Trade to Indians launched stellar stretch for Perry

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

At age 33, Gaylord Perry’s best years might have seemed behind him.

The Cleveland Indians believed differently, however – and made a trade to prove it on Nov. 29, 1971.

Eleven months later, Perry was the American League Cy Young Award winner. And Perry was well on the way to Cooperstown.

Perry, the longtime workhorse for the San Francisco Giants, was dealt to the Indians at the 1971 Winter Meetings in Phoenix. Perry was coming off a season where he went 16-12 with a 2.76 earned-run average, helping the Giants win the National League West title.

But in a blockbuster trade of aces, the Giants sent Perry and infielder Frank Duffy to the Indians in return for left-handed fireballer Sam McDowell.

“We badly needed a left-handed starting pitcher, who can strike somebody out, and we got him,” Giants manager Charlie Fox told United Press International.

The Indians, meanwhile, seemed focused on Duffy in the hours immediately following the trade. The Giants originally proposed a straight Perry-for-McDowell deal, but the Indians insisted on Duffy as well.

“Duffy was the key man for us,” Indians general manager Gabe Paul told UPI. “(Indians manager) Ken Aspromonte says he’ll be our shortstop.”

In fact, Duffy handled the Indians’ shortstop duties for the next six seasons and was a plus defender, twice leading the AL in fielding percentage.

McDowell, however, pitched only a season-and-half for the Giants and was out of baseball by 1976.

As for Perry, the rugged right-hander posted a 24-16 record in 1972 and also notched one save, earning a decision (win, loss or save) in each of the 41 games he pitched.

Perry posted a 1.92 ERA over 342.2 innings, striking out 234 batters and logging a league-high 29 complete games en route to the Cy Young Award and a sixth-place finish in the AL Most Valuable Player Award voting.

In three full seasons with the Indians, Perry was 64-48 over 1,009 innings. His WAR (Wins Above Replacement) over those campaigns was 27.1.

Traded by the Indians to the Texas Rangers during the 1975 season, Perry continued to defy time before retiring following the 1983 season. He won the National League Cy Young Award in 1978 with the Padres, becoming the first pitcher to earn the award in both leagues.

Perry retired with a record of 314-265 with a 3.11 ERA and 3,534 strikeouts. His 5,350 innings pitched – 57 percent of which came after his trade to the Indians – rank No. 6 on the all-time list.

Perry was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series