The San Francisco Giants dropped their series opener against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night, but the atmosphere in the park was lightened somewhat after the game and into the next by the presence of Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, whose statue was unveiled early Saturday afternoon at AT&T Park.
During his twenty-two year career, Perry was consistently counted as one of baseball’s fiercest and most perceptive competitors. His endurance and toughness were lauded almost as much as his (suspected) application of spit, K-Y Jelly, Vaseline, etc. on the ball throughout the course of his career.
But spitball aside, Perry earned his place among the game’s all time greats – amassing 314 wins, over 5,000 innings pitched and 303 complete games. Not to mention 3,534 strikeouts and an ERA just over 3.00. Perry’s legendary endurance was perhaps his greatest asset, and it was learned in a perfectly rural setting for the sport he so excelled at. He used to work four hundred acres of farmland by himself five months a year. He always threw like a young man, he said, because he always worked like one.
Perry’s statue, erected next to Orlando Cepeda’s on the Second Street entrance below the clock tower, depicts the righty in his signature follow through. Perry says he can tell from the way his fingers are positioned that likeness shows him throwing a slider.
“Well, [sculptor Will Behrends] only lives about an hour and a half from me (in North Carolina), so I saw it about three times as he was putting it together,” Perry said. “Everything [about the statue] is right – the glove’s right, the shoes are right. He had everything in the picture the Giants gave him to go by, so I’m happy with the way it looks, and I hope everybody else is.”
Though his career was filled with incredible success, Perry’s natural toughness sometimes got him into trouble, especially with team’s front offices. He was traded five times, played for seven teams and was once released outright. He was often hard on his teammates. Thomas Boswell once observed that Perry’s on field glares at teammates and his cutting remarks about poor fielding were the standard by which dugout sarcasm was measured.
Maybe it was this reputation that kept one of his many teams from claiming Perry as a franchise name for so long. But all good things take time, and the Giants have now officially engraved their commitment to the Hall of Famer in stone.