Perez earned his place outside GABP

By Tom Usher -

Reds Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson admitted when he made a mistake.

And when he talked about it, his white, bushy eyebrows seemed to take flight.

Anderson and then Reds general manager Bob Howsam agreed to trade the heart and soul of the Big Red Machine Tony Perez to Montreal with Will McEnaney for pitchers Woody Fryman and Dale Murray.

The deal went down on Dec. 16, 1976, close to two months after the Reds had won their second straight World Championship.

And, with that move, the Big Red Machine’s glory days were over.

“Me and Howsam have talked about it,” Anderson told me in an interview 15 years ago, before he passed away in 2010. “Oooooh, that was a bad mistake. I don’t think you can rank it the No. 1 mistake of baseball, but if you want to rank it No. 2, that’s OK. …. I never knew until Tony Perez left that he was the number one leader.”

That’s one reason why if people want to build statues to baseball players, Perez deserves one as much as anyone.

The Perez statue was unveiled Saturday outside Great American Ball Park.

His statue is the seventh at GABP after the statues of Joe Nuxhall, Ernie Lombardi, Frank Robinson, Ted Kluszewski, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan.

As we know now, Perez was the leader of the Big Red Machine. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.

On the field, the personable first baseman was a seven-time All-Star and produced seven straight years of over 100 RBI. He had 11 straight seasons (1967-77) of racking up at least 90 RBI in a year.

He finished his career with a .279 average, 379 home runs and 1,652 RBI. In 1970, he hit .317 with 40 home runs and 129 RBI.

Perez was known as the player all his teammates wanted at the plate with the game on the line.

According to, he batted .300 in “late and close” situations for his career. With runners in scoring position, he hit .284 with 108 home runs and had 1,237 RBI.

But just as valuable as his run producing, was the way he could deliver one-liners in the clubhouse to shrink the mega-egos of fellow superstars Pete Rose, Bench and Morgan.

“Morgan had just been traded over here and he was walking around with his head down,” Bench said on Saturday. “Tony comes up to him and says, ‘Joe, you better watch it. You’re going to trip over your lip.’ ”

In John Erardi’s book, “Big Red Dynasty, Rose said, “I don’t think Howsam understood Tony’s value. I know he did as a player, but not as a leader. … Tony was a pretty good stabilizer between me and Bench and Morgan, too. He kept us from getting big-headed. In a quiet way, Tony’s the biggest agitator you ever seen.”

Anderson added in the same book, “Tony Perez was a great leader who didn’t do it with a big mouth. He had a way. But I never knew that. That’s how stupid I was.”

Now, everyone who ever visits the GABP will know the legend of Perez.

Locos ranked No. 11

The final rankings are in for the summer college baseball teams around the country.

College Summer Baseball ranked the Lima Locos No. 11 in the nation.

That’s certainly an honor for the Locos, but they deserved better.

All they did was go 28-7 during the regular season, then 4-1 in the postseason. They won the Great Lakes Collegiate League regular-season title and postseason playoff championship.

That deserves a spot in the national top 10.

Three of the top 10 teams were from the Cape Cod League. The Cape landed No. 2 Yarmouth-Dennis (28-24), No. 5 Orleans (34-15) and No. 6 Hayannis Harbor (29-21).

Two of the top 10 were from the Northwoods League, including the No. 1 team the Kenosha (Wisc.) Kingfish (52-24).

The Prospect League landed No. 9, the Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex (47-17).

By Tom Usher

Reach Tom Usher at or on Twitter at @Lima_Usher.

Reach Tom Usher at or on Twitter at @Lima_Usher.

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