Kenny Clay’s most famous moment in pinstripes was not a positive one. He had started a home game against the Royals in September of 1979 and was quickly staked to a 5-0 lead. By the time Billy Martin pulled him in the third inning, the lead had shrunk to one run and the Yankees ended up losing that contest 9-8. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner was livid after the loss and when reporters asked him what he thought about Clay’s performance, the Boss told them that his once-prized pitching prospect had “spit the bit.”
Just four years earlier, Kenny Clay had been considered a can’t miss future member of the team’s starting rotation. The hard-throwing right-hander had put together a 28-18 record at the Triple A level of the minors but he could never duplicate that success in the big leagues. In three separate trials in the Bronx he was 6-14. After blowing that game in Kansas City and finishing the ’79 season with a horrible 1-7 record, Steinbrenner had seen enough and he traded Clay to Texas for Gaylord Perry during the 1980 season. Old Gaylord went 4-4 for New York the rest of that year while Clay was going 2-3 for the Rangers. Clay’s failure at the big league level gave the Boss even more impetus to turn to free agency and trades instead of his own farm system when the Yankees needed pitching talent.
Turns out that Clay had a bad habit of disappointing his employers. In 1986, he was convicted for stealing $30,000 from Jostens Inc. The company makes class rings for high schools and colleges and had hired Clay as a salesman. He escaped jail by making restitution and doing community service. In 1992 he stole a car from the car dealership he worked for and served hard time for that crime. In 1999 he went back to jail for forgery. Six years later, he forged the sale of a copier in an attempt to obtain a $7,500 commission check and ended up back in the slammer.
Clay is not the only one-time Yankee prospect to be born on April 6th. This first baseman and this Hawaiian-born outfielder both were considered top Yankee prospects in the first decade of the 21st century, but like Clay, neither made much of an impact as a Yankee or as a big leaguer.
|NYY (3 yrs)||6||14||.300||4.72||81||14||41||0||0||3||209.2||230||122||110||21||70||80||1.431|
|TEX (1 yr)||2||3||.400||4.60||8||8||0||0||0||0||43.0||43||24||22||4||29||17||1.674|
|SEA (1 yr)||2||7||.222||4.63||22||14||2||0||0||0||101.0||116||62||52||10||42||32||1.564|
Gaylord Perry turns 72-years-old today. He and his older brother Jim were born in Williamston, NC. Their Dad was a farmer but he was also a semi-pro baseball player so when his two sons weren’t helping him plow fields, he made sure they were playing ball. It really didn’t matter what kind of ball they played because the Perry boys were good at football basketball and especially baseball. In fact, with the two of them alternating between the mound and third base when the other was pitching, their high school team won a state championship. During one stretch, the brothers threw nine consecutive shutouts that season. Even though Gaylord had numerous scholarship offers to play college basketball, he followed his brother into baseball and when the Giants gave him a $60,000 bonus to sign with their organization in 1958, Gaylord gave half of it to his Dad. The rest his history.
Perry went on to win 318 games during a 22-season big league career that began with ten years in San Fancisco and ended with 12 years of nomadic pitching for six different organizations. He won 20 games for thee different teams and he was the AL Cy Young Award winner for the Indians in 1972 and the NL Cy Young Award winner eight seasons later, with the Padres. The story line of Perry’s career was always underscored by rumors that he threw a spitball. In fact, Perry even wrote a book while he was still pitching in which he confessed to throwing the doctored pitch early in his career but had since stopped doing so. Many baseball pundits felt Perry’s admission was part of a masterful con game to unsettle and distract opposing lineups.
In August of 1980 the Yankees were locked in a close pennant race with the Orioles and they traded pitcher Ken Clay to the Texas Rangers for Perry. The Yankees won that pennant but without much help from Gaylord. He went 4-4 for New York down the stretch and Yankee manager Dick Howser did not use him in the postseason. Perry signed to play with Atlanta the following year. His short stay in the Big Apple did make Perry one of the four 300-game-winning-pitchers to wear Yankee pinstripes. The other three one-time Yankee hurlers who accomplished the feat are Phil Niekro, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson.
Jim Perry ended up winning 215 games during a 17 year career which gave the Perry brothers 533 big league wins between them. The record for lifetime sibling victories however, is held by Phil and Joe Niekro, who won 539 games during their combined careers.
|SFG (10 yrs)||134||109||.551||2.96||367||283||30||125||21||10||2294.1||2061||892||755||165||581||1606||1.152|
|TEX (4 yrs)||48||43||.527||3.26||112||112||0||55||12||0||827.1||787||345||300||59||190||575||1.181|
|CLE (4 yrs)||70||57||.551||2.71||134||133||1||96||17||1||1130.2||918||377||340||92||330||773||1.104|
|SDP (2 yrs)||33||17||.660||2.88||69||69||0||15||2||0||493.1||466||186||158||21||133||294||1.214|
|SEA (2 yrs)||13||22||.371||4.58||48||48||0||8||0||0||318.2||361||177||162||45||77||158||1.374|
|KCR (1 yr)||4||4||.500||4.27||14||14||0||1||1||0||84.1||98||48||40||6||26||40||1.470|
|ATL (1 yr)||8||9||.471||3.94||23||23||0||3||0||0||150.2||182||70||66||9||24||60||1.367|
|NYY (1 yr)||4||4||.500||4.44||10||8||2||0||0||0||50.2||65||33||25||2||18||28||1.638|