Jim Perry, 1970 Cy Young Award winner while playing for the Minnesota Twins and a former Cleveland Indian, was honored at the Cy Young Days Festival in Newcomerstown. He served as grand parade marshal and spoke at a breakfast on Sunday of the festival.
Perry started his MLB career with Cleveland in 1959. In 1963, he was traded to Minnesota where he played through 1972. He finished his career with stints in Detroit (1973), Cleveland again (1974-75) and Oakland (1975).
He is the older brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry. The Perry brothers trail only the Niekro brothers (Phil and Joe) for career victories by brothers. However, since Gaylord won Cy Young awards in both 1972 and 1978, they are the only set of brothers to earn the achievement.
Jim was a three-time All-Star (1961, 1970, 1971) and posted a record of 24-12 when he won the 1970 AL Cy Young. He had a 3.04 ERA, pitched 14 complete games, and batted a respectable .247. (The American League did not adopt the Designated Hitter rule until 1973.) He also won 20 games in 1969 and at least 17 games on five occasions.
In his 17-year career, Perry accumulated a 215-174 record in 630 games, including 447 starts. He relied on a great fast ball and breaking ball to keep batters off balance.
At the Sunday breakfast, which was held at the Laborers Local on Main St., Perry shared some of his stories about life in the big leagues for the gracious crowd in attendance.
Perry, born October 30, 1935, first talked about growing up in a small town of Williamston, North Carolina, population 5,000.
"My dad was a good pitcher and helped my brother and I learn the game," said Perry. "We won the state title my high school junior year and all the players on the team were mostly from just four families. What I remember most was I didn't have to work on the farm for 2 1/2 weeks after school was over for the summer because of the tournament."
Perry then moved on to college at Campbell State before being invited for a tryout by Cleveland in 1956.
"Back then it was rare to get invited. In fact only three players were invited that year. Now they bring in 45-50, so it was quite an honor at that time."
Perry was good enough to finally get a contract and begin his major league career, replacing Herb Score on the Indian's 1960 starting rotation. Perry recanted stories of pitching against the Yankees and greats such as Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, and Mickey Mantle.
"We would sell out every home game against them," Perry commented, "and that's when the stadium held 84,000. Maris was tough because he crowded the plate and was a quick batter, a great pull hitter. I usually had control of Mantle, but sometimes he got to me."
Perry noted, "I also had the honor of playing in the last game at Yankee Stadium. It was an emotional day for everyone."
The veteran pitched several innings of relief work in the 1965 World Series for the Twins. He just missed on a World Series ring as his team fell to the Dodgers and Sandy Koufax in seven games after taking an early 2-0 advantage.
His brother Gaylord, who was previously grand marshal for the Cy Young Festival, pitched against him and with during various parts of their careers.
"We were named co-players of the year in 1974 for the Indians when I won 17 games and he won 21," he said.
He particularly remembered the day that man landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.
"We had to play out the last two innings of a previous game with Seattle before playing the regularly scheduled game. I pitched those two innings, then started the next game and went all 11 innings for a shut out win. So the day we landed on the moon, I won two games in one day."
He added, "And at the same time, my brother Gaylord hit a home run. He wasn't the greatest hitter and we joked that man would land on the moon before Gaylord hit a home run. But he did it the day we landed!"
Perry closed talking about today's modern players, steroids, and that he thinks Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. He also noted he would have lasted longer with the DH rule in effect sooner, but was still proud he was never on the disabled list despite the fact that in those days, all they got in the form of medication for aches and pains was aspirin.
He also noted he's worked very hard in business and stated simply, "Believe in yourself and work hard. You can't go wrong with that combination."
The three-day festival is held each year to honor Denton "Cy" Young, a farm boy born in 1867 in Gilmore in southern Tuscarawas County. Young worked hard and debuted in 1890 as a pitcher for the Cleveland Spiders. After pitching for five major league teams, he retired to the Newcomerstown area after 21 years with 511 career wins, setting the record for most career wins by a pitcher.
A portion of the proceeds from the festival helps support the local Cy Young Youth League, which provides summer baseball and softball activities for approximately 300 to 400 boys and girls ages 5 to 15.