SAN FRANCISCO — Gaylord Perry’s AT&T Park statue dedication Saturday was remarkably free of talk about foreign substances until the Hall of Fame pitcher closed the ceremony by instructing the assembled gathering to look for a surprise gift underneath their seats.
In the perfect ending to a grand affair for Perry, everyone in the audience reached under their chairs to discover a jar of Vaseline taped to the bottom.
“I have no idea how that got there,” Perry said with a wry smirk.
It’s the slippery mystery that the workhorse right-hander continued to massage, even as he became the fifth Giants Hall of Fame player to receive a larger-than-life statue outside of the ballpark.
“I was always accused of doing certain things to the baseball, and when I got traded to Texas, I had to take a lie detector test,” Perry said. “I want to let y’all know I passed that with flying colors. They say you can’t lie to those things … I was in a tight spot.”
The 77-year-old Perry was joined on the stage by the four other Giants who have received statues at AT&T — Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal — which provided a seminal photographic moment for fans, family, friends and ex-teammates who remembered when the five legends all starred together in the mid-1960s at Candlestick Park..
Cepeda, like Perry, was traded from the Giants in the prime of his career, but was the first to go in 1966, and he remembered the time he faced his ex-teammate for the first time.
“Gaylord was a good friend, we were very close,” Cepeda said. “But my first time back, I faced Gaylord. He was my old teammate, but he knocked me down. He said, `Watch out.’ I said, `Well, Gaylord, you’re going to pay for that.’ So I hit one out in left field.”
Cepeda said in a subsequent game, Perry knocked him down five times and hit him three times, which might have been stretching the truth a bit. But as Perry himself told master of ceremonies Jon Miller, he doesn’t mind old stories growing some new twists and turns these days, much like his “forkball.”.
Miller recounted the legendary 16-inning game in which Marichal beat Milwaukee Braves great Warren Spahn in which Mays hit a home run in the bottom of the 16th. He then reflected on another game in which Perry pitched 16 shutout innings in Cincinnati, but then had to depart the game the Giants eventually won in the 21st inning. Miller went directly to Mays’ seat and asked why he didn’t hit a home run for Gaylord in the 16th.
“Marichal asked me to hit a home run and Gaylord didn’t ask me,” Mays said, laughing. “If he would have just asked, I think I would have did it.”
Perry’s new statue is located and Second and King Streets adjacent to the Cepeda statue dedicated in 2008. It was created by sculptor William Behrends, who also fashioned the statues of the previous four Giants so honored. The difference with Perry is that he is a North Carolina neighbor of Behrends, and visited a number of times while the statue was in progress of being prepared for bronze casting over the course of a year.
“We talked a lot about how he wanted it done,” Behrends said of the work that shows Perry at the completion of his pitching delivery, his two fingers extended on his right hand.
The nine-foot statue was transported cross-country on an uncovered trailer from Atlanta, where the final bronze casting was done.
“It’s seen the USA,” Behrends said.
Also in attendance at Perry’s ceremony were former teammates Bob Bolin, Mike McCornick, Don Carrithers, Tito Fuentes, Rich Robertson and Jim Barr, former Giants Will Clark, Jeffrey Leonard, Dave Dravecky (who played with Perry in San Diego) and Jeremy Affeldt. Other special guests included former Giants owner Bob Lurie, Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson and several members of the Giants’ front office and Perry’s family.