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Jim Perry

On any championship ball club it was always a struggle, said John Sain, the Twins' pitching coach in 1965.

It seemed like "every game you have to wrestle. And you have injuries. But someone else comes along and helps out."

Earl Battey, Jim (Mudcat) Grant and Jim Perry celebrate the 1965 Minnesota Twins' American League pennant.

Earl Battey, Jim Grant and Jim Perry celebrate the 1965 American League Championship.

No one on the '65 Twins' roster was less expected to come along and help out than Jim Perry.

Sain, perhaps the best pitching coach in baseball history, had pleaded with Twins' management during spring training to keep Perry when there was talk of trading him. Or releasing him.

Perry, the switch-hitting pitcher and brother of Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, threw only 65 innings in 1964. He had started one game that season, faced nine batters in the start and allowed six earned runs in one complete inning.

Perry had, in fact, started a game just once in a season and a half when July of 1965 rolled around. The Twins' starting staff was nicked with injuries and had a remarkable inability to complete games in an era when that was common. So Perry got a start.

In 10 dates before Perry's start, the starting staff completed one game and got into the seventh two other times. On five occasions, the starters didn't get past five innings, frustrating manager Sam Mele, who said. "We've got to get a complete game somewhere. Every man in my bullpen is overworked."

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Perry had not pitched four innings in the first six weeks of the season, and had barely 30 innings in when he started the second game of a July 5 doubleheader. He came up with a seven-hit shutout, then allowed no earned runs to the Yankees over eight innings in his next start. He finished the season with 12 wins and a 2.63 earned run average.

Because he hadn't pitched much, Perry's hip became sore after his first two starts. Sain had been working with the right-hander to kick his left knee up higher to involve more of his body with each pitch, an approach which ignited the hip pain. Perry had little choice but to work through it.

Sain told Perry this was an example of why running doesn't keep pitchers in shape for pitching nine innings. The only thing that keeps a pitcher in shape for pitching a complete game, Sain said, was throwing nine innings.

Perry kept taking the ball, and after nearly 34 innings through four starts Perry had allowed four earned runs.

Sain's guidance

Sain, who did a remarkable job with the '65 staff, had also taught Perry a new curveball in spring training. When Perry came up to the big leagues in 1959, by his own admission he could throw hard, "but that was about all."

Perry worked hard on Sain's lessons in the bullpen, but until he got his July 5 start, Perry was never in a game long enough for the new curveball's effect to become evident. Once Perry began to start games, the curveball was a force.

By the time Perry won the Cy Young Award for the Twins in 1970, he had a fastball, fast and slow curveballs, and a changeup.

Unusually healthy considering his workload, Perry averaged more than 36 starts a season from 1969 to 1974 without missing a turn.


Where are the 1965 Minnesota Twins?


James Evan Perry, Jr., was born in Williamson, North Carolina at the end of October in 1936.


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