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I am a freelance writer. I've covered the Cincinnati Reds, Bengals and others since 1992. I have a background in sales as well. I've sold consumer electronics, advertising and consumer package goods for companies ranging from the now defunct Circuit City to Procter&Gamble. I have worked as a stats operator for Xavier University, the University of Cincinnati, the College of Mount St. Joe and Colerain High School.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Big Red Machine Teammates Honor Tony Perez

The glue to the Big Red Machine will now forever be a part of the Cincinnati Reds franchise with his statue joining Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Ernie Lombardi, Frank Robinson, Ted Kluzewski and Joe Nuxhall near the entrance to Great American Ball Park.

"It was beautiful," Perez said. "I never thought about it when I was playing. You just play to win."

Tony Perez has been in the United States since 1962 as a resident.

Perez's sister, who lives in Cuba, was able to come for the ceremony. Perez had not seen her in two years. Between 1962 and 1972, Perez had not seen her or his parents at all.  Diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba were severed in January, 1961.

"I got to go back for a month in 1972. I got special permission to see my father. He was sick," Perez said.

The young Perez played in Geneva, New York with Pete Rose. He weighed 150 lbs.

"I didn't know any English," Perez said. "I had a big uniform that must have been made for Ted Kluszewski because it didn't fit. I looked funny."

Perez had to learn his English which is still broken.

"My first spring training my manager Johnny Vander Meer asked me if I was ready to play. I only knew two words, yes and no. I didn't want to tell my manager no so I said yes. I was awful. They were going to send me back," Perez said. "I knew how to play but I couldn't say anything to my teammates or coaches."

Perez got bigger and stronger. He learned English well.  Not only was he able to say things to his teammates, he could speak to them.

Davey Concepcion was Perez' roommate for six years when he came to the Reds.  In his rookie year, Concepcion could not speak English.

"When I came to the league, I had a bad attitude," Concepcion said. "Tony talked to me like a man and a brother."

George Foster credited Perez with teaching him how to hit.

"You didn't want to do anything funny, or Tony would find out about it," Foster said. "He was a constant you could rely on him."

Bench, who also has a statue, caught the first pitch before the game against the Diamondbacks.

'I was important for me to be here today for the statue to be unvailed," Bench said. "We had white leaders, Spanish leaders and Black leaders. We didn't know the difference because Tony was the one constant. We were going to have a Dean Martin-style roast of Tony last night but nobody could think of anything bad to say about him."

Joe Morgan didn't make an error the entire first half of one season. The first day back from the All-Star break, Morgan made three by the third inning.  While he was at bat, Perez taped his glove to a garbage can.

"He told me to take it out with me to the field," Morgan said. "He made me laugh and took a lot of weight off my shoulders."

"There was the time I came into the clubhouse after going 0-for-4," Morgan recalled. "Tony came over to me and told me to watch out, you don't want to trip over your lower lip."

Perez didn't have the lifetime statistics that a lot of players in the Hall of Fame have.

"Tony's job was to drive in runs," Morgan said. "Today they look at on-base-percentage and stuff like that but for him it was just winning. The scoreboard was the only statistic he cared about."

Perez had a rapport with all of his teammates.

"We were all hitting well one season but we were down in the standings," Morgan said. "We were standing around the batting cage before a game. Each was talking about how many hits we were going to get that day.  Tony walked up and said, 'You're hitting .425 and you're hitting .450 but we won't get moving until I start hitting." He started hitting and in two months we were in first place."

Professionally edited by ML Schirmer
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