Word came down today that Baseball Hall of Famer and spitball master Gaylord Perry — the first pitcher ever to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues — has died. Since he pitched for so many teams, many of the obituaries currently circulating on the internet are using the photo shown above, from an old-timer’s game in the late 1980s.
Perry even wore that jersey in a SportsCenter commercial:
But here’s something you might not know (I didn’t know it myself until I did a little photo research today): Perry had at least two different versions of this jersey. The one shown above had a traditional headspoon and sleeve piping, but he also had a more modern version with shoulder/side piping and no headspoon (accessorized, oddly, with yellow stirrups):eBay listing:
I have zero memory of the Equitable Old-Timers Series, so I googled it to learn more about it. Quoting from Wikipedia:
In February 1986, Commissioner of Baseball Peter Ueberroth announced a series of old-timers games called the Equitable Old-Timers Series, to be played at each of the then-26 MLB ballparks and sponsored by Equitable Life Insurance company.
The Equitable series started at Fenway Park in Boston on May 17, 1986, and concluded at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati on September 20. Equitable donated $10,000 per game to a fund for former major leaguers in need. A traveling group of Major League All-Stars served as the visiting team and played an alumni team at each home ballpark location. The series was held again in 1987, starting in St. Louis on May 17 and ending in Detroit on August 30. In 1988, the series started in Boston on May 14 and ended in Detroit on September 18. In 1989, the series again started in Boston, on May 6, and ended in Montreal on September 17. The 1990 series started in Houston on April 9 and again ended in Montreal, on August 26.
In February 1991, it was announced that the Equitable Old-Timers Series would have a new name and new sponsor: The Heroes of Baseball Series would be sponsored by the Upper Deck Company, with a 24-game series starting on April 14 in Minnesota and ending on September 1 in Montreal. Upper Deck donated $10,000 per game to the Baseball Assistance Team. In 1992, the series was played at each of the then-26 MLB ballparks plus Mile High Stadium, the first home of the expansion Colorado Rockies when they joined MLB the following season. The series was also played during the 1993 season, and at some ballparks during the 1994 season. The final game appears to have been played in June 1995 at Dodger Stadium.
I have to say, I don’t remember any of that. But it explains Perry’s cap and also explains why he had multiple versions of the jersey, because he probably played in the Equitable series for more than one year as part of the traveling “opponents” team.
It should be noted, however, that Perry was not the first old-timer to wear this type of jersey. That honor, I’m pretty sure, goes to Casey Stengel, as seen in these pics from 1975:
Getting back to Perry, two final thoughts on him: First, after his playing days were over, he was a peanut farmer, and his peanuts had a great package design featuring a little illustration of his unmistakable pitching motion:
Second, I read Perry’s 1974 book, Me and the Spitter, when I was 10 years old and really enjoyed it. Recommended reading from one of baseball’s real characters. R.I.P.
(My thanks to @quirkyresearch for the SportsCenter ad.)