Tony Pérez: From Cuba to Cooperstown

In 1984 Tony Perez became the oldest player in the Major Leagues to hit a grand slam home run.

27 Dec Tony Pérez: From Cuba to Cooperstown

By: John Erardi

Tony Pérez grew up in the little sugar mill town of Violeta, in Cuba, learning to hit pebbles with a stick, playing his way out of the mill through that narrow window just before the Bay of Pigs (when the window closed permanently). The “140-pound string bean with the fluorescent smile” signed with the Cincinnati Reds. His bonus? A $2.50 visa and a plane ticket to Tampa. It was one of pro baseball’s greatest bargains. It also meant Pérez’s father never saw him play a major league game, and that Tony didn’t see his family for a decade.

Author John Erardi trails Pérez through a minor league career and 1960s southern racism, where Pérez was forbidden access to hotels and restaurants, at home in the ball parks but nowhere else. The ball park was all Pérez needed, and by the end of that decade he was firmly ensconced with the Cincinnati Reds, a burgeoning slugger and infielder about to make the first of seven All-Star appearances.

From there, the 1970s belonged to Pérez and the Big Red Machine and after the Big Red Machine was gone, Pérez was far from finished. He had good seasons with Montreal and Boston, made it back to the World Series with Philadelphia in 1983, and returned to Cincinnati in 1984 where he became the oldest player to hit a grand slam home run.

Erardi’s story is scenic and lively, especially describing the Big Dog’s demeanor, which endeared him more to Cincinnati fans than any player in recent memory. The courtliness, on and off the field, traces Pérez’s manner back to the Cuban lineage from which he had come.

Whether by practice or instinct he carried the best qualities of his Cuban forebear, the great El Inmortal Dihigo. Pérez was unselfish, unflappable, and joyous. Even better than that, he was a good teammate.

A good man then, now… always.


Book: Tony Pérez: From Cuba to Cooperstown by: John Erardi

  • Publisher: Orange Frazer Pr (April 2, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1939710758
  • ISBN-13: 978-1939710758

 

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