This Week in 1960s Baseball
Glancing Back, and Remembering Tony Perez
In the prime of his career, first baseman Tony Perez was an RBI monster for the Cincinnati Reds. He was so productive for so long and so consistently that he quite naturally found a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame following a 23-year major league career.
That career began in the 1960s with the Reds, the team that signed him in 1960. He was named the Most Valuable Player in the Pacific Coast League in 1964, hitting 34 home runs with 107 RBIs for the Reds’ AAA affiliate, the (then minor league) San Diego Padres.
In 1965, his first full season with the Reds, Perez hit .260 with 12 home runs and 47 RBIs. He batted .265 in 1966, and then had his breakout season in 1967, batting .290 with 28 doubles, 26 home runs and 102 RBIs. He appeared in his first All-Star game that season, hitting the game-winning home run off Catfish Hunter in the fifteenth inning and being named the game’s Most Valuable Player. At the end of the season, Perez finished eighth in the balloting for National League MVP.
Perez’s offensive number fell off slightly in 1968 (as was true for nearly all of baseball’s sluggers), but he put together another tremendous year in 1969, batting .294 with 31 doubles, 37 home runs and 122 runs batted in (third best in the National League behind Willie McCovey and Ron Santo). He improved on those numbers again in 1970, batting .317 with 40 home runs and 129 RBIs.
From 1967 through 1976, Perez averaged 26 home runs and 103 RBIs per season while batting a combined .286 over that decade. Following the 1976 season, Perez was traded with Will McEnaney to the Montreal Expos for Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray. In three seasons with the Expos, Perez averaged 15 home runs and 81 RBIs while batting .281. He spent three seasons with the Boston Red Sox, hitting 25 home runs with 105 RBIs in 1980. After a season in Philadelphia, Perez returned to the Reds in 1984 and spent three more seasons as a part-time performer, retiring after the 1986 season.
Perez retired with a .279 career batting average and 379 home runs. His 1,652 runs batted in put him twenty-eighth on the all-time list. His 1,192 RBIs with the Reds put him second to Johnny Bench in that category.
A five-time All-Star, Perez was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.