Settling the Scores: Memorial Day Edition

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Hope you had a good weekend. For many of you that weekend still continues today.

Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died in military service. As one remembers the dead of any given war one can, and in many cases maybe one should, consider the righteousness or necessity of that war or the politicians who and ideas which sent these men and women into battle. In this day and age such things are thought of by most as decidedly unpatriotic, however. And given that Memorial Day has, regrettably, become an all-purpose flag-waving, patriotism-declaring, civilians-in-camouflage holiday, one is liable to be shouted-down if one were to raise questions about the leaders and causes which sent men and women to their death.

Don’t let people conflate those things, however. Commemorating the dead does not require venerating the leaders who gave them their orders or the stated causes for which the wars in which they served were fought. In fact, in some cases appropriate commemoration may require the exact opposite of that so as to ensure that other men and women, later, do not unnecessarily become the subject of Memorial Day commemoration themselves.

But while the misplaced patriotism that has come to characterize Memorial Day irks me a bit, it’s inevitable and I don’t begrudge it too terribly much. Wave a flag or campaign for whatever you consider to be patriotism if you feel it’s important to do that. Protest wars and the leaders who start them if you feel it’s important to do that. Enjoy your free time if you happen to have it. Go to a barbecue, take in a ballgame, binge-watch some awful TV show or get crazy, crazy, crazy Memorial Day deals at Mattress Wholesalers if that’s your thing. Given the purpose of the holiday, it’s always weird to say “happy Memorial Day” or to treat it like some other random bonus day off work, but we do it anyway, even on what’s supposed to be a day of mourning or reflection.

And that’s OK. Because no matter what one can say of a war — say of its leaders or the stated reasons it was fought — the men and women who actually fought in it and died in were hoping that they were, ultimately, making a better and happier world for those they left behind. And they no doubt hoped, among everything else they hoped, that others didn’t have to face what they were facing. They wanted our lives to be happy and our country to be safe and part of a happy and safe country involves 300 million people doing whatever it is they damn please, even if it’s frivolous sometimes.

So do have a happy Memorial Day. Have a silly or dumb Memorial Day. Have a flag-waving, camouflage-wearing troop-supporting day. Have any kind of Memorial Day you want. But as you do, please make sure you take some time to think about those who died in military service. And remember that they didn’t get to have as many happy, silly, dumb or reflective days as they were meant to have. And make at least some effort to offset your happy, patriotic or silly pursuits with some mourning and reflectiveness.

Blue Jays 8, Mariners 2
Astros 10, Tigers 8
Indians 5, Reds 2
Marlins 5, Orioles 2
Athletics 7, Rays 2
Red Sox 6, Angels 1
Braves 2, Brewers 1
Nationals 4, Phillies 1
Pirates 9, Mets 1
Twins 8, White Sox 1
Cardinals 6, Royals 1
Padres 11, Dodgers 3
Rockies 11, Giants 2
Diamondbacks 4, Cubs 3
Rangers 5, Yankees 2

 

Gaylord Perry, two-time Cy Young winner, dies at 84

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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GAFFNEY, S.C. — Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry, a master of the spitball and telling stories about the pitch, died at 84.

Perry died at his home in Gaffney, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details. A statement from the Perry family said he “passed away peacefully at his home after a short illness.”

The native of Williamston, North Carolina, made history as the first player to win the Cy Young in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 after a 24-16 season and with San Diego in 1978 – going 21-6 for his fifth and final 20-win season just after turning 40.

“Before I won my second Cy Young, I thought I was too old – I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted on my performance, so I won it.”

“Gaylord Perry was a consistent workhorse and a memorable figure in his Hall of Fame career,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, adding, “he will be remembered among the most accomplished San Francisco Giants ever … and remained a popular teammate and friend throughout his life.”

Perry was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and spent 10 seasons among legendary teammates like Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who said Thursday that Perry “was a good man, a good ballplayer and my good friend. So long old Pal.”

Juan Marichal remembered Perry as “smart, funny, and kind to everyone in the clubhouse. When he talked, you listened.”

“During our 10 seasons together in the San Francisco Giants rotation, we combined to record 369 complete games, more than any pair of teammates in the Major Leagues,” Marichal said. “I will always remember Gaylord for his love and devotion to the game of baseball, his family, and his farm.”

Perry, who pitched for eight major-league teams from 1962 until 1983, was a five-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3,554 strikeouts and used a pitching style where he doctored baseballs or made batters believe he was doctoring them.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement that Perry was “one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.” The Texas Rangers, whom Perry played for twice, said in a statement that the pitcher was “a fierce competitor every time he took the ball and more often than not gave the Rangers an opportunity to win the game.”

“The Rangers express their sincere condolences to Gaylord’s family at this difficult time,” the team’s statement said. “This baseball great will be missed.”

Perry’s 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter,” and he wrote it in that when he started in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11-man pitching staff” for the Giants. He needed an edge and learned the spitball from San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.

Perry said he first threw it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 innings without giving up a run and soon after entered the Giants’ starting rotation.

He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva, and eventually stopped throwing the pitch in 1968 after MLB ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouths before touching the baseball.

According to his book, he looked for other substances, like petroleum jelly, to doctor the baseball. He used various motions and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to get hitters thinking he was applying a foreign substance.

Giants teammate Orlando Cepeda said Perry had “a great sense of humor … a great personality and was my baseball brother.”

“In all my years in baseball, I never saw a right-handed hurler have such a presence on the field and in the clubhouse,” Cepeda added.

Seattle Mariners Chairman John Stanton said in a release that he spoke with Perry during his last visit to Seattle, saying Perry was, “delightful and still passionate in his opinions on the game, and especially on pitching.

Perry was ejected from a game just once for doctoring a baseball – when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts tried to hide George Brett’s infamous pine-tar bat in the clubhouse but was stopped by a guard. Perry was ejected for his role in that game, too.

After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and was its coach for the first three years.

Perry is survived by wife Deborah, and three of his four children in Allison, Amy and Beth. Perry’s son Jack had previously died.

Deborah Perry said in a statement to The AP that Gaylord Perry was “an esteemed public figure who inspired millions of fans and was a devoted husband, father, friend and mentor who changed the lives of countless people with his grace, patience and spirit.”

The Hall of Fame’s statement noted that Perry often returned for induction weekend “to be with his friends and fans.”

“We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Deborah, and the entire Perry family,” Baseball Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said.