Pascual Pérez (TRADING CARD DB)

Pascual Pérez

This article was written by Malcolm Allen

Pascual Pérez (TRADING CARD DB)“When he pitched, he looked like a spider doing aerobics,” one witness said.1 Lanky right-hander Pascual Pérez entertained fans and infuriated opponents with his spontaneous, emotional style over all or parts of 11 seasons (1980-1985, 1987-1991) with the Pirates, Braves, Expos and Yankees. Perhaps best known for getting lost on the way to his home ballpark, he overcame extreme poverty in his native Dominican Republic to earn major-league millions. Yet, while Pérez demonstrated outstanding control as a starting pitcher, his inside deliveries incited multiple benches-clearing incidents, and his career was curtailed by recurring drug problems.

Pascual Gross Pérez was born on May 17, 1957, in San Gregorio de Nigua, a municipality in the San Cristobal province, 20 miles southwest of Santo Domingo, on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. He was the oldest of Juan Pablo “Chi Cho” Gross and Agripina Pérez’s nine children. Chi Cho was a landscaper and a government clerk. “They didn’t have enough money to send me to school,” Pascual said. “But my mom and dad, they worked hard.”2 Starting at sunrise, Pascual milked cows and fed goats and chickens. Sometimes he stayed with his grandparents. His mother nicknamed him “Cutá” for the sound she made when she jumped him to sleep as a baby.3

Pascual started playing baseball without a glove or shoes.4 Initially a second baseman, he switched to pitching at age eight and threw a perfect game in his first start.5 All six Pérez brothers became professional hurlers. Mélido and Carlos also reached the majors, while Valerio, Vladimir and Darío peaked in the minors. (Ivelisse, Porfiria, and Cándida were their sisters.) “The secret is coconuts,” their father explained. “I tell them, ‘Strike out somebody with [a] coconut and [a] baseball is no problem.’”6

Pérez rooted for the San Francisco Giants and Juan Marichal. “Late at night, my mother would yell at me, ‘Shut that radio off!”’ he recalled.7 When a local preacher started the Misioneros Voluntarios baseball club, the team was often overmatched, but Pérez’s pitching led them to a national tournament in 1975. He impressed Pablo Cruz, a minor leaguer who also bird-dogged for Pittsburgh Pirates scout Howie Haak.8 Pittsburgh signed Pérez on January 27, 1976.

In Bradenton, Florida that summer, Pérez was 2-5 with a 4.66 ERA in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Unable to speak English, he struggled to order food and cried frequently because of homesickness.9 He advanced to the Single-A Western Carolinas League in 1977. The Charleston (South Carolina) Patriots were a poor team, but he went 10-5 (3.98 ERA). In 1978, Pérez tossed five shutouts to share the Single-A Carolina League lead. Following his 11-7 (2.61) showing for the Salem (Virginia) Pirates, he pitched once for the Triple-A Columbus (Ohio) Clippers.

Pérez was added to Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster. For the second straight winter, he joined the Dominican League’s Águilas Cibaeñas as a reliever. The Santiago-based club won championships both years, but he did not appear in the playoffs.

Pérez was 9-7 for the Portland (Oregon) Beavers of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 1979. When he went on the disabled list in July, his ERA was 5.94.10 For four weeks, he said he couldn’t pitch, but doctors called him a liar.11 Shortly before Pérez returned to the Dominican Republic, Hurricane David destroyed the homes of his parents and grandparents.12 Starting for the Águilas that winter, he went 8-6 (2.38), including a two-hitter in which he faced the minimum 27 batters.13

During spring training 1980, Pérez injured his left heel.14 He went 3-0 for Portland before the Pirates called him up. Since Beavers manager Jim Mahoney enjoyed kidding him, Pérez didn’t believe it at first.15 On May 7, the 6-foot-2, 162-pounder debuted against the Dodgers at Three Rivers Stadium. “Pérez’s unique delivery resembles that of a crap shooter,” the Pittsburgh Press described. “His right forearm stiffens next to his head before he whips a fastball to the plate.”16 The Pirates led, 6-2, when Pérez was relieved following a seventh-inning leadoff walk. Pérez received a no-decision because the bullpen faltered, but catcher Ed Ott said, “He went out there with the poise better than anybody I’ve ever seen [in his debut], except for Donny Robinson.”17

Pérez was returned to Portland when Bert Blyleven ended his 10-day “retirement.”18 Disappointed, he lost 10 of his next 15 decisions.19 “Pascual didn’t understand,” observed Beavers catcher Tony Peña. “I think he lost his concentration for some time.”20 Pérez rebounded to finish 12-10 and make another start for Pittsburgh.

In the Dominican League, Pérez hurled 115 2/3 innings (including playoffs) and went 2-0 (1.78) in three postseason starts. He shut out the Leones del Escogido in the finals by outdueling Mario Soto, but the Águilas lost the series.21

With Pérez returned to Portland in 1981, 40-year-old Luis Tiant was a teammate. “He talked to me about my control,” Pérez recalled. “He said, ‘As soon as you get it together, you’ll go to the major leagues.’”22 The Pirates summoned Pérez after John Candelaria tore a bicep. He beat the Phillies on May 22 for his first victory. Pérez split four decisions with a 3.00 ERA before major-leaguers went on strike in June, but he was 0-5 (4.87) after play resumed.

When Pérez hit two batsmen on August 25, vitriol from the Dodgers’ dugout caused him to grab a bat and attempt to confront Reggie Smith underneath the stands between innings.23 On August 13 against the Expos, both benches had cleared after Pérez buzzed Andre Dawson.24 In May, the Cubs’ Bill Buckner charged the mound.25 Pirates GM Pete Peterson noted that Pérez’s fastball naturally tailed and said, “The brushback pitch is part of the game. He wasn’t trying to hit anybody.”26

Pérez earned 1981-82 Dominican League Pitcher of the Year honors by going 10-3 (2.30) with a 53:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.27 The Águilas were upset in the playoffs, but he accompanied the Dominican Republic’s Caribbean Series squad to Hermosillo, Mexico. Pérez lost his first start to the eventual champions, Venezuela, but defeated the host country’s ace, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Fernando Valenzuela.

Pérez appeared to have Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster made in 1982, but he was dropped in favor of waiver claim Paul Moskau just before the flight north from spring training.28 Out of options, he cleared waivers and went 4-9 (4.82) for Portland. On June 9, he cleaned out his locker and said he was going home.29 He returned the next day but, on June 30, Pittsburgh traded him to the Atlanta Braves with a player-to-be-named-later for lefty Larry McWilliams.30 Pérez was 5-0 (1.26) for the Richmond (Virginia) Braves of the Triple-A International League before Atlanta promoted him on July 26.

On August 19, Pérez received his drivers’ license and rented a car, determined to make his first solo trip to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. He was supposed to pitch that night. Instead of Interstate 85, however, he took I-285 – a mistake that turned what should have been a 15-minute ride into a three-hour odyssey. He circled the city repeatedly while the Braves – fearing he’d been in an accident – called multiple law enforcement agencies.31 Pérez, sans wallet, stopped three times before he received clearer directions and some complimentary fuel.32 He feared for his job when he arrived near gametime and saw Phil Niekro loosening up to replace him, but he was merely fined $100. The Braves had lost 19 of their previous 21 contests to blow a nine-game NL West lead, but they won that night, and again the following evening – when Pérez earned a standing ovation for working 9 2/3 innings.33 The victories began a 13-2 tear that vaulted Atlanta back into first place. “It was Pascual Pérez getting lost,” said manager Joe Torre. “That made the players laugh and relax. And that turned us back around.”34

Atlanta clinched the division on the final day of the regular season, and Pérez notched four of the team’s last 11 wins. He started and lost Game One of the NLCS in St. Louis, and pitched well in relief in Game Three, but the Braves were swept by the Cardinals.35 That winter, Pérez went 9-3 (2.23) for the Águilas to repeat as the Dominican League’s Pitcher of the Year.36

In January 1983, Pérez was involved in a child support dispute with Maritza Montero Sánchez, the mother of five-year-old Pascual Jr.37 (The Pittsburgh Press had identified Maritza as his wife, and the mother of their infant daughter Rosanna in 1982.38 By 1984, though, Pérez was married to Marisela, with whom he had two daughters, Roxanna and Mariel.39 Marisela, a cosmetician, remained his spouse through the end of his major-league career before they divorced.)

Pérez’s 4-0 (1.74) performance in April 1983 earned him NL Pitcher of the Month honors. In May, he matched Buzz Capra’s Atlanta record by winning his ninth consecutive regular season decision.40 “What are you calling it, Pascualmania?” asked Braves’ owner Ted Turner. “He’s fun to watch. Heck, I’m out there jumping up and down too.”41 Pérez wore a custom warmup jacket with “I-285” on the back.42 After big plays, he pumped his fist or spiked the baseball, and he pointed his index finger like a pistol following strikeouts. “People might think it’s being a hot dog,” Atlanta pitching coach Bob Gibson acknowledged. “He just gets so hyper and excited. I don’t think it’s a deliberate thing.”43 Opponents were less understanding. “Guys wanted to bounce balls off Pascual’s knees, if not his skull,” said the Cardinals’ Dave LaPoint.44

Pérez was 10-2 (2.46) when he appeared in the All-Star Game at Candlestick Park. He caught Carl Yastrzemski looking at a third strike in an otherwise forgettable outing. The Braves led the NL West at the time, but they wound up three games behind the Dodgers. Pérez went 5-6 in the second half and finished 15-8 (3.43) in a career-high 215 1/3 innings.

That winter, Pérez posted a 4-1 record for the Águilas. On January 9, 1984, though, Dominican police arrested him after discovering a half-gram of cocaine in his wallet. Pérez claimed he had unknowingly accepted it from an Atlanta woman and speculated that a jealous person set him up, citing the frequent requests for money – or for bribes by police – he experienced.45 “I was not even doing drugs yet,” he maintained after developing subsequent problems.46

Under Dominican law, Pérez had no right to bail and faced a two- to five-year sentence. His request for an expedited trial was denied.47 He was convicted of a lesser charge on March 23 but remained incarcerated during the appeal, though he was permitted to work out at the Águilas’ stadium.48 Five days after Pérez was freed on April 9, he met with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in New York and was suspended until May 16.49 An arbitrator overturned the punishment at the request of the players’ union.50

When Pérez returned by working three innings in a May 2 rainout, the Braves were four games under .500.51 By June 7, Atlanta was atop the NL West following a 25-10 surge; Pérez’s record was 6-1. “I bring my ballclub good luck,” he said.52 He was 10-4 by August 12, but the San Diego Padres – his opponent that evening – had taken over the division lead by a comfortable margin. Pérez’s first pitch drilled leadoff hitter Alan Wiggins in the back. What followed, according to umpire John McSherry, “took baseball down 50 years.”53 When Pérez batted in the bottom of the second inning, San Diego’s Ed Whitson was warned for throwing behind his head. In the fourth, Whitson and Padres skipper Dick Williams were tossed after Pérez was knocked down. Two innings later, Pérez was brushed back again and Padres reliever Greg Booker and acting manager Ozzie Virgil were thrown out. Pérez was plunked by Craig Lefferts in the eighth, sparking a 10-minute brawl with seven ejections.54 Seven more were ejected after the Braves retaliated in the top of the ninth. Pérez earned Atlanta’s 5-3 victory by hurling eight innings before departing for a pinch-runner.

Pérez finished 1984 with a 14-8 (3.74) record, but Torre wouldn’t let him pitch on September 3 when he arrived late for a second straight start.55 “I felt like I was the big man on the team,” Pérez said later. “I thought… I didn’t have to face the rules.”56

At the Braves’ request, Pérez remained in the U.S. that offseason. He was fine until the weather turned cold and his wife went home. “I was left in Atlanta with a car, a lot of money and I had no family,” he recalled. “Me corrompí (I corrupted myself).”57 He drank too much and became addicted to cocaine. In spring training 1985, he was expected to reinvent himself. “[GM] John Mullen and [new manager] Eddie Haas told me I’m too good to be jumping around, so there will be a different Pascual Pérez pitching this year,” he said.58 Atlanta Daily World columnist Chico Renfroe warned Pérez that changing his successful ways could ruin his career and urged, “Be ‘man’ enough to tell Eddie Haas and [pitching coach] Johnny Sain that they’re cramping your style.”59

Twice that spring, Pérez was fined for missing practice.60 His shoulder hurt, which he attributed to not pitching winter ball, saying, “With my body, it’s not good to rest.”61 He lost his first four decisions and went on the disabled list with tendinitis. After twice failing to complete four innings, he went back on the DL. Pérez finally won in the Braves’ last game before the All-Star break. Following a July 21 defeat at Shea Stadium that dropped his record to 1-8, though, he missed the post-game flight to Montreal.62

Two days later, Pérez’s uncle Mario confirmed that the pitcher remained in New York.63 Pérez consulted a spiritualist in Queens, and the man who performed the ostensibly private invocation shared, “Pascual felt there was something demonic forcing him to do things he did not want to do, in his pitching and his personal life.”64 Pérez blamed himself for the Braves’ fifth-place standing and said, “I always like[d] to play baseball, but it’s no fun now. I have no confidence… No motion, no location, no fastball, no wins.”65 He pitched on August 4, then was suspended for missing another team flight.66 Pérez returned to the DL, went 0-5 after he was activated in September, and finished 1-13 with a 6.14 ERA.

That winter, Pérez’s 6-4 record (including postseason) helped the Águilas win another Dominican League championship. But his outstanding career with the club (45-27, 2.76 including playoffs) ended when he called in sick for a Caribbean Series contest.67 He also missed two meetings with Atlanta GM Bobby Cox.68 When Pérez pitched well in spring training, new Braves manager Chuck Tanner told him that he’d made the team on March 16. Over the next two weeks, Pérez was late for four team events and missed the Braves’ bus on a day that he was supposed to pitch.69 Later, Pérez said the team sent him to a hospital for drug rehabilitation that he didn’t complete.70

The Braves grew wary of guaranteeing Pérez’s $360,000 salary, which had already been cut by the maximum 20 percent from the previous year.71 In what was dubbed the “April Fool’s Day Massacre,” Pérez and fellow veterans Len Barker, Rick Camp, and Terry Forster were released as the club opted to go with younger, less expensive pitchers.72 “You didn’t know if he was going to pitch good, pitch bad or even pitch at all. And then, you have a time when you don’t even know where the guy is,” said Atlanta’s Rick Mahler. “I don’t think you could really count on Pascual Pérez definitely doing anything.”73

Pérez entered another rehab but left because it was too expensive. Knowing he needed to get clean, he tried a different program. “I [told] myself I have to go back and play baseball,” he explained. “Otherwise, I have nothing.”74 During the 1986-87 Dominican League campaign, Pérez joined the Santo Domingo-based Tigres del Licey and posted a 3.51 ERA in eight starts (two in the playoffs). The Montreal Expos and Oakland Athletics expressed interest, but the latter club dropped out following another no-show.75 “Pitching never was the problem,” observed Expos GM Murray Cook, who knew Pérez from the Pirates’ organization. “His only problem is himself. His only solution is himself.”76 Pérez signed a minor-league contract with Montreal on February 16, 1987.

In May, Pérez arrived in the U.S. In June, he went 6-0 with a 1.40 ERA for the Expos’ Indianapolis Indians affiliate.77 “We’ll only call him up when the medical people say he’s ready,” Cook cautioned.78 Pérez earned the Triple-A American Association’s Pitcher of the Year award by going 9-7 (3.79), with 125 strikeouts in 133 innings to rank second in the circuit. On August 19, Pérez and two of his daughters hosted Indianapolis player-coaches Luis Pujols and Nelson Norman for dinner. Pérez started to cry when his guests told him the Expos wanted him in the majors the next day.79 “I thought I’d never make it back,” he said.80

Pérez went 7-0 in September to earn NL Pitcher of the Month honors. Overall, he posted a 2.30 ERA and a 0.967 WHIP in 10 starts. After he followed a career-high 11-strikeout performance with a four-hit victory over the Mets in consecutive outings, he said, “The last time I smiled so much was for a jury.”81

In the Dominican Republic, Pérez pitched for Licey again. The Expos sent a psychologist to his home for regular visits, as they’d done in Montreal. “I’m glad for that,” he said. “It saved my life. It saved my family.”82 The team checked Pérez’s room 10 straight days in spring training. “He says, ‘What am I, a baby?’” said Expos manager Buck Rodgers. “I tell him, ‘No, I think you’re an ex-drug addict and we’re just trying to help.’”83 Montreal had several players in recovery who met regularly.84 One, Tim Raines, recalled later, “[Pérez] would always deny he had any problems. You have to know you have a problem to really fight it.”85

On April 27, 1988, Pérez hurled his first big-league shutout since 1984 – beating fellow Dominican, Mario Soto, 1-0, with a 10-strikeout, two-hitter. “Now I’m using a changeup and sinker, too,” said Pérez, who had previously relied mostly on fastballs and sliders. “I guess you can say I’m now twice the dangerous pitcher.”86 Batting against Nolan Ryan on May 7, Pérez fouled a ball off his pitching hand and landed on the DL with a broken middle finger for six weeks. When he returned, he added the “Pascual ball” – a blooper pitch – to his repertoire. Eric Davis swung so hard in a fruitless attempt to crush one of the rainbow-like deliveries on July 14 that Pérez hid his face so the Reds’ slugger wouldn’t see him laughing.87

After Pérez tossed a rain-shortened, five-inning no-hitter in Philadelphia on September 24, Phillies pitching coach Claude Osteen observed, “He keeps the ball down better than any other pitcher in the league.”88 (When Mélido Pérez held the Yankees hitless in a rain-shortened, six-inning contest 1990, he and Pascual joined Bob and Ken Forsch as the only brothers with big-league no-hitters – until Commissioner Fay Vincent’s 1991 ruling that achieving the feat in fewer than nine innings didn’t count. “It’s too late to take it away from me,” Pascual said. “I’ll keep the no-hitter in my heart.”89)

Pérez led the majors with a 0.941 WHIP in 1988 and finished 12-8 (2.44). He also pinch-ran 14 times and scored the decisive run in four Montreal victories, cementing his fan-favorite status. “Pascual not only talks to the ball, he talks to the resin bag, to the infield grass, to the planes flying overhead. Once in a while, he’ll even talk to his catcher and the manager,” said Rodgers.90 “I’d have to say he’s the most exciting pitcher in the league right now.”91

Montreal signed Pérez signed a one-year, $850,000 contract for 1989, a 500 percent raise over his incentive-heavy deal the previous year.92 In February, however, the Expos disclosed that he had entered the Palm Beach Institute in Florida after failing to comply with his strict aftercare program.93 “Even in rehab, you dream about [doing drugs], you think about it all the time,” Pérez admitted.94 On March 30, the commissioner’s office announced that he could rejoin the Expos upon completion of his 60-day treatment, but that he would be suspended for at least one year if he faltered again.95

Pérez worked seven innings of three-hit ball in Montreal’s third game of the season. “Let’s forget all the antics,” said Pittsburgh’s Bobby Bonilla. “The man knows how to pitch.”96 But Pérez lost his first seven decisions. “I’m the kind of person that if you tell me too much. I get confused,” he said during the losing streak.97 “I feel like some kind of freak, I feel everyone’s eyes on me.”98 During a brief bullpen stint, Pérez notched his first win on May 29, but he was ejected two days later for inciting a bench-clearing brawl against the Dodgers with a pitch that skimmed the bill of Mike Scioscia’s batting helmet.99 On June 6, Pérez beat the Cardinals to earn his first victory of the year as a starter. “He’s the best 2-7 pitcher in baseball,” remarked St. Louis skipper Whitey Herzog, who had asked the umpire to check one of Pérez’s baseballs.100 The Mets also had some balls examined on June 26, when Pérez struck out 11 in a victory that lifted Montreal into first place.101 In 2003, former Expos’ coach Ken Macha recalled, “Pascual used to put Afro Sheen on the ball. It was hard to catch him in the bullpen. I had to put shin guards on.”102

Montreal retained a share of the NL East lead until August 7. When Pérez was hit by a line drive during a loss to Greg Maddux that day at Wrigley Field, he angered the Cubs by one-hopping the ball into their dugout.103 “He pitches on emotion,” said Rodgers. “If I take that away from him, I might as well shoot him.”104 The Expos fizzled to fourth place and Pérez wound up 9-13 (3.31). His career-high 152 strikeouts against just 45 walks produced a NL-best 3.38:1 ratio.

Pérez became a free agent. Many were shocked in November when the New York Yankees guaranteed $5.7 million over three years to the soon-to-be 33-year-old. “I’m disappointed he ended up in a situation where there will be so many temptations, so much confronting him,” remarked Montreal VP Dave Dombrowski.105

In spring training 1990, Pérez had his long Jheri curls trimmed by teammate Luis Polonia’s fiancée to satisfy Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.106 The team assigned drug counselor Dock Ellis to keep Pérez out of trouble. “I knew where the temptations were, which cities,” Ellis explained. “I could talk his language. I don’t mean Spanish.”107 On April 13, Pérez shut out the Rangers for five innings at Yankee Stadium to win his AL debut. After losing, 1-0, in Cleveland on an unearned run, his third outing lasted just three frames because of a strained shoulder muscle. Following an abbreviated rehabilitation start in June, the injury was diagnosed as irritation in the joint lining. Pérez underwent season-ending surgery in August.108

In 1991, Pérez arrived at Yankees’ camp wearing “eight chains around his neck, five rings, a bracelet the size of a turtle and a watch.”109 His fastball was clocked at 94 mph in his final tune-up for his season debut, in which he beat the Angels with six shutout innings on May 14.110 Pérez’s fourth appearance lasted just one batter, however, and he returned to the DL with shoulder stiffness. From August 16 through the end of the season, he started 10 times; he finished the year with a 2-4 record and an encouraging 3.18 ERA. “We’ve finally got him back to the point where he can give us quality innings,” said New York skipper Stump Merrill, shortly before he was fired.111 The Yankees wanted Pérez to pitch winter ball, but he did not. Neither GM Gene Michael nor incoming manager Buck Showalter could reach him regarding his throwing program.112

In January, the Yankees acquired Mélido Pérez in a trade. Pascual had been late for the previous two spring trainings because of a paternity suit that complicated his exit visa.113 But he arrived early in 1992, in a newly purchased chauffeured stretch limousine that he joked would soon bear vanity license plates reading “NO VISA” or “ON TIME.”114 Pérez had dropped 12 pounds from his already slender frame.115 As teammate Steve Howe – another recovering addict – waited to provide urine samples with Pérez on March 3, he recalled, “I knew something was wrong with him. I told Mélido, just as a friend, to make sure everything was OK with his brother.”116 The following evening, Pascual’s agent told him that he’d been suspended for the season because of a failed drug test.117

Pérez left camp before the news broke, and Mélido said, “We’re very different people. We don’t live together, we don’t hang together. But I feel sorry for him. I love him.”118 When columnist Jon Heyman contacted him, Pascual – in utterances that “fluctuated between anger, hurt and resentment” – accused the commissioner’s office of mixing up his urine, claimed racism was a factor, and blamed the Yankees for wanting him gone.119

Nineteen months later, Moisés Alou reported from the Dominican League, “[Pérez] was given the biggest ovation on Opening Day when the players were brought onto the field. He was crying.”120 Although Pérez’s suspension was for one year, seeking reinstatement was a prerequisite for him to pitch professionally.121 Another two years passed before Commissioner Bud Selig allowed Pascual to join his brothers Mélido, Carlos, and Vladimir Pérez on the Tigres del Licey. Pérez affirmed his goal of returning to the majors and said, “Most important, I want to prove that a man can change his life.”122 He made four appearances in the 1995-96 playoffs totaling three innings.

“I love this game. I’ll pitch anywhere,” Pérez said when he surfaced in the Chinese Professional Baseball League in 1996. “If I do well and stand out here I can back to the major league[s], or maybe Japan.”123 Following a promising 4-1 (1.80) showing for the Pingtung, Taiwan-based China Times Eagles, however, Pérez, 39, completed his professional baseball career by going 0-1 in four starts that winter for Licey.

By 2012, Pérez had developed severe kidney problems. He had difficulty walking, could no longer move his right arm, and needed dialysis treatments three times per week.124 He lived on his major-league pension and assistance provided by the governor of the San Cristóbal province, former big-leaguer Raúl Mondesí. Pérez, a divorced father of five, lived alone in San Gregorio de Nigua, where his brother Mélido had been elected mayor. Pascual’s ex-wife Maritza checked in on him frequently. He was watching Dominican League baseball on television when she left him on the evening of October 31, 2012.125 Before she returned in the morning, he had been murdered. Pérez was 55. Hundreds of mourners attended his burial in San Gregorio de Nigua’s municipal cemetery.126

Within days, a suspect confessed to a plot to steal Pérez’s pension money. Thieves smashed a window, entered his second-floor bedroom, and took a small amount of cash, a trophy, cellphones, clothes, and cologne. When Pérez woke up and recognized one of the intruders as a childhood friend who still ran errands for him, he was assaulted with a machete and a hammer.127 A fracture at the base of Pérez’s skull was the cause of death.128 Two men received 30-year prison sentences for the murder in March 2014.129



This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Keith Thursby and fact-checked by Mark Sternman.



In addition to sources cited in the notes, the author consulted, and

Pascual Pérez’s Dominican League statistics from (subscription service)



1 Furman Bisher, “‘Murphy Tithes Again,’ Unlikely to Threaten Pérez Headlines,” The Sporting News, May 7, 1984: 9.

2 Michael Martínez, “With Pérez Brothers, Yanks Attract Opposites,” New York Times, March 5, 1992: B23.

3 Cuqui Córdova, “Pascual-Cutá-Pérez,” Listin Diario (Dominican Republic), November 16, 2013,érez (last accessed March 24, 2021).

4 Martínez, “With Pérez Brothers, Yanks Attract Opposites.”

5 Lisa Fitterman, “Pascual Just Wants to Play,” (Montreal) Gazette, May 28, 1988: H1.

6 Frank Lidz, “Wild and Crazy Hombres,” Sports Illustrated, January 8, 1990: 40.

7 Jack Wilkinson, “The Odd Couple,” Atlanta Constitution, July 24, 1983: 4D.

8 Córdova, “Pascual-Cutá-Pérez.”

9 Fitterman, “Pascual Just Wants to Play.”

10 “Batting and Pitching Records” The Sporting News, August 11, 1979: 41.

11 Fitterman, “Pascual Just Wants to Play.”

12 Fitterman, “Pascual Just Wants to Play.”

13 “Boletin Águilas,” December 12, 2013,Águilas_12.html (last accessed March 24, 2021).

14 John Clayton, “Newest Buc Just Like One of the Fam-A-Lee,” Pittsburgh Press, May 8, 1980: 35.

15 Marino Parascenzo, “Tanner Impressed by Pérez’s Debut,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 8, 1980: 9.

16 Clayton, “Newest Buc Just Like One of the Fam-A-Lee.”

17 Clayton, “Newest Buc Just Like One of the Fam-A-Lee.”

18 “Garner Scraps His Way onto Bat Leader List,” The Sporting News, May 31, 1980: 25.

19 “Batting and Pitching Leaders,” The Sporting News, August 23, 1980: 37.

20 Charley Feeney, “Bucs Give Strong Charge by ‘Dominican Connection’,” The Sporting News, June 20, 1981: 31.

21 Wilkinson, “The Odd Couple.”

22 Dan Donovan, “Buc Rookie Pérez Wins 3-1 Laugher,” Pittsburgh Press, May 23, 1981: 8.

23 Mark Heisler, “Dodgers Go Out of Sight for a Fight,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 1981: B1.

24 Bob Smizik, “Expos Cruz-ify Tiant’s Gallant Effort,” Pittsburgh Press, August 14, 1981: 25.

25 Russ Franke, “Pérez, Peña Pirates’ Powerful Pair,” Pittsburgh Press, May 28, 1981: 29.

26 “After 16-6 Loss, Pirates Need ‘Fighting Spirit’,” Ithaca (New York) Journal, August 27, 1981: 17.

27 Pérez was the recipient of the Producciones Apolo award, but Mario Soto, 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA for the Leones del Escogido, was named the Dominican League’s 1981-82 Pitcher of the Year by Premios Shell.

28 Russ Franke, “Pirates Add Moskau to Uncertain Pitching Staff,” Pittsburgh Press, April 4, 1982: D4.

29 “Pacific Coast League,” The Sporting News, June 28, 1982: 45.

30 In September, Atlanta acquired minor-league infielder Carlos Rios to complete the deal.

31 Tim Tucker, “And Starting for the Braves…Hey, Where is Pérez?” Atlanta Constitution, August 20,1982: 1A.

32 Claire Smith, “Pérez’s Trek to Park Broke Tension: Braves Went on 15-Win Tear,” Hartford (Connecticut) Courant, October 8, 1982: C1A.

33 Tim Tucker, “Pérez, Braves on Road Back,” Atlanta Constitution, August 21, 1982: 1C.

34 Tim Tucker, “Pérez Turned Braves Around on I-285,” Atlanta Constitution, August 29, 1982: 12C.

35 Phil Niekro was Atlanta’s original Game One starter, but his effort was rained out in the fifth inning, forcing the contest to be replayed from the beginning.

36 In 1982-83, Pérez won both the Premios Shell and Producciones Apolo versions of the award.

37 “Pérez Must Pay Child Support,” Atlanta Constitution, January 19,1983: 4D.

38 Russ Franke, “Pirate Notes,” Pittsburgh Press, February 25, 1982: 30.

39 Geoffrey Nordhoff, “Atlanta Braves’ Pitcher Pascual Pérez Returned to the United States,” United Press International, April 11, 1984, (last accessed February 12, 2022).

40 Wilkinson, “The Odd Couple.”

41 Chris Mortensen, “Turner’s Caught Up in Braves’ Success,” Atlanta Constitution, May 10, 1983: 1D.

42 Wilkinson, “The Odd Couple.”

43 Chris Mortensen, “Pérez Draws Mixed Reviews on Flair for Dramatics,” Atlanta Constitution, August 3, 1983: 8D.

44 Alan M. Klein, Sugarball, (Yale University Press: New Haven, Connecticut, 1991): 90.

45 “I’m Innocent Says Braves’ Pérez,” Atlanta Daily World, January 15, 1984: 8.

46 Fitterman, “Pascual Just Wants to Play.”

47 “Pascual Pérez Asks Braves to ‘Save Me a Spot on the Roster,’” Atlanta Constitution, March 21, 1984: 4D.

48 “Pérez Starts ‘Work-Release’ Program,” Atlanta Constitution, April 4, 1984: 1D.

49 “Pascual Pérez Meets with Kuhn, Decision Due,” Los Angeles Times, April 15, 1984: B9.

50 “Pérez is Told He Can Play; Kuhn Fumes,” Washington Post, April 29, 1984: D2.

51 Gerry Fraley, “Rain Ruins Pérez’s Debut,” Atlanta Constitution, May 3, 1984: 1D.

52 Gerry Fraley, “Pérez Casts Striking Spell Over Phillies in 5-0 Win,” Atlanta Constitution, July 7, 1984: 1C.

53 Chris Mortensen, “McSherry Calls Brawls the Worst He Has Ever Seen,” Atlanta Constitution, August 13, 1984: 3D.

54 “Inning-by-Inning,” Los Angeles Times, August 14, 1984: C8.

55 Gerry Fraley, “Times Change: Pérez’ Season Becomes ‘Ordeal’,” Atlanta Constitution, September 7, 1984: 1D.

56 Sam Smith, “Pérez Cleans Up His Act,” Ottawa Citizen, July 29,1987: C1.

57 Fitterman, “Pascual Just Wants to Play.”

58 Marty York, “Aikens Predicts a Royal Season,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), February 2, 1985: S8.

59 Chico Renfro (sic), “Sports of the World,” Atlanta Daily World, April 18, 1985: 6.

60 Bill Conlin, “Philups,” Philadelphia Daily News, April 11, 1985: 82.

61 Gerry Fraley, “Pérez’s Problems a Test for Tanner,” The Sporting News, March 17, 1986: 35.

62 Gerry Fraley, “Braves’ Pérez Goes AWOL in New York,” Atlanta Constitution, July 22, 1985: 1D.

63 “Pérez in N.Y. Hotel, Braves Told,” Baltimore Sun, July 24, 1985: 3G.

64 Bud Shaw, “Depressed Pérez Saw Spiritualist,” Atlanta Constitution, July 25, 1985.

65 Tim Tucker, “Pérez Back in Atlanta; Says, ‘I Need a Break’,” Atlanta Constitution, July 25, 1985: 1A.

66 “Newswire,” Los Angeles Times, August 10, 1985: 4.

67 Tim Burke, “Expos Need Pitching Badly, But Pérez Still a Question Mark,” Gazette, June 16, 1987: B4.

68 Bob Elliot, “Agent for McReynolds Warms Hearts of Managers,” Citizen (Ottawa, Ontario), February 20, 1986: C2.

69 Richard Justice, “Spring Baseball: New Hope, False Starts,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 7, 1986: 57.

70 Fitterman, “Pascual Just Wants to Play.”

71 “Braves,” The Sporting News, January 27, 1986: 40.

72 Gerry Fraley, “No Joke; Braves’ Stage April Fools’ Massacre,” The Sporting News, April 14, 1986: 15.

73 Bruce Schoenfeld, “Has Anyone Seen Pascual Pérez?” Hartford Courant, May 10, 1986: AC1.

74 Fitterman, “Pascual Just Wants to Play.”

75 Chico Renfroe, “Sports of the World,” Atlanta Daily World, February 19, 1987: 7.

76 Paul Carbray, “Elusive Pérez Proves Pitching Isn’t Problem,” Gazette (Montreal), May 7, 1987: D2.

77 Smith, “Pérez Cleans Up His Act.”

78 Tim Burke, “Expos Need Pitching Badly, But Pérez Still a Question Mark,” Gazette, June 16, 1987: B4.

79 Brian Kappler, “Clean Pérez Has Come Long Way,” Gazette, August 21, 1987: B11.

80 Don Campbell, “Doubting Pérez Returns to Major Leagues,” Ottawa Citizen, August 21, 1987: B2.

81 “Insiders Say,” The Sporting News, October 5, 1987: 10.

82 Ian MacDonald, “With Problems Solved, Pérez Ready to Win 17,” The Sporting News, March 21, 1988: 37.

83 Jon Heyman, “The $5.7 Million Gamble,” Newsday (New York, New York), April 8, 1990: E6.

84 Claire Smith, “Pérez Had Compassion for Nixon’s Predicament,” New York Times, September 18, 1991: B7.

85 Ian MacDonald, “Expos Miss a ‘Quality Guy in the Clubhouse’,” The Sporting News, March 6, 1989: 18.

86 “Expos,” The Sporting News, April 18, 1988: 13.

87 Terry Scott, “Frenetic Pérez Energizes Expos,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), July 220, 1988: A18.

88 “Expos Pérez Doesn’t Mind Rain-Shrunken No-Hitter,” Baltimore Sun, September 26, 1988: 9C.

89 Jack O’Connell, “Dugout Chatter,” The Sporting News, September 16, 1991: 24.

90 Stan Isle, “Color Braves Blue for Second-Class Feeling,” The Sporting News, September 12, 1988: 6.

91 Scott, “Frenetic Pérez Energizes Expos.”

92 Stan Isle, “In Sky Dome, Jays’ Gate to Go Through Roof,” The Sporting News, February 13, 1989: 5.

93 “Expos’ Pascual Pérez in Drug Rehabilitation,” Toronto Star, February 18, 1989: C6.

94 Ian MacDonald, “Expos Miss a ‘Quality Guy in the Clubhouse,’” The Sporting News, March 6, 1989: 18.

95 Robes Patton, “Expos Pérez Cleared, May Join Rotation,” Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), March 31, 1989: 1C.

96 “Pascual Pérez Proves He Still Knows How to Pitch,” Vancouver Sun, April 7, 1989: C2.

97 Paul Carbray, “Depressed Pérez Wants to be Alone After Battering by Braves,” Gazette, May 7, 1989: C3.

98 Paul Carbray, “Pérez Pressuring Himself,” Gazette, May 8, 1989: D2.

99 Jeff Blair, “Dodgers Score TKO Over Expos Bullpen,” Gazette, June 1, 1989: C1.

100 “Cardinals’ Manager Impressed with Expos’ New Pascual Pérez,” Toronto Star, June 7, 1989: E2.

101 Tom Verducci, “Eviction Notice for Mets,” Newsday (New York, New York), June 27, 1989: 118.

102 Mark Saxon, “Ex-Athletic Appier Accused by Seattle of Doctoring Ball,” Oakland Tribune, April 12, 2003: 1.

103 Rod Beaton, “Pérez’ Wild Dugout Pitch Angers Cubs,” USA Today, August 8, 1989: 5C.

104 Carbray, “Depressed Pérez Wants to be Alone After Battering by Braves.”

105 Jon Heyman, “The $5.7 Million Gamble,” Newsday, April 8, 1990: E6.

106 Heyman, “The $5.7 Million Gamble.”

107 Vic Siegel, “Rocked by Reggie,” Daily News (New York, New York), August 1,1993: 362.

108 “Yankees Pitcher Pascual Pérez to Undergo Shoulder Surgery,” Los Angeles Times, August 6, 1990: P10.

109 Jack O’Connell, “Pérez Reports to Camp Only 12 Days Tardy,” Hartford Courant, March 5, 1991: E5E.

110 Tom Verducci, “Pérez Life of the Party Again,” Newsday, May 13, 1991: 102.

111 Neil Best, “Pérez a Ray of Sunshine for 1992,” Newsday, October 4, 1991: 194.

112 Jon Heyman, “The Pérez Suspension,” Newsday, March 7, 1992: 90.

113 “Another Rite of Spring: Pascual Pérez Shows Up,” St Petersburg Times, March 5, 1991: 4C.

114 Jack O’Connell, “In Training” The Sporting News, March 9, 1992: 19.

115 Jack O’Connell, “Pascual Pérez Banned for One Year,” Los Angeles Times, March 7, 1992: SDC9.

116 Jeff Bradley, “Howe Doesn’t Buy Pérez’s Claim,” Calgary Herald, March 10, 1992: C3.

117 Michael Farber, “Ex-Expo Dombrowski Praises Duquette,” Gazette, March 9, 1992: C5.

118 Jack O’Connell, “Pascual Pérez Banned for One Year,” Los Angeles Times, March 7, 1992: SDC9.

119 Jon Heyman, “Pérez Alleges Racism, Then Rips into Yankees,” Newsday, March 9, 1992: 98.

120 “Expos to Freeze Wages of Front Office Workers,” Gazette, November 5, 1993: D10.

121 Michael Martinez, “Pascual Pérez in Peril After Report of Failed Drug Test,” New York Times, March 6, 1992: B9.

122 “White Sox Deal Raines to Yankees,” Sacramento Bee, December 29, 1995: E2.

123 “Far East Field of Dreams,” Jerusalem Post, April 16, 19996: A8.

124 “Matan a Cuta Pérez Ex Lanzador de Grandes Ligas,” El Nacional, November 1, 2012,érez-ex-lanzadorde-grandes-ligas/ (last accessed April 2, 2021).

125 “Several Arrests in Death of Pascual ‘Cuta’ Pérez,” Diario Libre, November 2, 2012,érez-JODL358203 (last accessed March 31, 2021).

126 Ezequiel Abiu Lopez, “Ex-Pirates Pitcher Killed in Robbery in the Dominican,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 2, 2012: D6.

127 “Acusado Admite Participó en Muerte de Cutá,” El Nacional (Dominican Republic), November 3, 2012, (last accessed March 31, 2021).

128 Dionisio Soldevila, “Asesinan a Ex Pitcher de G.L. Pascual Pérez,”–pascual-Pérez/c-40142346,, November 2012, (last accessed April 2, 2021).

129 Carlos Corporán, “Condenan a 30 Años Asesinos de Ex Peletero Cuta Pérez,” Cuentas Claras Digital, March 27, 2014,érez (last accessed April 2, 2021).

Full Name

Pascual Gross Perez


May 17, 1957 at San Cristobal, San Cristobal (D.R.)


November 1, 2012 at San Gregorio de Nigua, San Cristobal (D.R.)

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