Major League Baseball has lost a talented former pitcher and clown prince who lived an enigmatic and often troubled life. Pascual Perez, an 11-year veteran and an All-Star with the Atlanta Braves in 1983, was murdered at his home in the Dominican Republic during a robbery on Wednesday night.
Perez, a father of five children whose career was cut short by drugs, along with other erratic and mysterious behavior, was 55 years old.
Some of the reported details of Perez's death are gruesome, but they also have yet to be confirmed. One report says robbers waited for Perez, a terminally-ill liver patient who was receiving dialysis, to receive his $2,000 major-league pension check before surprising him at his home.
Such an unhappy ending to a life that, at times, seemed to be a lot of fun.
A brother to Melido Perez and Carlos Perez, both of whom also had substantial major-league careers, Pascual Perez could follow a 95 mph fastball with a sleepy eephus pitch — just for fun. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 162 pounds, Perez was all arms and legs on the mound with a Jheri curl mullet hairdo on top. His starts were must-see TV in the Superstation TBS days. A teammate of Dale Murphy and Bob Horner on the very good Braves teams of the early 1980s, Perez made an All-Star appearance at Comiskey Park in 1983 but experienced only fleeting success in the majors. He had a 3.44 ERA (better than average for his times) with 822 strikeouts in 193 career starts. He had a drug problem that cost him some jobs and other physical problems with his shoulder and he also had a reputation for ... losing concentration.
During his first season with the Braves in 1982, Perez missed a start in August because, he told manager Joe Torre, he got lost driving to Fulton County Stadium on Atlanta's I-285, an expressway that loops the city. Someone even published a poster commemorating the event.
Perez also pitched with the Pirates, Expos and Yankees. New York had the darnedest luck locating him. In a 1993 New York Times story, reporter Joe Sexton tried to find what was up with Perez, who had walked out on the Yankees two years earlier and had disappeared in the Dominican. Yankees executive Gene Michael concluded that Pascual simply liked to lose himself:
Santo Domingo is a city of merengue and misery, guns and art, drugs and laughter, innocence and intrigue. Somewhere in it is Perez, reportedly rotating among outposts at four hotels, surfacing at one gambling casino or another, living out his peculiar existence as both celebrity and shadow.
"People have blamed us for not keeping track of Pascual during the off season," Gene Michael, the general manager of the Yankees, said in New York recently. "But shoot, our trainer called him 60 times after the 1991 season. He never answered, never returned a call. He gets down there and doesn't come back. It's a shame. It's a tragedy."
And that's 20 years ago. What happened to Perez since? We're still finding out the details. We already don't like some of the answers.
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