Tony Pérez: From Cuba to Cooperstown


Tony Pérez: From Cuba to Cooperstown



  • 326 pages
  • 7 x 10
  • Softcover
  • ISBN 978-1939710-758
  • Copyright 2018

By John Erardi

“If you think you know all there is to know about Tony Pérez, think again. John Erardi has written a book about Tony that will become the ultimate on the Reds Hall of Fame first baseman. Also, a ton of pictures, many of which are published here for the first time anywhere. You are going to love this book!” —Marty Brennaman, five-decade “Voice of the Reds” 

“Labors of love are unmistakable. This is one of them. John Erardi brings to the telling of an important baseball narrative the kind of passion and joy Tony Pérez brought to the ballfield.” —Tom Verducci, Fox Sports TV analyst, Sports Illustrated senior writer, and author of The Cubs Way

“Writing in an easy, familiar tone, and steeped in the knowledge of his subject, John Erardi delivers the story of a remarkable baseball life—one that is inextricably attached to its Cuban roots. At times, especially on the ground in Cuba, the reader feels as if he is reporting alongside the writer. This is a very good book.”—Kostya Kennedy, author of the best-selling 56 and Pete Rose: An American Dilemma

When veteran sportswriter John Erardi arrived in Cuba in search of Tony Pérez, no one there had heard of the player.
Cubans didn’t know the Big Dog? The seven-time All-Star infielder who won two World Series rings with the Big Red Machine? The only Cuban major leaguer in the Hall of Fame? He soon found out why.

First, he had to learn Pérez’s Cuban pronunciation—Tani PEER-ez—“Pérez” with an accent; second, that the history of Cubans, even now, is the history of Castro’s egomaniacal policies that gave its most talented young athletes this choice: stay home and play plantation ball, or put yourself into exile. Those who left were considered deserters; a virtual blackout of news from the states about them.

Pérez grew up in the little sugar mill town of Violeta, 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.

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.

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.



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