The San Diego Padres haven’t been around for as long as some of their biggest rivals, but that hasn’t stopped them from becoming a waystation for one of the greatest arms in baseball history. The ageless Gaylord Perry graced southern California with his presence for two seasons.
Perry, unfortunately, passed away early Thursday morning at the age of 84. Perry’s baseball life is one that gives new meaning to the term underrated. Very few five-time All-Stars with two Cy Youngs hanging above the fireplace can claim that status, but Perry can.
Perry’s name may always be associated with his infamous spitballs, but that shouldn’t distract from the fact that very few arms in baseball history were as durable or consistently excellent as his. You don’t get to pitch until age 45 in the big leagues without a rubber arm and the smarts to get hitters out.
Perry’s passing is a gut-wrenching moment for those who saw San Diego rise from a laughable shoestring franchise to a legitimate team that needed to be feared. Perry was one of the first big-name starters the team ever had, as he helped give their rotation legitimacy in the late 1970s.
Padres legend Gaylord Perry passed away at 84.
Perry finished his career with 314 wins, ranking 17th all-time and 13th in the modern era. Together with his brother Jim Perry, who won 215 games and a Cy Young in a career spent mostly with the Twins, the duo amassed 529 victories. Only Joe and Phil Niekro (539) had more wins between a set of brothers.
Perry’s career highlights include winning 134 games and posting a 2.96 ERA in 10 seasons with the San Francisco Giants. After winning a Cy Young with the Cleveland Indians, Perry put together one of the greatest stretches for an aging greybeard pitcher in baseball history with San Diego.
In his first year with the Padres, Perry won 21 games and posted a 2.96 ERA despite turning 40 in the middle of the 1978 season. His second Cy Young, making him the first player to win the award in both the American and National League, came later that year. An All-Star appearance right before his 41st birthday followed in 1979.
Padres pitchers of today would do well to follow the example Perry laid out for them. He never threw 100 miles per hour, but his cunning and guile helped him craft one of baseball’s most interesting careers and a place in San Diego lore that will last forever.