Tony Pérez derived more than a sense of satisfaction after his home run off Catfish Hunter broke a 15th-inning tie and propelled the National League to a 2-1 triumph over the American League in the 1967 All-Star Game. The Cuban native also felt considerable pride in earning a place alongside his fellow Latin American standouts, Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda of Puerto Rico.
“It doesn’t get any better than that for a Latin player,” said Pérez, who was in his third full Major League season. “That home run. … Clemente and Cepeda congratulating me. That’s the moment I felt I arrived.”
Here’s a look at 10 highlights of Pérez’s journey from key member of the Big Red Machine during his 23 MLB seasons all the way to the Hall of Fame:
1. Working overtime
July 11, 1967
Pérez broke a stalemate that appeared destined to continue. He struck out against Hunter in his previous at-bat to end the 12th. Hunter, then a promising 21-year-old, was coming off a 14th inning -- his fourth inning of work -- in which he retired Willie Mays, Clemente and Hank Aaron in order. With one out in the 15th, Pérez took Hunter deep.
2. Captain Comeback
Oct. 22, 1975
The Reds trailed Boston in Game 7 of the World Series, 3-0, when Pérez delivered a two-run, two-out homer off Bill Lee in the sixth inning. The Reds proceeded to win, 4-3. Some observers believe that Pérez’s clout was the biggest hit in Reds history, since it began the surge that ultimately carried them to a World Series title.
3. Catfish can’t wiggle off hook
Oct. 17, 1976
Pérez broke a 3-3 tie in the ninth inning against his All-Star rival, Hunter, by singling home Ken Griffey with two outs in Game 2 of the World Series against the Yankees. The Reds widened their Series lead to 2-0 and were halfway toward their four-game sweep.
4. Plenty of power
Oct. 16, 1975
Pérez was hitless in 15 World Series at-bats before his pair of homers off Boston starter Reggie Cleveland paced the Reds to a 6-2 victory in Game 5. His first homer forged a fourth-inning tie; the next was a three-run drive in the sixth that essentially sealed the outcome. The decision gave the Reds a 3-2 edge in the Series, which moved back to Boston for the final two games.
5. Keeping the line moving
Oct. 11, 1972
Pérez singled off Dave Giusti to follow Johnny Bench’s dramatic ninth-inning homer that forged a 3-3 tie in Game 5 of the 1972 NL Championship Series against Pittsburgh. George Foster ran for Pérez and scored the run that sent Cincinnati to the World Series on Bob Moose’s wild pitch.
6. Top-notch slugging
Oct. 4, 1986
Finishing his career where it began, with Cincinnati, Pérez hit his 379th and final home run to tie Cepeda for the most round-trippers ever hit by a Latin American player. Pérez’s third-inning drive off Ed Whitson contributed to the Reds’ 10-7 win over the Padres.
7. Pitch to him at your own risk
Aug. 11, 1970
Pérez smacked the first red-seat (upper-deck) home run in the history of Riverfront Stadium, which opened less than two months earlier. For emphasis, he made it a grand slam. Pérez connected off Mets right-hander Jim McAndrew in the second inning to open the scoring as he demonstrated his punishing strength.
8. Producing runs came naturally
May 13, 1985
Pérez drove in 90 runs or more for 11 consecutive seasons (1967-77) at the height of his Hall of Fame career. He remained capable of recording key RBIs into his later years as a player. Such was the case on this date, when he entered the game with only 11 plate appearances on the season. He also was pinch-hitting, never an easy job. But he victimized Phillies reliever Dave Rucker with a grand slam that shattered a sixth-inning tie and carried the Reds to a 7-3 win.
9. Big Red Machine, indeed
July 25, 1974
Through most of the 1970s, opponents practically had to drive a stake through the collective heart of the Reds’ lineup to subdue it. On this day, Cincinnati entered the ninth inning trailing the Giants, 13-9, before rallying for five runs -- the final two coming on Pérez’s two-out two-run homer off Randy Moffitt -- to secure a 14-13 victory.
10. Fenway tribute
Sept. 30, 1982
Pérez always will be associated primarily with the Reds, having spent 16 of his 23 big league seasons with them. But he also had a three-year stint with the Red Sox (1980-82), for whom he amassed 25 homers and 105 RBIs in 1980. He received a thunderous standing ovation from Boston fans after his final Fenway Park plate appearance, which resulted in a pinch-hit, two-run homer the opposite way to right in the eighth inning off Milwaukee’s Bob McClure.