Perry was the first pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues. Over 22 seasons, he won 314 games by frustrating batters and umpires with his (allegedly) illegal pitches.
Perry signed a $90,000 contract with the Giants and won a regular spot on the ML staff in 1963 after four years in the farm system. Pitching in the shadow of the Giants’ great righthander, Juan Marichal, Perry didn’t become a recognized star in his own right until 1966. By August of that year he had an incredible 20-2 record, but he slipped in September to finish 21-8. Three good seasons followed. On September 17, 1968, he pitched a no-hitter to beat Bob Gibson and the Cardinals 1-0. In 1970 he led the NL in victories with a 23-13 mark. Perry won 134 games for the Giants before he was traded to Cleveland in 1972.
Perry led the AL in wins in 1972, going 24-16 with a 1.92 ERA for the fifth-place Indians. He was voted the AL Cy Young Award for 1972. He won 19 in 1973 and 21 in 1974 when he was joined by his brother Jim, a longtime AL star, who won 17. Traded to Texas in June 1975, he won 42 for the Rangers in two and a half seasons before he was traded back to the NL. With San Diego in 1978, he went 21-6, led in winning percentage, and again received the NL Cy Young.
Perry was constantly accused of throwing a spitball, a charge he felt gave him an edge against batters. He titled his autobiography Me and the Spitter. He fidgeted constantly on the mound, touching his face, glove, uniform, and the bill of his cap before delivering the ball. Umpires nearly undressed him looking for jelly, grease, or Vaseline, and he inspired new rules in 1973 about throwing the spitter. He remained effective after several teams gave up on him, and won his 300th career game for Seattle in 1982.