Finalist for the 2023 CASEY Award
Gaylord Jackson Perry was born in 1938 as the younger son of a tobacco sharecropper in Martin County, North Carolina. He and his older brother Jim grew up against a background of backbreaking work six days a week in a community that boasted not a single paved road until the 1950s. Their only relaxation was playing baseball, first with their father and later at school.
While both brothers would go on to succeed as pitchers in major league baseball, for Gaylord, success would require a lot of perseverance and an almost equal amount of subterfuge. After a couple of lackluster seasons with the San Francisco Giants, he learned from bullpen-mate Bob Shaw how to throw the illegal spitball. More importantly, he learned to control the tricky pitch and to conceal it from suspicious umpires, opposing managers, and baffled batters. When he finally broke out the spitter in a victory by attrition in a marathon, 32-inning, nine-hour doubleheader against the Mets in May 1964, his destiny was set. The Hall of Famer would go on to a 314–265 win-loss record, with a 3.11 earned-run average and 3,534 career strikeouts, becoming the first pitcher in major league history to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues.
Sports historian David Vaught has mined archival and public records, game statistics, media accounts, and previously published works—including Perry’s 1974 autobiography—to compile the first critical biography of a player as famous for his wry humor and downhome banter as for his trademark illegal pitch. Written for baseball fans and American sports historians, Spitter: Baseball’s Notorious Gaylord Perry provides new insights and genuine enjoyment of the game for a wide range of readers.
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Published by Texas A&M University Press