Mutka: Spitting out Keady for Perry worked well
By John Mutka Post-Tribune senior correspondent January 13, 2013 10:56PM
Baseballs that have just been autographed by baseball Hall of Fame member Gaylord Perry during the Annual Gary Old Timers banquet held at Avalon Manor in Hobart on Wednesday January 9, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 15, 2013 6:27AM
Nothing against Gene Keady, but the Gary Old Timers caught a break after the former Purdue basketball coach backed out of his scheduled speaking engagement.
When Keady, who now assists Steve Lavin at St. John’s, asked if the date could be changed (silly man) he was scratched. The Old Timers settled for pinch hitter Gaylord Perry, who knocked one out of the park Wednesday before 850 Old Timers.
Doug Miller, who has been in charge of ticket sales for the last six years, was elated even though the turnout didn’t match the record of 1,000 fans Dick Butkus pulled in a few years ago. Considering Perry’s lack of midwest ties, the numbers (87 tables sold) were commendable.
“Butkus was the biggest one I’ve been involved with,” said Miller, who became an active Old Timer after years of attending the event with his dad, Richard.
“My dad went to the very first one at the old Hotel Gary in 1946,” he said. “Unfortunately, he couldn’t make the last one, but used to go every year.”
A baseball lover, Miller remembers playing for Old Timer Tom Kaye in Junedale Little League, which hosted the Senior Little League World Series for several years under Joe Eckert’s watch.
He was impressed with Perry, who models baseball’s version of a Horatio Alger story. His “Go West, young man” journey started in North Carolina.
Perry’s parents were tenant farmers who put him to work early, raising tobacco, corn and peanuts in North Carolina. By age seven he was plowing the 25-acre spread with a mule. From those humble origins he evolved into a Hall of Fame pitcher, starting with the San Francisco Giants in 1962 and ending with Kansas City in 1983.
On his way to 314 victories, Doctor Perry allegedly juiced the baseball, but claims he psyched out opponents by distracting them with elaborate gestures.
Burleigh Grimes was the last legal spitballer — the pitch was outlawed in 1920 — but many baseball observers believed pitchers used it more after it became illegal. When putting hand-to-mouth before delivering a pitch was also banned, Perry countered by practicing for hours in front of a mirror other options involving hair tonic or Vaseline for hours, according to a book he co-authored with Bob Sudyk called “Me and the Spitter.”
Perry claimed he was examined 500 times by umps searching for illegal substances. In 1982, while pitching for Seattle against Boston “the ancient Mariner” was ejected for doctoring and slapped with a 10-game suspension. His first offense came in his next to last season.
Asked how the Hall of Famer — he was elected in 1991 — responds to those who accuse him of cheating, he said his best pitches, the hard slider and forkball, were mistaken for spitters.
Perry and his brother, Jim, who posted 215 victories from 1959-75, rank second on the all-time list for most major league victories (529) to the Niekro brothers, Phil and Joe, who combined for 539 victories. Their lengthy careers included major league togetherness on Cleveland’s staff from 1974-75.
Keep those bags packed: Less than a week after coaching Marian to a 30-27 victory for a NAIA national championship Ted Karras Jr. has moved on to Walsh College
His six years with the Knights represent the nomadic coach’s longest stint since he began as a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota in 1991.
Walsh’s Cavaliers represent his ninth coaching assignment 19 years The Ohio school, which is scheduled to move from NAIA status NCAA D-III, is coming off an 3-8 season, which was the last for their only coach, Jim Dennison. He presided for 18 years before retiring with a 119-87 record.
Karras introduced Marian to football, posting a 48-23 record. Along the way he was an all-state lineman at Hobart and started for Northwestern. He also coached at Andrean.
Is Manaea No. 1? Andrean baseball coach Dave Pishkur couldn’t be happier for Sean Manaea, who pitched for him just one year, then blossomed at Indiana State.
“He’s projected as the No. 2 college player in the draft,” Pishkur said. “One publication has him No. 1.”
Manaea was only 5-3 with the Sycamores last season, but was recently named to the Louisville Slugger preseason All-American first team after a breakout summer in the Cape Cod League. He broke the season record with 85 strikeouts and was practically unhittable (0.26 ERA in his last five decisions).
Pitching for the Hyannis Hawks, he was named the league’s most valuable pitcher.
“When he was with us he couldn’t control the strike zone or hold runners well,” Pishkur said. “At Indiana State he got bigger and stronger (6-5, 205). Now all he does is pepper the strike zone.
“He doesn’t walk any one (only six in 57 innings at Cape Cod). They say he tops out in the upper 90s.”
Pishkur is thrilled for the junior lefty, who grew up in Wanatah and spent his first three years at South Central.
“Such a down-to-earth kid. Used to come to my house all the time and play ping-pong with my son. Very genuine.”
Keep an eye on the Sycamores, who open their season on Feb. 15.
Circle your calendar: Next on the social agenda is the annual sportsmanship basketball banquet on Feb. 18. Ball State football coach Pete Lembo, a hot property, will be the guest speaker at the pre-sectional warmup for 29 area teams. Lembo has guided the Cardinals to successive victories over Indiana. Last season they were 9-4 and earned a trip to the Beef O’Brady Bowl.
A proven winner, Lembo racked up a 44-14 record at Lehigh before moving to Muncie in 2011.