Forgotten among the touching tributes to Neil Armstrong in the wake of his death last week was a side note about the astronaut's place in Giants lore.
Accounts vary, but the basic story goes like this: While watching the ragged swings of Gaylord Perry during batting practice one day in the 1960s, Giants manager Alvin Dark sniffed: "They'll put a man on the moon before he hits a home run."
Perry hit his first career home run on July 20, 1969 -- just minutes after Armstrong and Apollo 11 touched down on the lunar surface.
"Neil and I both had good days," Perry, 73, recalled Wednesday in a phone interview from his North Carolina home. "But he had a better a day than I did. I won a game. What he did was awesome."
The Hall of Fame pitcher said he thinks of his home run whenever he hears the name of Armstrong, the steely-nerved commander of the Apollo 11 spacecraft who died Saturday at 82.
Perry also thinks of his longball when he sees his old manager. The pitcher had lunch with Dark, now 90, about a month ago and "we talked about it again. It was such a great comment."
Whether or not the man-on-the-moon tale is true is tougher to verify. Snopes.com, which specializes in separating fact from fiction, ranks the veracity of the Perry-Armstrong story as "undetermined." It has no trouble documenting Perry's home run off Claude Osteen at Candlestick Park or the that the longball came just after
Pinning down the origin of Dark's purported comment to sportswriter Harry Jupiter, though, remains elusive. Previous published accounts don't always add up right in terms of dates or places, prompting Snopes to wonder "if the tale was made up after the fact but it's such a good story that the participants now remember it as it happened."
Perry on Wednesday said that Dark made the comment to Jupiter behind the batting cage on a day when the right-handed hitting Perry was knocking them out of the park with ease. Jupiter told Dark, "He's going to hit a home run for you someday,'' prompting Dark's famous retort.
Perry was a lifetime .131 hitter.
"I was always facing Drysdale and Koufax and Gibson and Seaver,'' the pitcher said. "My teammates didn't do too well against them either."
But his third-inning solo homer off Osteen helped the Giants erase an early deficit as they rallied to beat the Dodgers 7-3. Perry pitched a complete game.
He would go on to win 314 career games, as well as two Cy Young Awards and enshrinement in Cooperstown.
But he'll never forget that historic day on July 20, 1969, when Armstrong's one small step for man shared a link with one Giant homer at Candlestick Park.