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One small step for man, one Giant swing for Gaylord Perry

Kirk Kenney, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Baseball

It was one of those wisecracks made everyday behind the batting cage or in the dugout during the baseball season as players and coaches go through their pregame routines.

Most of the statements are forgotten as soon as the words leave the speaker's mouth. This one would have been consigned to oblivion, too, had it not served as the setup for one of the greatest coincidences in baseball history.

San Francisco Examiner sportswriter Harry Jupiter was watching a Giants rookie pitcher named Gaylord Perry take batting practice in 1962 and was impressed with the way the ball was jumping off Perry's bat.

Jupiter turned to Alvin Dark, the Giants' manager from 1961-64, and said: "This Perry kid's going to hit some home runs for you."

Perry had just 10 hits -- a pair of doubles marking the only times he advanced past first base -- over the first three years of his career. Those came in 99 plate appearances. That's a .111 average, which went up only another 20 points over the next two decades of Perry's 22-year Hall of Fame career.

Dark's reply to Jupiter, as Perry recalled it during a 2009 interview with Sports Illustrated, was:

 

"There'll be a man on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run."

Dark was right.

Barely.

Seven years after the manager's statement, Apollo 11 blasted off into space with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins aboard the command module Columbia.

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