Thursday, November 15, 2012

Into the Sunset, Pt. 9: Gaylord Perry

These days, I'm always hearing about some celebrity coming up with a wacky name for their kid.

One day, it's "Moon Unit". The next, "Kal-El". Even "Pilot Inspektor".

I swear I'm not making this stuff up.

On the bright side, though, at least no one names their kid "Gaylord" anymore. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

Along with now-extinct (or neat-extinct) names like "Denton", "Tyrus", and "Harmon", "Gaylord" is proudly featured on a plaque in Cooperstown.

After all, Gaylord Perry was one of the finest pitchers of the '70s.

However, I have to agree with a recent post on the self-explanitory blog, "Really Bad Baseball Cards". For whatever reason, Perry just never looked right to me without gray hair.

And, as you'll soon see, card companies didn't exactly do him any favors.

Strangely enough, the Hall of Famer is one of the more "uncardogenic" subjects in the history of baseball cards. He's right up there with the likes of Schmidt and Dotel.

It wasn't easy to select a bonafide "peak year" for Perry.

Still, you can't go wrong with the awesome black borders of 1971 Topps. So this one it is.

From strictly a card standpoint, I've always enjoyed collecting guys who jumped around a bit in their final years. Perry is a prime example, having played for five different teams in his final five seasons in the bigs.

This post begins in Seattle, with one of the most ghastly cards I own.

I'm telling you now, it isn't pretty.

Consider yourself warned.

I told you.

Perry was 45 years old when this card was released. Somehow, the photographers over at Donruss managed to make him look about eighty.

At the time, I'm sure those old Mariners logos were seen as "futuristic". In that sense, it's ironic to see an aging, gray-haired guy sporting those "new wave" duds.

Not surprisingly, this one ranks last in this "sunset" countdown.

In terms of pure photo quality, this might by Perry's finest card.

Unlike most "stars" of his era, Topps didn't grant him very many action shots. On top of that, the few he's had just seem awkward.

There's something to be said for that high leg kick as well, especially considering that Perry was nearing his mid-40's at the time.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I've always liked those early sky-blue M's uniforms. The single jersey card I own of Perry's (supposedly) features a swatch from one of them.

Still, a terrific action shot only takes the second slot here.

Photos do certainly hold a great deal of importance in my collection.

Obviously, this isn't the most flattering shot of Mr. Perry. On that basis, his '83 Topps issue is a thousand times better.

Sometimes, though, it goes even further than the photo itself.

In terms of these "sunset" cards, getting a shot of the player in his final jersey carries the utmost importance to me.

With the exception of a brief appearance in the '84 Topps checklist, that's something that both Topps and Donruss didn't do. (Only solo cards count here.)

Fleer did.

And that's why they're at the top of this countdown.

After being released by the Mariners in mid-season, Perry would finish his career with a 14-game stint with the Royals in '83.

As a result, this '84 Fleer issue features his entire career stats on the back, something which is always a major plus in the world of "sunset" cards.

To date, only two cards of Perry sit in my Royals binder. This one, and his "highlight" issue from the very same set.

Even though he shares the spotlight on it, I have to mention the hilarious "pine tar" card as well.

Fleer really outdid themselves in '84.

In Gaylord Perry's case, they are the unquestioned "kings of the sunset".

And thus likely marked the last time we'd see the name "Gaylord" on the front of a baseball card. I'll admit that I'm a little happy about that.

I might want to reconsider, though.

It's only a matter of time before we start seeing names like "Apple" pop up in our hobby.

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