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Backup Perez rose to occasion in '99 NLCS

Former backstop rose to occasion, lifted Braves to World Series
September 21, 2018

ATLANTA -- Eddie Perez will always best be known for being Greg Maddux's primary catcher. But over the years, the always jovial Perez will often playfully introduce himself as the 1999 National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player.• Eddie Perez's career statsNearly 20 years later, Perez's ascension to unlikely postseason

ATLANTA -- Eddie Perez will always best be known for being Greg Maddux's primary catcher. But over the years, the always jovial Perez will often playfully introduce himself as the 1999 National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player.
Eddie Perez's career stats
Nearly 20 years later, Perez's ascension to unlikely postseason hero remains a feel-good story. A career backup catcher, he tallied at least 200 at-bats just twice during an 11-season Major League career that generated a .253 batting average and 40 home runs -- 11 of which were hit as he neared retirement with the 2003 Brewers.
But many Braves fans will remember their team's most recent trip to the World Series was fueled by the unexpected offensive surge Perez enjoyed as the Braves beat the Mets in the 1999 NLCS. He hit .500 (10-for-20) with two homers, each of which proved to be a game-winning hit.
Each team's most unlikely postseason hero
"I remember we were celebrating and Javy [Lopez] said to me, 'Roommate, you're the MVP,'" Perez said. "I wasn't even thinking that was possible. All I wanted to do was beat the Mets and get to the World Series. I had no idea what my batting average was or any of that."
It was somewhat fitting that an unexpected hero would emerge near the end of a season during which the Braves relied on their depth to overcome adversity. Sure, Chipper Jones earned the NL MVP Award by punctuating a strong second half with a dominant September against the Mets. But this was a team that lost first baseman Andres Galarraga to a preseason cancer diagnosis and then saw Perez become the primary catcher in July after Lopez tore his right anterior cruciate ligament.
"Having the chance to be in there playing and having the chance to do something for the team was all I really wanted," Perez said. "I was happy the team didn't decide to try to get another catcher after Javy got hurt."
While the best-of-seven NLCS was decided when Andruw Jones drew a bases-loaded walk from Kenny Rogers in the 11th inning of Game 6, Perez was the one who got the Braves rolling with the decisive home run he hit in the sixth inning of a 4-2 Game 1 victory at Turner Field. The solo shot was hit off Pat Mahomes, who is now better known as the father of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
After the Braves fell behind in Game 2, Brian Jordan energized the home crowd with a game-tying home run he hit in the sixth against Rogers. Two batters later, Perez gave the Braves the lead by hitting another two-run shot against the Mets left-hander.
"That was a big hit for me and the team," Perez said. "I got the chance right there to do something. As I came to the plate, I didn't know if they'd take Rogers out. I just knew I needed to be aggressive. I knew he was going to try to throw a first-pitch strike. So, I knew I was going to swing at the first pitch."
Perez also played a significant role in the crazy Game 6 win. He chased Al Leiter with a two-run single that capped Atlanta's five-run first inning. After the Mets took an 8-7 lead in the top of the eighth, Perez singled in the bottom half and was replaced by pinch-runner Otis Nixon. Nixon scored on Brian Hunter's game-tying single.
"I felt so good then," Perez said. "I remember everything about that series."
Perez served on Atlanta's coaching staff from 2007-17, but was reassigned to work as a special assistant this season. His new role provides him an opportunity to help mold some of the players within Atlanta's talent-rich farm system.
"I've enjoyed what I'm doing," Perez said. "I just want to be a part of this organization. I keep telling everybody this will be a special year for the Braves. Hopefully, one of the catchers will have a good postseason and get an MVP Award."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.