Giants immortalize Perry with AT&T Park statue

Giants immortalize Perry with AT&T Park statue

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gaylord Perry became the latest member of San Francisco Giants royalty Saturday, after the organization unveiled a statue of the Hall of Fame pitcher at Second and King streets outside AT&T Park.

Perry joined a distinguished group of celebrated Giants, including Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda, to receive a statue. All those players were in attendance, as well as several of Perry's friends, family members and former teammates.

The sculpture, created by William Behrends, who has sculpted all five of the statues outside the park, portrays Perry just at the point of his follow-through.

"It is a great honor," Perry said Friday on the eve of the unveiling. "I signed with the Giants right out of high school so my love has always been with the Giants. I greatly appreciate what they've done."

Gaylord Perry watches as his statue is unveiled at AT&T Park.Andy Kuno/Giants

Perry signed with the Giants in 1958 and played professionally with the club from 1962 until he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 1971 -- a trade that certainly stung for both Perry and his family at the time. Giants broadcaster Jon Miller talked Saturday about how Perry's children would wear Giants gear to Indians games during his time in Cleveland.

Perry on his statue

Perry finished his career in 1983, after pitching for eight teams while amassing 314 wins, 3,534 strikeouts and a career 3.14 ERA. He also finished with 303 complete games, including 53 shutouts, and two Cy Young Awards.

But San Francisco was where Perry established himself as both a fierce competitor and unstoppable pitcher. And the organization responded by immortalizing him with a statue that flanks Cepeda's near the left-field entrance of the ballpark.

"There's no doubt in any of our minds that Gaylord should have a statue and this day is one of the great days of San Francisco Giants lore," said Giants president and CEO Larry Baer.

More than 30 years since he last wore a Major League uniform, Perry still remains the central figure of a variety of infamous stories, and his former teammates and friends vividly remembered them Saturday.

The pitcher was never known for his prowess at the plate, prompting his former manager Alvin Dark in 1964 to state that a man would step foot on the moon before Perry hit a home run. And as Perry's former teammate Bobby Bolin recalled during the ceremony, "1969 rolls around and the groundskeeper got us a black-and-white TV to watch the moon landing [during a game]. We were all underneath the stands watching a man land on the moon.

"Three or four minutes later, there was a big commotion outside. We open the door and there was Gaylord running around the bases."

Perry discussed perhaps his most notorious reputation when he stepped to the podium: as a pitcher whose success relied on doctoring baseballs. After all, he titled an autobiography released in 1974, "Me and the Spitter."

"I was always accused of doing things to the baseball," Perry joked to the crowd.

Packages of Vaseline were under the seats at the statue ceremony.Andy Kuno/Giants

Perry noted Friday that umpires checked him about 30 games per season to see if he was using an illegal substance, before adding that he never got caught.

"It was fun to have the hitters thinking that kind of stuff. It was fun to get inside the hitter's head," said Perry.

He then highlighted the celebration by announcing to those seated in the crowd that a special surprise was under their seats: packages of Vaseline.

But Perry was most well-regarded for his work ethic Saturday and now is just the fifth member of the organization to have a bronze statue outside AT&T Park.

"His statue will serve as a reminder to our fans of his passion and love for this great game," Baer said in a statement.

Justin Wise is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.