May 6, 1982, 40 years ago today: Seattle pitcher Gaylord Perry, known as the “Ancient Mariner,” picks up his 300th career victory in a 7-3 win over the New York Yankees. Perry would finish his career the following year with 314 victories (the Mariners were the eighth of nine teams Perry played for during his 22-seasons in the bigs—he ended with the Kansas City Royals). He also tossed 303 complete games, an unthinkable feat in today’s game, and this was one of them. Perry’s other career highlight was a no-hitter with the San Francisco Giants in 1968, when he outdueled St. Louis Cardinals legend Bob Gibson in a 1-0 victory.
Perry spent his first 10 seasons with the Giants, and it was during his years at Candlestick Park that he said he was taught the intracacies of the spitball. Perry was accused of throwing the illegal pitch during much of his career in the majors. But how often he really threw it is the question. Many surmise that Perry wanted opposing batters to think he was throwing spitballs (his autobiography “Me And The Spitter” in 1974 only added to the intrigue). But he wasn’t ever thrown out of a game for it until later in that 1982 season with Seattle.
Hitting was not Perry’s forte. Giants manager Alvin Dark once joked in the early 1960s that there would be a man on the moon before Perry ever hit a home run. Well, on July 20, 1969, just an hour after the Apollo 11 capsule carrying Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, Perry clubbed the first home run of his career. He’d hit five more homers before he was through. Perry’s career batting average was .131.
Perry, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, was only the 15th pitcher ever to notch 300 wins. There have been nine since, but nobody since Randy Johnson reached 300 back in 2009. The way managers utilize pitchers in the 21st century, there may never be another. The current leader among active players is 39-year-old Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros with 229 victories.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)