Game 158

September 26, 1973 – Gaylord Perry Complete Game Shutout to Win His Final Four Starts

Gaylord Perry spitballed his way to the 1972 Cy Young Award –the first for an Indians pitcher–by posting a 24-16 record for the worst team in the American League. 

In 1973, he continued to baffle hitters both with legal sliders and forkballs along with the occasional illicit greaseball. Gaylord came into this game with an 18-19 record. He was the hard-luck loser much more often in the 1973 season. The Tribe had long been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs–their 69-89 record had them 26 ½ games off the pace in the AL East–but Gaylord Perry never stopped trying to fool the opposition. 

He retired the Red Sox side in the top of the first. Bill Lee likewise threw a 1-2-3 inning for the Sox in the bottom of the frame. 

Perry gave up a hit to Carl Yastrzemski to lead off the top of the second, but Yaz was quickly erased by a 6-4-3 double play ball off the bat of Orlando Cepeda. 

Tribe DH John Ellis smashed a homer to lead off the bottom of the second, thrilling the 1,453 fans on hand at Municipal Stadium. 

Perry was challenged with Red Sox in scoring position in the top of the fifth after Frank Duffy got aboard on a bunt and was advanced to second by a Walt Williams single. In the sixth, the Sox had runners at second and third when Orlando Cepeda came to the plate. Perry struck Cepeda out looking to end the inning That was the last time a Red Sox hitter would reach base this evening. 

Sox pitcher Bill Lee did his part as well. He gave up only the one run on seven hits and no walks. 

In the top of the ninth, Perry faced the heart of the Sox order. He got Reggie Smith to fly out.  Yastrzemski grounded out to second. Orlando Cepeda struck out to end the game. It was Perry’s fourth win in a row, and brought his record to 19-19 for the season. For the second year in a row, Perry had a league-leading 29 complete games. 

Baseball Reference Box Score


Game 19

May 10, 1972 – Gaylord Perry Complete Game Win

The most unusual thing about this game is that it was not unusual at all for the time. The Indians were bad, and Gaylord Perry was brilliant. The Royals were in for a Wednesday night game on the Lakefront. Just short of 4,600 fans were in attendance.

In 1972, Perry won 24 games on an Indians squad that managed just 72 wins on the season. 20 of those 24 wins were complete games.

Perry was out to a hot start, striking out Freddie Patek and Cookie Rojas to begin the game.

In the bottom of the 3rd, the Tribe rallied with two outs. Del Unser drew a walk to get things started. Jack Brohamer singled to center, and Alex Johnson brought them home with a 3-run homer.

With Jim Rooker pitching in the bottom of the 6th, the Indians scored two more runs on RBI singles by Frank Duffy and Gaylord Perry helping out his own cause.

Richie Scheinblum put KC on the board with an RBI single in the top of the 7th. Freddie Patek drove in another Royal run in the top of the 8th with an double to right field.

All in all, Perry pitched a complete game. He posted seven strikeouts, two earned runs on five hits and two walks.

A solid performance, but standard data for Gaylord Perry who accounted for fully 39% of the Indians wins during his tenure with the team.

Illustration – New York Times

His success stemmed mainly from his talent as a pitcher, but also from the performance of being Gaylord Perry. Although the spitball had been outlawed in 1920, Perry admitted to doctoring balls with saliva, KY jelly, sweat, and virtually any viscous substance at hand. He even occasionally threw a “puffball” where he would rosin his hands so thoroughly the ball would leave his hand in a distracting plume of dust.

Perry had an elaborate setup that included touching his cap, belt, glove, and other parts of his uniform. Whether the ball was doctored or not, hitters were so focused on catching him in the act that they whiffed on entirely legal pitches.

“I don’t even have to throw it anymore, because the batters are set up to believe it’s there, waiting for ’em.”

Whatever the truth of the matter, the persona that Perry created around himself makes for a legend in Tribe history. He went on to become the first pitcher to earn the Cy Young in both leagues–with the Tribe in 1972 and the Padres in 1978. He also cut one of the great early-90s SportsCenter commercials.

Baseball Reference