The final post!
July 11, 1967
Ed. note: I lost a 600 word draft of this story that was almost completely written and I don't have the time to re-write from scratch. Imagine a story that was really, really good and had a lot of cool, chilled-out adjectives and captured the essence of Tony Perez perfectly.
Tony Perez began the ascent to his peak years ('68--'73) in 1967 and was elected to his first All Star Game. The NL squad that year was a walking Cooperstown exhibition, in which 13 of 26 players (including TP himself) were future Hall of Famers. Atanasio Perez would have been a peripheral player on either side, sharing the bench with teammates Rose and Robinson. Perez played mostly third base in '67 and was not subbed in until the Bottom of the 10th.
The 15th inning started sometime around dinnertime/ after-dinner smoking time on the East Coast. Perez would not have gotten much attention, from anyone still tuned to Anaheim, as a candidate to bring the marathon to an end. The relatively unknown upstart, who hailed from Camaguey, Cuba and spoke halting English, had come in to replaced Dick Allen - a well-established star. Perez had stuck out against Hunter his first time to the plate in extras. But in his second-ever All Star plate appearance, he crushed a pitch from Catfish Hunter into deep left field with one out in what proved to be the game-winner.
The '67 game went 3 hours and 40 minutes and was the longest All Star Game by innings until the 2008 affair at Yankee Stadium tied that mark. Perez was awarded the MVP. It was an emphatic sign of things to come. The Reds had the good sense to keep Perez around, at least until he got his second ring. They brought him back again in '84 and he had a superb season at Age 43. His third time around with the Reds, of course, was not a charm. But let's not dwell on .500 seasons until Friday comes.