get on that.”
Perry is in Cincinnati for this week’s All-Star Game, a trip he makes annually to sign autographs and hang out with old buddies.
He loves those trips and staying involved in the game he played for more than 30 years.
“First thing when I get up in the morning, I check the scores,” he said. “If the Giants won and Cleveland won (two of his former teams), that’s a good thing. I enjoy keeping up with that.”
Whatever methods he used, Perry was a successful major-league pitcher for more than 20 years.
He finished with a career record of 314-265 and 3.14 ERA.
During a 10-year stretch (1966-75) in which he was one of baseball’s best pitchers with the Giants and Indians, http://www.giantsjerseysshop.com/hunter-pence-jersey-c-511.shtml Perry averaged 19 wins and 308 innings pitched per season.
And he is comfortable with his legacy that is slightly tarnished by the spitball.
“Doesn’t bother me at all. I laugh that off,” he said.
“You don’t complete over 300 games (303) and win over 300 games by throwing just one pitch.”
Ask him who was the best he ever played with or against, and Perry’s answer reflects a golden era of the game when he competed.
“(Roberto) Clemente, (Henry) Aaron, (Willie) Mays, (Johnny) Bench, (Mike) Schmidt,” he said.
“It was a time when there were so many great players and teams, http://www.giantsjerseymall.com/hunter-pence-jersey-c-528/ and we respected each other and the game.
“We’re all getting old now, but it was great while it lasted. We had a lot of fun.”
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