North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.
Some pitchers make it to the Hall of Fame because of a blazing fastball. Others get there with command and finesse.
And then there’s Gaylord Perry.
His reputation for doctoring baseballs with foreign substances was so prevalent that former manager Gene Mauch once joked that “he should be in the Hall of Fame with a tube of K-Y Jelly attached to his plaque.”
Whether Perry actually circumvented the rules by throwing illegal pitches or just used the presumption as a diversion to distract opposing hitters is anybody’s guess. Although he publicly embraced the practice — to the point that his autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter” — he was only ejected for throwing a “spitball” once in his career. And that didn’t come until the 21st of his 22 major league seasons.
Lost in the conversation over how Perry went about his business on the mound is the fact that he was one of the best pitchers in baseball throughout the 1960s and ’70s. The right-hander from Williamston won 314 games for eight different teams while becoming only the third pitcher in major league history to strike out more than 3,500 batters. He pitched a no-hitter and was the first to win Cy Young Awards in both the American and National Leagues — the latter coming as a 39-year-old in 1978.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.
Along with his older brother Jim, Perry was part of the second-winningest brother combination in baseball history. But their combined success began long before they ever made it to “The Show.” They first began playing baseball during lunch breaks on the family farm and honed their skills at Williamston High, where they pitched their team to the Class A state championship in 1955 by throwing back-to-back shutouts in the championship series.
The Perry brothers also led the school to the state finals in basketball, and on the football field, Gaylord earned all-state honors as a two-way end as a sophomore and junior before giving up the sport.
Like Jim, he attended Campbell University until signing his first pro contract with the San Francisco Giants. While the baseball stadium at the Buies Creek school is named after Jim, Campbell’s Camel mascot is nicknamed Gaylord in honor of the Hall of Fame pitcher.