Gaylord Perry developed a reputation as a world-class professional baseball player. His skills earned him a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Those skills did not include a penchant for hitting home runs. His first home run was a surprise to many, but it was also a fulfillment of a prophecy that would have echos all the way to the surface of the moon.
Perry’s batting style did not lend itself to home runs. Teammate Bob Bolin summed up Perry’s hitting technique, saying, “He just didn’t have the snap of the bat to where [the ball] would jump out of the ballpark.” The batting style led Giants manager Alvin Dark to declare that a man would land on the moon before Perry could hit a home run.
When Dark made his comment, the United States was still relatively early in the Space Race. About six years later, on July 20, 1969, the attention of the world was focused on Apollo 11’s approach to the lunar surface. As the astronauts maneuvered the lunar module toward Tranquility Base, Perry and his teammates were playing against the Los Angeles Dodgers in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. At 1:17 p.m., Pacific Time, the announcement came over the stadium’s loudspeaker, asking everyone to stand and give a moment of silent thanks for the astronauts who had just landed on the moon.
About 30 minutes later, Gaylord Perry stepped up to the plate, bat in hand. Pitcher Claude Osteen threw a fastball. Perry swung, connected, and sent the ball flying out of the park. It was his first home run in the major leagues, thus fulfilling Dark’s prediction.
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