Gaylord Perry was one of the last pitchers to intimidate batters with doctored baseballs and a spitball, using those skills to win over 300 games during his long career. Perry also had one of the most original personalities in the history of the game, and he was one of baseball's most feared strikeout kings. This list brings together some of the best Gaylord Perry baseball cards of all-time, including his autographs and early Topps appearances from the 1960s.
Although he signed with the San Francisco Giants in 1958, Perry wouldn't debut with the team until the 1962 season and his initial appearances as a reliever were not all that impressive. It wasn't until 1966 that he came into his own and went 21-8 with a 2.99 ERA, earning his first All-Star Game appearance. Following his first ten seasons with the Giants, Perry would become a journeyman and pitched for eight different teams over his 22-season career.
Despite the regular moves, he would find success nearly everywhere he went, notching two Cy Young Awards. The first came in 1972 while pitching with the Cleveland Indians, and the second was earned in 1978 with the San Diego Padres. The 1978 performance was one of his best, leading the National League in wins and winning percentage. He also became the first pitcher to claim Cy Young Awards in both the American and National Leagues.
Perry would retire after the 1983 season having won an impressive 314 games with a 3.11 ERA over his career. Equally impressive was his strikeout total given that he never once led either league in strikeouts, yet he had a surprising eight seasons with 200 or more K's. His 3,534 strikeouts placed him third all-time at his retirement, behind only Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton.
Towards the end of Perry's time as a player, he had many cards issued honoring his long career as well as a few comical trading cards produced by Topps, Donruss, and Fleer. 1984 Donruss includes a Living Legends card featuring Perry and Milwaukee Brewers reliever Rollie Fingers, and the 1984 Topps set features cards honoring Perry's retirement as well as his surpassing Walter Johnson on the all-time strikeout list. In 1984 Fleer you can find a George Brett and Perry combination card with Brett cleaning Perry's bat in a suggestive manner in honor of Brett's pine tar bat incident.
Collectors interested in rare variations can look to Perry's appearance in 1969 Topps which offers differences in the color used in Perry's last name with the white lettering being much rarer than the standard yellow lettering. More recently, Gaylord Perry cards in 2016 Topps Archives featured him with the 1991 Topps design. He is also a regular signer for Panini and fans can find autographs in 2015 Panini Cooperstown and 2014 Panini National Treasures.
Although Perry's first few baseball card appearances command high prices, he pitched for so many years that collectors on a budget can pick up most of his offerings from the 1970s and 1980s at great prices. While constructing this list, card value was used as the main component along with card design and popularity with collectors.
Top 10 Gaylord Perry Baseball Cards
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Perry has just a few non-Topps cards from the 1960s as the Topps monopoly didn't allow for many to be made. That changed a bit in 1970 when Kellogg's began introducing trading cards into their breakfast cereal packaging. Collectors could pull one card from each box of cereal or could also send away for a complete set and Perry's card is his most popular non-Topps card from the era.
Along with his portrait card from 1968 Topps, completist collectors can also find a nearly identical card in the 1968 O-Pee-Chee set produced exclusively for the Canadian market. Each season, starting in 1965, a smaller set (typically 196 cards) selected from the much larger Topps set would be produced with English and French statistics on the reverse. Perry appears in the 1965 and 1968 OPC sets with both cards holding a premium value over their regular Topps counterparts.
Along with Perry's base card, he also shares a 1967 Topps pitching leaders card with three other Hall of Fame members: Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, and Bob Gibson. By "Pitching Leaders," Topps means number of victories and Perry's 21 wins tied him with Gibson for third place in the National League. You can also find Perry on a strikeout leaders card from 1968 Topps with Jim Bunning and Ferguson Jenkins.
The first autograph on the list and the only card featuring Perry from his days with the Seattle Mariners is this appearance in 1999 Fleer Sports Illustrated. The set honors covers from the magazine and Perry was featured on the May 17, 1982 issue celebrating his 300th career victory. A fan favorite while pitching in Seattle, he was given the nickname of the "Ancient Mariner" as he was the oldest player in the American League.
The reverse side of Perry's 1965 Topps card reminds us that Gaylord's brother, Jim Perry, also pitched in the majors. In fact, he had great success with the Minnesota Twins and won the 1970 American League Cy Young Award. Jim finished with 215 career wins to go along with Gaylord's 314, giving them a combined 529 wins and making them the second-most winning brother combination behind the knuckleball-throwing duo of Joe and Phil Niekro.
Perry looks to be throwing straight at the camera on his 1964 Topps card and was known for doctoring his pitches throughout his career with foreign substances like vaseline or pine resin. The back of this card lists Gaylord's home in North Carolina where his college alma mater, Campbell University, named their mascot "Gaylord the Camel" as an honor to their most famous attendee.
Mint copies of Perry's 1966 Topps appearance can actually top that of his rookie card at auction because he appears in the short-printed high series that includes cards #523-598 in the set. You'll notice that Perry's #598 is the set's final card which puts a slight premium on examples in good condition as they were often damaged in a similar fashion as card #1 in vintage products.
Collectors can find Perry's first certified autograph in the small Heroes of Baseball insert included in 1991 Upper Deck. Along with Perry, fans could also pull cards for Ferguson Jenkins and Harmon Killebrew in the low-number packs. Each autograph was limited to 3,000 copies and Perry's signature seems to be more flamboyant than usual on these cards with a more dramatically oversized "P" than he normally includes.
After pitching in 13 games for the Giants in 1962, Perry was featured on a 1963 Rookie Stars with three other players in 1963 Topps. Dick Egan, Julio Navarro, and Tommie Sisk each only played a handful of years in the league and none reached anywhere near the dominance that Perry did. This card offers fans not able to pick up a highly-graded Perry rookie a chance to own a card that certainly has the feel of a rookie for a fraction of the price.
Gaylord Perry had not played a game in the majors for the Giants yet, but Topps still gave him a Rookie Star card in the 1962 Topps set. The reverse side of the card details Perry's success in the Pacific Coast League with the Tacoma Giants. While most of the cards in 1962 Topps feature color photographs, Gaylord's card is a painted photograph reminiscent of the Topps sets from the 1950s. Mint copies are extremely rare to find, so even near-mint graded versions of this rookie can reach $600 at auction.