Giants mourn passing of Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry

December 1st, 2022

The Giants lost one of their legends on Thursday morning, when Hall of Fame pitcher died at his home in Gaffney, S.C., of natural causes. He was 84.

Perry, who gained notoriety for his use of the illegal spitball, debuted with the Giants in 1962 and spent the first decade of his 22-year career in San Francisco, going 134-109 with a 2.96 ERA over 367 appearances (283 starts). He enjoyed a breakout season in 1966, when he earned his first All-Star selection while going 21-8 with a 2.99 ERA, and he threw a no-hitter against Bob Gibson and the Cardinals on Sept. 17, 1968, at Candlestick Park.

Following the 1971 season, the Giants traded Perry and shortstop Frank Duffy to Cleveland in exchange for left-hander Sam McDowell. It proved to be one of the worst trades in franchise history.

Perry went on to become the first pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues, capturing the prize in 1972 with Cleveland (24-16, 1.92 ERA) and in 1978 with San Diego (21-6, 2.73 ERA). The native of Williamston, N.C., pitched for eight teams over his decorated career, winning 314 games, striking out 3,534 batters and earning five All-Star selections. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991 and had his No. 36 retired by the Giants in 2005.

“Gaylord Perry was larger than life both on and off the field,” Giants president and CEO Larry Baer said in a statement. “Gaylord was not only a Giants legend but a baseball legend with a storied 22-year career that touched three different decades. Here in San Francisco, he helped lead those early Giants teams in the '60s and early '70s that brought young Giants fans like myself out to Candlestick Park to fall in love with the game of baseball.”

Perry holds the San Francisco record for most innings pitched in a single season (328 2/3 in 1970) and ranks second to fellow Hall of Famer and former teammate Juan Marichal in wins, ERA, complete games (125) and shutouts (21). He is one of five Giants icons to be honored with statues outside Oracle Park, joining Marichal, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda.

"I was informed this morning of Gaylord Perry's passing and it's tough losing a legend,” Marichal said in a statement. “Gaylord was smart, funny, and kind to everyone in the clubhouse. When he talked, you listened. During our 10 seasons together in the San Francisco Giants rotation, we combined to record 369 complete games, more than any pair of teammates in the Major Leagues. I will always remember Gaylord for his love and devotion to the game of baseball, his family, and his farm.”

“He was a good man, a good ballplayer and my good friend. So long old Pal,” Mays said in a statement.

In addition to his remarkable durability on the mound -- he threw 303 complete games in 690 starts -- Perry was best known as a master of the spitball, which was outlawed in 1920. According to his 1974 autobiography, “Me and the Spitter: an Autobiographical Confession,” Perry learned the pitch from Giants teammate Bob Shaw in 1964, though he wasn’t ejected for doctoring the ball until 1982, his 21st season in the Majors. Perry further toyed with hitters by frequently touching his uniform and cap to make opponents think he was loading up before each pitch, even when he wasn’t.

"I am very saddened to hear about Gaylord's passing. He was a wonderful teammate with a great sense of humor," Cepeda said in a statement. "He had a great personality and was my baseball brother. In all my years in baseball, I never saw a right-handed hurler have such a presence on the field and in the clubhouse. He threw excellent pitches and provided the batter with another thing to think about as the pitch swept toward the plate.”

Perry is survived by his wife Deborah and his three children, Allison, Amy and Beth. He was predeceased by his son, Jack, and wife Blanche.