On the mound Gaylord Perry of the Texas Ranger looks old, grizzled and mean. His chest is lipping toward his belt, his hair is in retreat and his gray, twoday beard makes him look as friendly as a dentist with a toothache.
Folks don't talk about Perry much. He doesn't have a fan club; or want one. All he asks is respect and a place in the Hall of Fame.
Perry, 38-year-old righthander who the record book says is one of the best and most underrated pitchers of the last 50 years, beat the Baltimore Orioles today, 5-1, on a typically intimidating, fierce five-hitter.
Perry is two men. From the time he wakes up on pitching day until the last out, he is a big scowling bear whose three best pitches are the spiter, the bushback and the sidearm curce to terrified rookies.
This 6-foot-4, 220-pound gentleman has won 232 games, second among active pitches, and struck out 2,676, sixth best in the history of the game. He has worked at least 250 innings for the last 11 seasons and has the seventh-best ERA in history (2.91) for hurlers with more than 3,000 innings.
The other Perry - farmer, sly graybeard of the clubhouse - only appears when baseball business is done. Then he makes his game and his life sound simple and dignified.
"I had steak 'n eggs this morning back home in North Carolina on my farm. The crop looks good. If the price of peanuts ain't good the next four years, it never will be," Perry says.
"I got on this little plane and flew up here and pitched a ball game," said Perry, now almost as fast as ever. "All my pitches were working good, except the old spitter. It don't work as good in cold weather."
The game was a piece of cake for Perry after the Rangers reached Rudy May for two runs in the third on a Jaun Beniquez double and two more in the fourth on a Jim Sundberg sacrifice fly and a Beniquez rib single.
With that early lead Perry showed his didain for the Oriole brigade of singles hitters, challenging everyone, especially cleanup man Lee May whom he fanned three times.
"Baltimore only has three men who can hit it out of the park. It's not like their old teams. If you get ahead, you make 'em hit it", said Perry.
After 139 pitches Perry could grin and say, "I was just gettin' loose."
The O's only ruffled Perry once, scoring in the fourth on a Ken singleton walk and an RBI double by Doug Docinces. No more than one man reached base in any other innings, as Perry loped to and from the mound like a big, mincing bear with bunions.
For contrast to Perry, the O's offered rookie Dennis Martinez, pride of the farm system, who showed intermittent excellent stuff and pickup move that was the victim of three steals.
Five-plus innings of one-run ball by Martinez were highlighted by a spinning pickoff toss to second that no Oriole covered. Fortunately, the ball hit runner Toby Harran in the wallet pocket and dropped dead. Harrah vigorously rubbed his bruise with both hands.
Only Gaylord Perry did not smile.