Endearing and undefended confusion were part of the character of Pascual Perez, the former big league pitcher murdered last week during an apparent home invasion in his native Dominican Republic. He was 55.
"I'm the oldest of five twin brothers," he once told me. In reality—a state with which Pascual had only a passing acquaintance—there were six Perez boys, all of whom were pitchers and three of whom played in the majors, though none with the Twins.
Pascual, a crowd-pleasing, opposition-infuriating showman, performed for four teams over 11 seasons. He kept base runners close with through-the-legs pickoff moves. He finished off strikeout victims by firing imaginary finger guns and blowing away the smoke. He tormented sluggers with tantalizing eephus pitches that seemed to start near the Liberty Bell, circle the Tokyo Tower, and arrive in the strike zone by way of the Bay of Fundy.
Before his career imploded 20 years ago in a cloud of cocaine and alcohol, the tall, slim righthander won 67 games, threw a five-inning no-hitter, appeared in the 1983 NL All-Star Game and made a name for himself—Perimeter Perez—by missing a start after getting lost driving to his home ballpark. On Aug. 19, 1982, Perez set off for Fulton County Stadium on I-285, the highway that rings Atlanta. A ride that should have lasted 15 minutes took two hours, prompting a fine from Braves manager Joe Torre and an elliptical explanation.
"There's a big radio, and the merengue music was real loud," Perez—who pitched 9 2/3 innings of one-run ball the next day in his makeup start—told me for a 1990 SI story. "I forgot my wallet, so I have no money and no license. I pass around the city two times easy, but the car so hot, I stop at a gas station. I ask for $10 worth, and the guy say, 'You Pascual Perez? People been waiting for you at the stadium.' I'm 20 minutes away, he tell me. I feel like a heart attack. I think I get fired, maybe. Boss Torre say he fine me $100. I say, 'What you say, $100?' He smile, say, 'Ciento pesos.' I smile. Ciento pesos worth only 10 bucks."
THEY SAID IT
"I don't know, I don't care, I just hope they suck."
MARK CUBAN, Mavericks owner, when asked to evaluate the new-look Lakers.
GREG WAHL-STEPHENS/AP (CUBAN)
HEINZ KLUETMEIER (PEREZ)