CLEVELAND -- It didn't matter that he was fly-fishing in Yellowstone Park, with no access to TV or the radio. Gaylord Perry had to find the result of the Indians game against the White Sox on Monday. "I had to get up early [Tuesday] morning and check the box score out," Perry said on a conference call.
What he discovered made him smile. Perry finally had new company in the 20-win department. The Indians went 33 years -- the longest gap for any team in history, according to Elias Sports Bureau -- between 20-game winners. Perry did it in 1974, when he went 21-13 for the Tribe. Cliff Lee (20-2) finally ended the drought with his 20th win Monday night in a shutout of Chicago. "I'm so very pleased Cliff had a great, great game," Perry said. "Plus, he got a shutout." Complete games such as the one Lee threw for his 20th "W" were much more commonplace in Perry's time. In '74, for instance, Perry went the distance 28 times in 37 starts. Lee, in contrast, has four complete games this season. It's little wonder, then, that the 20-game winner has become something of an endangered species. Josh Beckett of the Red Sox was baseball's only 20-game winner in 2007. In '06, no one reached the 20-win plateau. "I won a lot of my games in the eighth or ninth inning, because teammates made some plays or got some hits," Perry said. "It's about twice as tough to win 20 now. When somebody does that, you better keep him." The Indians have every intention of keeping Lee, who is signed through 2010, though they did entertain trade offers for him over the past offseason. Instead, Lee has become a rock in the rotation, and Perry has followed his '08 season every step of the way. "He comes right after the hitter, he works both sides of the plate, and that's what you've got to do," Perry said of Lee. But Lee isn't known to throw the spitball, which was a Perry specialty. Does the 69-year-old Perry plan to teach Lee the outlaw pitch? "He doesn't need one, man" Perry said. "He's 20-2. He can keep throwing what he's got. If he ever needs to throw slop, I'll be there for him."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.