Friday, January 20, 2012

#316 - Jim Perry

We move now from a guy whose career was brand new to one near the end of his. Jim, the older of the pitching Perry brothers, poses rather nobly at Yankee Stadium in an undated photo. This shot was definitely taken before '73 since Jim is airbrushed into his Tiger uniform, and I have a hunch a few years earlier. A Twin for a long time he enjoyed a mid-career revival when the leagues were split into divisions. In '73 he landed in Detroit where he had a pretty good season as the third starter. During the year he went up against his brother for the only regular season game in either of their careers. The game was a pretty big deal because it was the first time any two brothers started against each other in the AL (the Niekro's had pulled the trick in the NL in '69). The game didn't really live up to the hype as Gaylord took the loss and Jim wasn't around for the decision. The next season they'd be together but this time for the same team.

Jim Perry was born and raised in North Carolina where he and his brother alternated between pitching and third base. According to Jim during his senior year the two threw nine consecutive shutouts. Jim then attended Campbell College where he played baseball (and perhaps hoops) for three years. In '56 he was signed by Cleveland for $4,000 and went to D ball that summer. A big fastballer then, he went 7-8 with a 4.80 ERA but over a strikeout an inning. In '57 he moved to C ball and while the K totals came in the other stats improved: 15-12 with a 2.88 ERA. He then got promoted to A ball, picked up a slider and went 16-8 with a 2.79 ERA with excellent control. He'd also hit .259 in the minors and in '59 he made the Cleveland roster.

Perry had an excellent debut year, initially pitching out of the pen but by the end of the season joining the rotation.His 12-10 record and 2.65 ERA - which woud have been third in the AL if he had enough innings - got him second place in AL ROY voting to Bobby Allison and a spot on the Topps team. His sophomore year a 10-4 start got everyone excited and though he cooled off a bit his AL-leading 18 wins would be a career high for a while. He also led the AL with four shutouts and 35 starts. Jim's first season Cleveland was a pretty good team but bad trades in '61 and later rendered them pretty impotent for the next few seasons and in '61 that caught up to Jim as his record reversed itself and his ERA flew. In '62 he evened his record and lowered his ERA but the honeymoon in Cleveland was over and early in '63 he was traded to the Twins for Jack Kralick, another pitcher.

Perry finished '63 in the Minnesota rotation pulling his ERA back to earth. In '64 he was used as a reliever and '65 began that way as well before injuries kicked him into the rotation and he posted the best ERA of any starter. The next three seasons would see him shuttle betweene the pen and the rotation, each year with very good numbers. In '69 Jim's old teammate Billy Martin became manager and one of his first decisions was to put Jim into the rotation full time. Billy's managing cred was solidified when Jim won 20 and the Twins won the division. The next year, though Billy left, Jim topped himself, winning 24 to tie for the AL lead, and winning the Cy Young. The next year although he earned his second consecutive All-Star nod, the long ball found him again and his record evened out as his ERA flew partly on the AL-leading 39 homers he gave up. After a sub-.500 season in '71 he was traded to Detroit for pitcher Danny Fife.

In spring training of '74 Perry returned to Cleveland in a three-team deal that had Jerry Moses go to Detroit from NY and Walt Williams and Rick Sawyer to the Yankees from Cleveland. Back with his brother for the first time since high school, Jim put up a great season, combining with Gaylord for 38 wins. That year at age 38 Jim went 17-12 with a 2.96 ERA. It would be his last good season as a 1-6 start with a 6.69 ERA to kick off '74 got him sent to Oakland with Dick Bosman for Blue Moon Odom. Although he improved to 3-4 for the A's Jim was released that August. He finished with a 215-174 record with a 3.45 ERA, 109 complete games, 32 shutouts, and ten saves. He also hit nearly .200 up top. In the post-season he was 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in five games. He and Gaylord remain the only brothers who have each won the Cy.

After playing, Perry returned to North Carolina where for a long time he based himself as a scout for the A's. He also has taken part in a bunch of fund-raising golf tournaments there and done some pr work for the Twins. In 2011 he was named to the Twins' Hall of Fame.

Jim only gets space for one star bullet but it's one that's tough to top. I have no idea who his off-season employer was.

On this date in 1974 Stevie Wonder appeared publicly for the first time in five months at a music festival in Cannes. The appearance was a big deal because immediately after his last one he was in a nasty car accident in which he was almost killed.

Getting an old guy and a new guy together can be tough:

1. Perry and Buddy Bell '74 to '75 Indians;
2. Bell and Charlie Hough '80 to '85 Rangers;
3. Hough and Ron Cey '71 to '79 Dodgers.

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