Gaylord Perry: 36 Days Till Opening Day

Credit: AP Photo

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Credit: AP Photo

With just over five weeks remaining till the much-anticipated day that every baseball fan looks forward to, Opening Day!

In honor of 36 days, we highlight one of the greatest pitchers to ever don a San Diego Padres uniform, Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.

Gaylord Perry

For the first few decades in the history of the San Diego Padres, acquiring star players was practically unheard of. That changed, at least for one day. On January 25, 1978, the Padres sent middle reliever Dave Tomlin and $125,000 to the Texas Rangers for Perry.

Even at 39 years old, Perry made an instant impact on the Friars, helping lead the team to its first winning season in franchise history. After already winning a Cy Young Award as a member of the Cleveland Indians in 1972, Perry won it again in 78′ after pitching to a 21-6 record, with a 2.73 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP, and 140 strikeouts in 37 starts.

Perry became the first pitcher in MLB history to win a Cy Young Award in both the American and National leagues. At 40 years old, he also became the oldest pitcher to ever win the award.

On the very last day of the season, Perry became the third pitcher to record 3,000 strikeouts, joining Walter Johnson and Bob Gibson.

Perry was excellent again in 1979, making his fifth All-Star appearance. He won 12 games and had a 3.06 ERA in 32 starts for the Padres.

His tenure with the team was short-lived. He was traded back to the Rangers, along with Tucker Ashford and Joe Carroll, for first baseman Willie Montanez.

In 1991, Perry was inducted into Cooperstown after a 22-year MLB career, pitching for eight different teams. He won 314 games, recorded a 3.11 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP, and 3,534 strikeouts in 777 career appearances.

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Fun Facts

  • Perry and his older brother Jim became the first brothers to win at least 200 games. They remain the only brothers to both win a Cy Young Award.
  • Perry pitched a no-hitter on September 17, 1968, for the San Francisco Giants.
  • Notable for his use of spitballs, Perry was the subject of two decades of controversy during which umpires, opposing managers, and league officials frequently attempted to catch him in the act but were not successful. That was until 1982 (season 21) that Perry was ejected from a game under suspicion of doctoring baseballs. He was suspended for ten days.
    • Former Padres catcher Gene Tenace recalls a few occasions of his elusive pitch.

      “I couldn’t throw the ball back to him because it was so greasy that it slipped out of my hands. I just walked out to the mound and flipped the ball back to him.”

Other Notes

Perry is one of 16 players in franchise history to wear #36. Others include catcher Fred Kendall (1969-1976) and relievers Tim Worrell (1993-1997) and Pierce Johnson (2020-2022).

After wearing #48 in 2022, relief pitcher Steven Wilson is switching to #36 and will become the 17th player in team history to wear the number.

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