Monday, August 4, 2008

Gaylord the Great!

Today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio presented Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry in a special event for Rock Hall members. The event highlighted the Hall’s current display of “Baseball and Rock and Roll.”
Gaylord won 314 games, had 3,534 strike outs, maintained a 3.11 lifetime ERA, and was the first pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in both the American and the National League. Cleveland Indian fans who were fortunate to be here when Gaylord pitched for the Indians from 1972 to 1975 will remember him as a fierce competitor and a strict disciplinarian of the game. He was a hero in Cleveland when Cleveland needed a hero most.
The event started right on time as Gaylord made his way to center stage. As he warmed up to the crowd, Gaylord spoke of many topics, particularly his respect for the game and how he felt humble being inducted into the Baseball Hall.
Gaylord was both serious and humorous. He spoke of conditioning and how today’s players may be over-doing it. Muscles need a rest according to Gaylord who worked his farm in the off season and began his conditioning each January 1st. Case in point may be the fact that pitchers in his era were expected to pitch complete games in almost every start. He spoke of his dislike of pitch counts as well.
He spoke so favorably about his experiences with Billy Martin, as a player and as a manager. He had many stories about managers, pitching coaches, and fellow players, but the one message that came through was his respect for the game of baseball. He spoke of the dedication required to play the game. “If your girlfriend doesn’t like baseball, get a new girlfriend,” said Gaylord.
It wasn’t too long before someone asked him about doctoring the ball. Gaylord handled the question with humor and honesty. He said that he learned how to “wet” his fingers and “wipe” them across the front of his jersey from Don Drysdale. Apparently they both appeared to “wipe” their fingers at times, keeping the wet fingers elevated off of the uniform as the “wipe” was made. Gaylord loved other players, teams, and managers to wonder what he did to the ball and how he did it. He spoke of lubing up a ball the day before he pitched and rolling it towards Sparky Anderson. Sparky picked up the ball and went crazy. He talked about his role in the George Brett pine tar incident. Brett went to the plate “loaded” and NY manager Billy Martin protested, after the famous "pine tar homer." By the time the bat made it full circle around all of the players, managers, and umpires involved, the bat was legal. Gaylord was fined $250 for his involvement in cleaning the bat but delights in telling the story.
Asked about his hitting prowess, Gaylord relate a famous story. In 1963, Gaylord was quoted as saying, "They'll put a man on the moon before I hit a home run." On June 20, 1969, minutes after Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, Gaylord hit his first home run!
There is no doubt that despite his respect and disciplined approach to the game, Gaylord truly enjoyed every moment he was fortunate enough to experience in baseball.
Cleveland fans were fortunate to have Gaylord as an Indian and we have a Cy Young Award to remember him by.
Gaylord, thanks for a great afternoon at the Rock Hall!

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