Atanasio "Tony" Pérez
May 14, 1942 - Present
Birthplace: Camaguey, Cuba
Height: 6'2" Weight: 205
"He's the best clutch hitter I've ever seen," former manager and Hall of Famer, Sparky Anderson.
Related Stories Full coverage of the 2000 Baseball Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Atanasio "Tany" Perez is considered one of the greatest Latino baseball players to ever play the game. The Cuban born began his distinguished 23 year career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1964 and soon after was known as one of baseball's best clutch hitters and RBI-men of the 1970s.
At the age of 17, Perez signed with the Cincinnati Reds while he was still in Cuba, receiving no signing bonus, but got a plane ticket plus $2.50 for an exit visa. Never have been away his home before, his mother didn't want him to go, because of her love for Tony. But he wanted to make it in baseball and be great at it like his favorite player, Minnie Minoso who was idolized in Cuba back in the 40's.
When he reported to Geneva, N.Y. in 1960 for his first spring of minor-league ball, it was so cold, Perez recalls “I could feel it in my bones, how I missed the heat of my country and the love of my family.”
Perez's rough times included adjusting to a new culture. There was a language barrier which made his love for baseball suddenly become foreign when he played in the U.S. “To hear words like 'cutoff man,' 'go to first,' 'go to third,' simple things like that ... I had to learn how to play the game all over again in English,” said Perez.
It didn't end there. When it came to foods it was a guessing game, “A lot happened when I went to a restaurant and somebody gave me the menu,” he said. “I used to point at it (to order a meal). Sometimes I was lucky and sometimes I wasn't. One time I pointed for a lunch and got apple pie.”
Despite his lack of English, Perez overcame every obstacle and disappointment with his dignified, quiet diligence.
Once Perez reached the majors in 1964, after hitting .348 with 160 hits and 132 RBI's in the Penn League (AAA) one season, Dave Bristol, one of his first minor-league managers who later managed Cincinnati, taught him how to win. He also learned a lot when he saw the sights of Frank Robinson's daily hustle and "Charlie Hustle, Pete Rose" approach the game like there was no tomorrow.
Through 1964-66, Perez shared the first-base job with Gordy Coleman then played his first full season in 1967 when he won the job from Lee May in spring training. At the start of the '67 season, he proved to everyone that he is here to stay, when he was nominated to play in the All-Star Game. He hits a 15th-inning home run off Catfish Hunter and became the All-Star Game MVP. His 102 RBI that season began a run of 11 straight seasons of 90 or more.
In 1970, Perez finishes with his best overall season, hitting .317 with 40 homers and 129 RBI.
The 1975 season was by far, Tony's most memorable year. The Cincinnati Reds made it to the world series and it went down to a final Game 7. Mr. Clutch, Tony Perez hit a home run in the sixth inning against Bill Lee and the Boston Red Sox (Carlton Fisk was catching) to help the Reds rally for a 4-3 victory and win the World Championship. "Lee had actually thrown me that blooper pitch two times previous and both times it bounced and I swung and missed and embarrassed myself. When I saw him hesitate in his motion again, I waited on it" said Perez.
After that memorable season, Perez had some downfalls. In late 1976 when Bob Howsam, then Cincinnati's general manager, told him that he intended to trade him if the right deal arose. Dan Driessen, nine years younger and more than $100,000 cheaper than Perez was deemed ready to inherit first base and Perez was traded to the Montreal Expos. Perez shocked and hurt about the trade asked Howsam to send him to a contending club. “He said, "You can make any team a contender,'” Perez recalled. “I said, "Then why are you trading me?' I didn't understand that.”
Tony went on to have three productive years for the Montreal Expos, then played another three with former American League rivals, the Boston Red Sox.
During the 1984-86 season, Perez returned to the Reds and finished off his career there. On Oct. 4, 1986, one day before his retirement, Perez hits his 379th career home run, tying Orlando Cepeda for the most career homeruns by a Latin-American player (that record was surpassed by Jose Canseco) and 1,652 RBI, which is also tops among Latinos.
During retirement from baseball, Tony Perez had anxiously awaited a call from Cooperstown announcing he would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It took him eight year before being elected with 77.15 percent of the vote in January 2000.
Tony has two sons (Orlando and Eduardo) from his beloved wife, Pituka and is currently a special assistant to the General Manager for the Florida Marlins.
Clemente | Lefty Gomez | Martin
Dihigo | Wilfred
Benitez | Sammy Sosa
Chi-Chi Rodriguez | Orlando Cepeda | Tony Perez | Eusebio Pedroza | Anthony Muñoz | Adrian Fernandez
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