The best bald pitcher in the American League was using a blow dryer for the first time and wondering what the regulars at the Gurkin Country Store in Williamston, N.C. were going to think. Because the next time the best bald pitcher in the American League—Gaylord Perry—saw his buddies at the Gurkin after a day of plowin' and plantin' and fertilizin' at his Williamston spread, he wasn't going to be bald anymore.
"But look at it this way," Perry said as he sat having new hair woven into his old at Boston's Hair Replacement Center (1238 Boylston Street). "It's been almost a month since Catfish signed. The people down home like a little somethin' to gossip about." Gaylord figured that new hair would be good gossip in Williamston.
The Perry replacement was also good fun in Boston. The owner of the Hair Replacement Center, Bruce Davis, took out ads in the newspapers through the week announcing Perry's "weave," and inviting the public to sip free cocktails and watch. A local television station covered the event. Davis' assistants walked around tousling hair and asking if anyone present might need a "consultation." "You never know where you might find business," Davis said. And as things turned out, he has tripled his business because of the promotion.
Perry was in town to attend a baseball writers' dinner, and it was there that he intended to display his new look first. He was asked if he was receiving any award at the dinner. "How about 'Most Improved Looker of the Year'?" Gaylord said. He kept fondling his new hairpiece as he talked, getting accustomed to it, making sure it was tight enough. His particular model is known in the business as a "unit," and is a combination of human hair and synthetic fiber. It never comes off, and only has to be tightened every six or eight weeks.
"This baby better be tight by spring trainin'," Perry said. " 'Cause I think there's gonna be some clutchin' and grabbin' goin' on. But, shoot, they can do that all they want. This is gonna be the first time in 15 years that I could have my picture taken at spring trainin' with my hat off."
Perry got his unit for free, but it would normally cost $750-$1,500; a tightening goes for $35. There is no surgery involved as there would be with a transplant or implant. The synthetic /hair is woven from large spools into the hair at the side of a bald man's head, and looks like a crown. Then a huge wig is woven into that and cut, washed, dried, styled. The whole process takes about two hours. In two hours Gaylord got back what he'd lost all those years before. "I started losin' my hair back in Corpus Christi in the Texas League about 1959," he recalled. "I was 10-11 that year and hangin' a lot of curveballs."
Perry, who joins a number of other major league ballplayers (Dave McNally, Ron Blomberg, Richie Scheinblum, Gene Tenace) who have weaves, was asked if his wife Blanche had made the trip to Boston with him. "She didn't have the nerve," Gaylord explained. "But if I walk into the house tomorrow and she calls me a different name, things might get interestin'." And the gossip would be even better at the Gurkin.