Hall of Fame right-hander Gaylord Perry turns back the clock to 1982.
(As told to Jim Street)
Gaylord Perry, who won 314 games and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, started just 48 games for the Mariners during his 22-year Major League career. But one of them stands out – the one he made against the Yankees at the Kingdome on May 6, 1982. This is his story of that game.
When the 1981 season ended, I needed three wins to get to 300. I was with Atlanta and Bobby Cox was the manager. But he got fired after the season, they hired a new manager, and they wanted their own people.
Being that close (to 300 wins), I knew I would get a job somewhere. But I didn’t get any offers. Spring Training started and I still didn’t have an offer so I called Dan O’Brien, the general manager of the Mariners. He was my GM in Texas (in 1975-76-77) so we kind of knew each other.
He said, ‘Come here and if you make the club out of Spring Training, fine. If not, you know you tried.’ Heck, I was only 43 years old at the time and although I played for four teams in the previous three seasons, I figured I had at least two or three years left in me.
Anyway, I reported to camp in Tempe (Ariz.), made the team and stayed there all year, finishing second in wins (10) to Floyd Bannister (12). I was the only pitcher on the staff older than 30 and became known as the ‘Ancient Mariner’. You may not believe this, but I got my contract renewed every 30 days during the season. I might have had the only month-to-month contract in the game, but I knew that if I reached 300 wins, the first one to do that in 19 years, I had a good chance of going into the Hall of Fame.
My first win was against the Angels (April 20) in Seattle. I didn’t win my first attempt at win No. 299 and went after it again against the Yankees in New York (on April 30). I pitched 8 2/3 innings, left the game with a three-run lead and Bill Caudill came in and got the last guy.
My next start was six days later, against the Yankees in Seattle. Doyle Alexander, the guy who started the game in New York, also started the game in Seattle. I had played with Doyle before and knew he was a great competitor, so I had to have my good stuff to win.
Fortunately, Bud Bolling, our third-string catcher, had been catching me in the bullpen all season and he knew how I wanted to pitch and where I wanted to throw the ball. When he warmed me up in the ‘pen before my starts, we would just like it was the game – a slider on the outside corner, or a fastball inside. We also worked on my forkball and change-up. We had a purpose for every warm-up pitch.
Because of injuries to Jim Essian, whom we got from the White Sox, and Rick Sweet, Bud caught me in New York and also was behind the plate for my first shot at No. 300. I felt confident with him back there.
It had been six days since I started and the guys got more excited every day. They wanted to be a big part of No. 300 because there hadn’t been a 300-game winner since some of them were born. It was like a World Series atmosphere that day – before and after the game.
There was a pre-game press conference and President Reagan called and wished me luck and that was a special treat for me. He said he couldn’t stay up to watch the game because he was on the East Coast and I was on the West Coast. When he was governor of California I was on his sports committee — Don Newcombe and myself – so we kind of knew each other and I was a big supporter of his.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the Seattle club flew my wife and the oldest of our four kids from North Carolina for the game. I didn’t know it until after the game, when I looked into the stands and saw them there.
The guys scored some runs early for me (a five-run third) and they held up. I wanted to go nine innings and Rene Lacheman, our manager, wanted me to go nine. Bill Caudill was our closer and he was ready if need be in the ninth inning, but luckily we had got some runs early and we didn’t need him.
The crowd was really into it going into the ninth inning. We were leading 7-1 going into the eighth, but Ken Griffey Sr. hit a two-run home run after hitting a ball that stopped in front home plate. The third-base umpire said it was a foul ball, although it really wasn’t, and Griffey hit the next pitch for a home run.
We were still ahead by four runs going into the ninth and I knew that if I went 1-2-3, the last hitter would be Willie Randolph. I remembered him from when he played for Pittsburgh – a good hitter. I didn’t want him to get on base and have their big guys coming up. I got him out on a grounder (to second baseman Jose Cruz) to end the game.
We all had champagne afterwards. It was a lot of fun and Bud called a great game. He also got two hits and drove in the run that gave us the lead. The next day, a bubble-gum company had a photographer there and I told him he needed to get a picture of this guy – our third-string catcher. Bud was a big part of this. We got a picture of the two of us and it came out real good.
The feeling back then was that if you won 300 games, or got 3,000 hits, you were pretty much assured of getting into the Hall of Fame. So getting 300 wins was very important to m
(Jim Street covered the Mariners for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1986-98 and MLB.com from 2001-10.)