Hall of Famer Perry remembers Maris
FARGO — Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry sat in a golf cart on the No. 9 hole at Rose Creek Golf Club and made comments on incoming shots in a southern drawl that would have made Foghorn Leghorn jealous.
Perry putted and chatted with incoming golfers and signed autographs. As to why Perry was willing to spend his day putting with strangers at the 31st annual Roger Maris Celebrity Benefit Golf Tournament, he had a simple answer.
“Maris was a very quiet guy, family man, high-class guy,” Perry said. “It helps to keep part of baseball alive.”
Baseball was very much alive in Perry on Sunday, as the man who won 314 MLB games and struck out 3,534 batters had a story for every single win and every single batter.
He joked with former teammate Ken Sanders about a game in 1974 in which the then 35-year-old Perry pitched 15 innings only to be unwillingly taken out for Sanders, who gave up a game-winning home run on the first pitch he threw.
“The manager wanted to take me out and I was like, ‘What are you taking me out for? I got the last 17 guys in a row,’” Perry said. “I’m halfway up the stairs in Milwaukee and the crowd goes nuts, so I was very upset. I wanted to win that game. You pitch that long and that hard, you don’t want to leave.”
As if he had just given up a home run to him moments earlier, Perry talked about how Hall of Famer Billy Williams refused to bite on his pitches.
“Billy Williams hit more home runs off me than anyone else,” Perry said. “He was tough. He could just wait until the last second. He didn’t overswing.”
Then there was the overswinger Perry loved to get out more than anyone else.
“Reggie Jackson,” Perry said without hesitation when asked who he loved to beat. “He was trying to hit the ball a mile every time. We entertained the fans better than anybody. Then, we didn’t like each other too well, but respected each other greatly.”
Perry even had a baseball story involving the moon.
“In 1964, I was taking batting practice in the old Pittsburgh ballpark and our manager, Alvin Dark, said, ‘They’ll put a man on the moon before Perry hits a home run,’” Perry said. “In 1969, I was at Candlestick Park pitching against the Dodgers and we had a moment of silence because we had just landed on the moon. Bottom of the next inning I hit my first home run.”
On a day in which the bat Maris used to hit his 61st home run in 1961 was in attendance, a man who never gave up a home run in the 26 times he faced Maris was the headliner.
Of course, Perry had a story involving Maris and it was his favorite baseball memory.
It was Sept. 17, 1968 at Candlestick Park and Maris was the No. 3 hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals. Maris’ three groundouts were part of Perry’s first and only career no-hitter. There was a catch. “Didn’t have long to enjoy it because that was a Friday night game and Ray Washburn pitched a no-hitter against us in the Saturday day game,” Perry said.