Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins forged a fast friendship when they pitched together on two mediocre Texas Rangers teams in 1975 and 1980.
And when you stop to think about it, it’s easy to understand why these two pitching legends hit it off. Both were workhorse right-handers whose goal in every start was to toss nine innings. Both were all-stars and Cy Young Award winners who posted multiple 20-win campaigns for poor-to-middling teams and they both retired in 1983.
So it was fitting that they were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame together in 1991, their third year of eligibility.
In Jenkins’ biography, Fergie: My Life From the Cubs to Cooperstown, the Canadian icon reveals a conversation he had with Perry in 1990 after they had failed to garner enough votes from the baseball writers to be elected to the Hall of Fame that year. The writers had instead voted in second baseman Joe Morgan and pitcher Jim Palmer.
“Gaylord called me up and said, ‘How in the hell can they take Jim Palmer? I won 314 games and he only won 268,'” recounted Jenkins.
Jenkins tried to calm his longtime pal down.
“Gaylord, don’t worry about it,” he said. “Next year, 1991, it will be us. You know 1991 could be our year.”
The wise Canuck was right and the two former aces shared the podium in Cooperstown n 1991.
In 22 big league seasons with the Giants, Indians, Rangers, Padres, Yankees, Braves, Mariners and Royals, the well-traveled Perry accumulated 314 wins, good for 17th on the all-time list. He also amassed 3,534 strikeouts (eighth all-time) in 5,350 innings (sixth all-time) and won two Cy Young Awards – one in the American League (in 1972 with Cleveland) and one in the National League (in 1978 with San Diego). The five-time all-star also led the league in wins three times, had 13 seasons in which he had at least 15 wins and tossed a no-hitter.
Born in Williamston, N.C., in 1938, Perry was also known for the mind games he played with batters. Yes, he threw the spitball – he admitted as much in his autobiography, which he brashly called Me and the Spitter – but more often than not, Perry just pretended to doctor the ball. Prior to releasing a pitch, he often went through an elaborate set of rituals that included fidgeting with his glove, uniform and the bill of his cap. Whatever Perry did on the mound, it kept him in the big leagues until he was 44 years old.
On top of his relationship with Jenkins, Perry also pitched in Canada and played alongside some Canadians. Here’s a rundown of some of his Canuck connections:
– In 12 starts against the Montreal Expos, Perry posted a 4-3 record and a 4.43 ERA, but he was hit hard in all of his starts in Montreal. In three starts at Jarry Park, he registered a gaudy 7.85 ERA in 18-1/3 innings. On July 13, 1979, his sole start at Olympic Stadium, Perry, then with the Padres, allowed five runs in five innings. The Pads eventually won 7-5, but Perry did not factor into the decision.
– Perry fared much better against the Toronto Blue Jays. In five games against the Blue Birds, he posted a 2.03 ERA. In three starts at Exhibition Stadium, he went 2-1 and recorded a 2.50 ERA.
– On July 28, 1977, in his first start at Exhibition Stadium, Perry pitched a rare, 11-hit shutout to lead the Texas Rangers to a 3-0 win over the Blue Jays. Perry struck out eight and walked two in front of 17,512 fans to outduel Toronto southpaw Jerry Garvin.
– By my count, Perry had three Canadian teammates (hometown, team, years played with Perry) during his big league career: Ken MacKenzie (Gore Bay, Ont., San Francisco Giants, 1964), Mike Kilkenny (Bradford, Ont., Cleveland Indians, 1972 and 1973) and Jenkins (Chatham, Ont., Texas Rangers, 1975, 1980).
– Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.) had the most at bats of any Canadian off of Perry. The long-time Astros outfielder went 9-for-28 – including a double and two home runs – for a .321 batting average against Perry. Vancouver native Dave McKay was 4-for-12 (.333 batting average) versus Perry, while Jenkins was 1-for-12 against his pal. Jenkins’ only hit against Perry was a double.
– Jenkins further discusses his relationship with Perry on page 2 of his aforementioned biography. “My second time in Texas I became very good friends with Gaylord Perry . . . He was just a fun guy to be with. He was a bit crusty, but he had seen it all during his career. We talked a lot of baseball and enjoyed each other’s company.” Today, Jenkins and Perry often appear together at events for the Fergie Jenkins Foundation.