Gaylord Perry did a lot better in my formula then I thought he would. I pushed him down a couple of spots. First, I think Steve Carlton is a better pitcher and I think Lefty Grove, as he dominated his era so much deserved to be in the top 10. Like Bill James I gave Grove some minor league credit, as the minors were stronger in those days. I would have pushed Gibson who came in 12th by him if he wasn’t so many points behind. Not that I don’t like Gaylord Perry. In fact, I always liked him as a player. He was my first celebrity autograph.
My Dad was in the Air Force and was stationed in the Philippines in 1969. Gaylord Perry, along with Tommy Agee and Ed Charles from the World Champion Mets did a USO tour. They were on the way to Vietnam for the troops. My Dad and Uncle went to a service football game. Different Wings or whatever they were called had football teams. This game was between the best and second-best teams in the six-team league. My Uncle’s Wing or whatever had the second-best football team, which had lost to the best earlier that season. They were 8-1 while the other team was 9-0. These were by far the best two teams as the other teams were way behind in the standings. What I found out that night was my Uncle’s team was definitely the second-best team in the league. It wasn’t much of a game. Still 8-2 is not a bad season.
At halftime they introduced Perry and the two Mets. They said kids come get their autograph. I was too scared. After some discussion, I said I didn’t have anything to sign. After a minute my Dad ripped his cigar box apart and gave it to me and a pen. Gaylord was the closest and had only one person in line. The staff was starting to pack. Gaylord then said he had lost his pen. I said I have one. I gave my pen and cigar box to Gaylord Perry. He was polite and signed his name. The staff said this was the last signature. Gaylord used my Dads pen to sign for the kid and almost gave him my Dad’s pen. I almost had a heart attack. It would not been good to come back without my Dad’s pen. Gaylord though made a save pulled back the pen and asked who’s pen it was. I said “It was mine” in panic, in relief and loudly to make sure he heard me. I’m much better now when getting autographs, though I don’t really get any.
Gaylord often was accused of throwing the spit ball. That is an illegal pitch which a pitcher puts something on the ball (usually spit) to make the ball spin strangely fooling the hitter. I’m sure he threw a few in his time, but I think he primarily did it to play mind games with the hitter. He would touch his forehead, the back of his neck, under his cap bill and the side of his leg. It drove some hitters crazy. I thought it was funny. Maybe for that alone he should be in my inner circle.