August 22, 2012

Gaylord's Wet Stuff

Gaylord Perry, Baseball's All-Time Greats

A few years ago I was covering a celebrity baseball game in Scottsdale to kick off spring training. I was in the dugout taking pictures, and at one point everybody had left to warm up and the only people left in the dugout were me and Gaylord Perry. Now, if I were to make a list of Hall of Fame baseball players I'd like to meet, Gaylord Perry would probably not be on that list. That said, it was somewhat surreal, sharing a space with a Hall of Famer. I was actually kind of nervous; too nervous to make small talk -- "So, Gaylord ... baseball, huh?" He did pose for a few pictures though, action shots of him sitting there and looking like Wilfred Brimley. He was nice.

So anyway, I hope you liked that story where absolutely nothing happened.

Gaylord Perry made many moves -- fidgeting here, touching his face, or anything he could before delivering his pitch --

"Gaylord: Cheatin' or tweekin'?" would have been the headline of a snarky blog post had Perry pitched in 2012 instead of 1965.

a pitch widely suspected of resembling a "spitball".

That is how Joe Morgan would have described a Gaylord Perry pitch. Widely suspected of resembling? Here is how I would have written this:

"Gaylord Perry made many moves, like throwing a spitball and writing a book called, Me and the Spitter, which was about the spitball that he totally threw all the time."

But even though he was practically undressed by umpires in search of his "wet stuff,"

Umpire: Alright, Gaylord, take yer pants off. Been hearing some rumblin' from the fellas 'bout yer wet stuff, and s'bout time I went in to check for m'self.

Gaylord Perry: Can you buy me a drink first?

Finding the wet stuff was akin to locating WMD in Iraq, and ultimately led to the embarrassing end of that particular Umpire Administration's regime. Voters and fans wanted to know, "Where's the wet stuff?"

none was ever found

Except for: On August 23, 1982, he was ejected from a game against the Boston Red Sox for doctoring the ball, and given a 10-day suspension, and, again, Perry titling his 1974 autobiography, Me and the Spitter. Other than those things, and the endless anecdotes from catchers and opposing players and Perry himself about how he totally threw a spitball, all this spitball stuff is hearsay.

"Without the wet stuff, I've had enough." -- Johnny Cochrane

Perry presents the all-too-familiar dilemma: do we ignore his accomplishments due to his cheating, or do we ignore his cheating -- sometimes even laud it -- and focus on the overall package? The answer, as with steroids, lies somewhere in between. No doubt Perry's success was aided by an illegal pitch that both physically and mentally messed with hitters. He also, however, in 1972 threw 342 (!) innings, 29 complete games, struck out 234, posted a sub-2 ERA and sub-1 WHIP, and won the Cy Young. That's impressive no matter what he was doing to his balls.

Regardless, thanks to this very card, I think we can all agree that Gaylord Perry's legacy primarily involves the term wet stuff, so poetic in its construction. After all, is it not true to say that, at one time or another, each and every one of us has hid from view our proverbial wet stuff?

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