"How can anyone as slow as you
[Tony Perez] pull a muscle?"
- Pete Rose
Seven-time All-Star Tony Pérez left a job in a sugar cane factory in Havana in 1960 to sign a minor-league contract with the Reds in 1960. Finally, he became a regular in 1967, and became a major component of one of the most feared lineups of all time. He played 16 of his 23 seasons for the Reds' "Big Red Machine," played in five World Series and helped Cincinnati to World Championships in 1975 and 1976.
One can make an argument that Pérez doesn't belong in the Hall - certainly, his career .344 on-base average (second- lowest among HOF first basemen) and mediocre lifetime slugging percentage (.463) and batting average (.279) don't support his case. He never led the league in home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base average or RBIs - in fact, the only major category in which he led the league was GIDP (25 in 1980). During the Reds' glory years in the early to mid-1970s, Pérez wasn't even the best player on his team - Bench and later George Foster were the team leaders in home runs and RBIs, while Joe Morgan was perhaps the most valuable Red, and Pete Rose the most reliable and consistent.
Still, what is indisputable is the fact that Pérez was a great clutch hitter and a prolific RBI man. Despite batting behind Bench most of the time, Pérez still managed to amass 954 RBIs during the 1970s, more than any major league player except Bench. He retired at the end of the 1986 season with 379 HR and 1,652 RBI, the 18th highest total of all-time. He also went to the All-Star game 7 times and was the premier first baseman of his generation.
Pérez ended the 1967 All-Star game with a a dramatic home run in the 15th inning to win the All-Star Game for the National League, exemplifying his ability to perform in the clutch. On May 13, 1985, at age 42, he became the oldest player ever to hit a grand slam.
After the 1976 season the Reds traded Pérez to Montréal, a transaction that Reds team president Bob Howsam later lamented as the worst move he ever made. After three years in Montréal and three more in Boston, Pérez signed with the Phillies, where he played in the 1983 World Series with his former Reds teammates Rose and Morgan.
Pérez managed the Reds briefly in 1993, and since then has worked in the front office of the Florida Marlins, whom he helped to the World Championship in 1997. Pérez's two sons, Victor and Eduardo, have both played professional baseball, and Eduardo is currently an infielder with the Reds, making Tony the ninth Hall of Famer to have a son play in Major League Baseball.
"If there's a runner on second base, there isn't anybody I'd rather see walk to the plate than Tony Pérez.
He turns mean with men on base."
"He was the best clutch hitter I ever saw. Runner on third and two outs, if I can't be up myself
then he's the guy that I want up there because he'll drive in the
"Tony is probably the coolest man at bat as there is in baseball.
He knows what he
has to do and he does it. He demands his pitch[he] refuses to accept
"With men in scoring position and the game on the line, Tony's the last guy an
opponent wanted to see."
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