Tony Pérez’s forgotten season with the Phillies

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 05: PHILADELPHIA,PA: Tony Perez of the Philadelphia Phillies circa 1983 bats at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 05: PHILADELPHIA,PA: Tony Perez of the Philadelphia Phillies circa 1983 bats at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Remember when Tony Pérez was on the Philadelphia Phillies?

Over 139 years, a lot of baseball players have worn a Philadelphia Phillies uniform. Hall of Famer Tony Pérez is one you probably forgot about, if you ever knew he was a Phillie at all.

Pérez made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 1964, and spent 13 seasons with the club, including the seven All-Star seasons in what would be a 23-year career. He received MVP votes in six seasons, and the Reds won five division titles, four pennants, and two World Series during that span.

The infielder was the consummate teammate, rarely leaving a man on base. Between 1967-76, Pérez averaged 31 doubles, 28 home runs, and 103 RBI per 162 games, with at least 90 RBI each season. More than that, he was beloved in Cincinnati; many of his teammates, fans, even his manager Sparky Anderson called him the ‘heart and soul’ of the team.

After the Reds swept the Phillies and Yankees to win the 1976 World Series, they traded Pérez to the Montreal Expos. The move proved to be a disastrous end to a glorious era of Reds baseball. GM Bob Howsam thought that the team was good enough to withstand his departure, but instead, he appeared to be the linchpin; without Pérez, the Big Red Machine came apart.

Howsam later called it the “worst trade of his career,” and the Reds’ track record since then backs him up on that.

January 31, 1983: Tony Pérez signs with the Philadelphia Phillies

On January 31, 1983, after three years each with the Expos and Boston Red Sox, Pérez signed a one-year deal with the Phillies. Already on the team were his longtime “Big Red Machine” teammates, Pete Rose and Joe Morgan.

With an abundance of veteran players, the ’83 Phillies became known as the Wheeze Kids. Whereas the 1950 pennant-winning Phillies had been the “Whiz Kids” for their abundance of young talent, the 1983 squad was overflowing with elders. Pérez and Rose were 41, Ron Reed was 40, Morgan was 39, and Steve Carlton and Tug McGraw were 38.

Pérez had a largely unimpressive season that year, hitting .241/.316/.372 with a .687 OPS, some of the lowest numbers of his stellar career. Over 91 regular-season games, he managed just 61 hits, including 11 doubles, two triples, six home runs, 18 runs scored, and 43 RBI. He’d never play more than 80 games again.

During the Phillies’ postseason run that year, Pérez appeared in five games between the NLCS and World Series, going 3-for-11 with two strikeouts. The Phillies lost to the Baltimore Orioles, and wouldn’t see postseason play for another decade.

By 1984, Pérez was back where it all began, and spent the final three seasons of his career with the Reds. He was joined by Rose in August of that year, two of Howsam’s attempts to make everything the way it had been. The final hit of his career was a solo home run on October 4, 1986.

Pérez was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. Unsurprisingly, his plaque does not have a Phillies cap on it.

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