Monday, September 3, 2012

Yes, of course today is Labor Day... but it's also

Home Run Pitcher Day.

Why today is deemed Home Run Pitcher Day is, of course, beyond the grasp of our crack research staff.

So we've tried puzzling this one out ourselves.

A pitcher who gives up a lot of home runs will shortly become an ex-pitcher. That doesn't sound like a very nice thing to celebrate, even if you're rooting for the team that's teeing off against the overmatched hurler.

Gaylord Perry in 1977. Photo by twm1340,
obtained from Wikipedia
We did, however, find an interesting story about Gaylord Perry, the Wizard of Ooze, the Hall of Fame pitcher who won 314 games in his 22 year career, also winning Cy Young awards while toiling for the Cleveland Indians (in 1972) and the San Diego Padres (in 1978). Everybody knew, or thought they knew, that Perry was doctoring the baseball. There are stories of him marinating in Vaseline so that his sweat could be greasy. His autobiography was entitled Me and the Spitter.

But this is a story about Perry's hitting, not about his pitching.

It seems he wasn't the worst-hitting pitcher (before 1973 all major league pitchers had to take their turn at the plate, not just those in the National League) but he never hit for power. In fact, supposedly, in 1964 San Francisco manager Alvin Dark said of Perry, "They'll put a man on the Moon before he hits a home run."

Fast forward now to July 20, 1969. Buzz Aldrin and the late Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon at 1:40pm PDT ("Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed"). Minutes later, Gaylord Perry hit the first home run of his career (he would hit five more -- six in total before he retired).

Skeptical? We'll let no less an authority than explain in detail:
Gaylord Perry, while playing for the San Francisco Giants, did indeed swat the first home run of his career on 20 July 1969, in the third inning of a day game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. * * * Although the exact time of Perry's first homer was not recorded, it came in the bottom of the third inning of a two-hour, twenty-minute game that began at 1:00 PM PDT, so it probably occurred between 1:45 PM and 2:00 PM, which would place it within minutes of Apollo 11's historic touchdown on the lunar surface at 1:40 PM that afternoon. (Neil Armstrong did not become the first man to set foot on the moon until several hours later, stepping off the lunar module at 7:56 PM that evening.)
Mind you, Scopes does not vouch for the veracity of this tale -- but neither could Snopes authoritatively refute it either.

Nor does The Blog of Days claim that Gaylord Perry's first moon shot on the first Moon Day is the reason behind Home Run Pitcher Day. But it's a heck of a lot nicer explanation than celebrating some poor schmoe getting shelled, isn't it?

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