In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: Criticizing teammates.
One guy who made no effort to hide displeasure with teammates—and got away with it because he was so good—was pitcher Gaylord Perry, who, for eight teams over 22 seasons, got demonstrably upset when his fielders made mistakes behind him.
“If someone made an error, Gaylord would stare him down,” said pitcher Dick Bosman, who played with Perry in Cleveland. “It was just his persona. I’m not sure that [his teammates] cared for it very much, frankly.”
“They did not like it,” said Larry Andersen, who played with Perry in Seattle. “I know there were guys who were not happy. It was tough to play behind him.”
When Perry’s Indians were playing in Milwaukee once, a batter hit a drive to deep right field. “Gaylord wanted you to play shallow because he had a lot of balls being dumped in front of you,” said Oscar Gamble, the Indians’ right fielder that day. “I ran about a mile—it seemed like I ran forever. I almost got to the ball, but if I’d caught it I’d have gone straight into this brick wall. I ended up pulling up because I couldn’t catch it.”
On the mound, Perry threw up his hands in frustration, an almost unheard of response for any other pitcher. For Gamble, the moment helped crystallize who Gaylord Perry was. “He just loved to win so much,” he said. “He was one of those guys who, if you slacked on a ball, he would let you know it. He was hard-nosed. He wanted every ball caught when he was pitching, and I had so much respect for that. If you don’t do right, if you miss a ball you should have caught, you expect the fans to boo you. And this fan—Gaylord—was a player. That’s the way I looked at it.”