Remembering Pascual Perez, the Brave who made us smile

Pascual Perez delivers in Philly in 1984. He could throw that fastball. (AP photo)

Pascual Perez delivers in Philadelphia in 1984. He could really throw that fastball. (AP photo)

He wasn’t the best Brave (although for 2 1/2 seasons he was pretty darn good), and he wasn’t, goodness knows, the most reliable, but Pascual Perez was the one most apt to make us smile. His enduring gift was that he, without appearing to try, made people happy. He made us happy when he ran from the dugout to the mound, happy when he pitched and won, happy that day in 1982 when he got on I-285 and just kept going.

That was the year a lot of folks fell in love with the local nine, and not just those who lived within spitting distance of Pascual’s Perimeter. It was a time when much of the U.S. first got cable, and the SuperStation staple began the season by winning 13 in a row. Then the Braves started losing, and folks from Montgomery to Missoula started agonizing for this suddenly beset crew, and lo and behold …

Pascual Perez, recently acquired from Pittsburgh and just up from Richmond, was scheduled to start on a Thursday night in August. His new team had lost 19 of 21 to fall four games behind the hated Dodgers. Only just outfitted with a driver’s license, Perez went literally in circles, stopping only because he was almost out of gas. A guy at the service station recognized him and spotted him a splash of petrol — Pascual had forgotten his wallet, too — and by the time he arrived at the old stadium Phil Niekro was on the mound in his stead.

The tension broken by Pascual’s misadventure, the Braves won 13 of the next 15 to reclaim first place. Come the season’s final week, the wayfarer started twice — both games were on the road, so no worries about Atlanta navigation — and won both times to keep the Braves a game in front of L.A., which is exactly where they finished.

Turned out the middling motorist could really pitch. He threw hard and wasn’t afraid to work inside. (The epic 1984 brawl with San Diego was a result of Perez’s plunking of Alan Wiggins and the Padres’ repeated attempts — darned if the agile target didn’t keep ducking out of the way — to nail him in retaliation.) He was 15-8 in 1983, the year of the lost-and-never-regained lead, and 14-8 in ‘84, Joe Torre’s final run as manager.

The Braves fired Torre and replaced him with the overmatched Eddie Haas, who lasted 121 games and succeeded only in breaking a good pitcher’s spirit. Perez’s season had started late because of his arrest on drug charges in the Dominican Republic, and the Braves and Haas set about to rein in his excesses. Being honest, Perez said he’d try to comply but wasn’t sure he could.

By midsummer, the joy was gone. He’d hurt his shoulder, which didn’t help. The eyes that blazed like searchlights from beneath his two-sizes-too-big cap, the jerk of the head toward left field whenever he struck somebody out, the incessant attempts to bunt for a hit … all that went away. The Braves took a manchild and tried to make him just a man, and all they had left was a sad and confused pitcher who went 1-13.

But let’s not remember Pascual Gross Perez, who was killed in an apparent armed robbery in the Dominican Republic, as the broken pitcher who exited this city after being released on April Fool’s Day 1986. Better to recall those happier days, when he helped the Braves win by pitching and helped save a season by, of all things, getting lost. Better to reflect on all the smiles he gave us, and to note that the world’s sunniest smile belonged, fittingly enough, to Pascual himself.

Further viewing: Here’s a link to MLB.com’s video recount of that Perez-inspired Braves-Padres brawl.

By Mark Bradley

149 comments Add your comment

[...] Still further reading: Remembering Pascual Perez, the Brave who made us smile. [...]

David from Athens, AL

November 1st, 2012
4:41 pm

Thanks Mark. Nicely done!

billyBobjacket

November 1st, 2012
4:42 pm

I still remember that ride around 285. That and the Fred McGriff fire!

NC Dawg

November 1st, 2012
4:42 pm

“The eyes that blazed like searchlights from beneath his two-sizes-too-big cap, the jerk of the head toward left field whenever he struck somebody out, the incessant attempts to bunt for a hit …”

I can still picture those moments. Thanks for this, Mark. Nice write.

Mark Bradley

November 1st, 2012
4:43 pm

Thanks, David.

Gamecocky

November 1st, 2012
4:44 pm

Great piece Mark,those were the days………

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 1st, 2012
4:45 pm

Hiding behind Bob Horner. Funny, funny stuff.

FJZ

November 1st, 2012
4:46 pm

Mr. Bradley you captured the essence of the Pascual Perez I remember very well!

Mark Bradley

November 1st, 2012
4:50 pm

I arrived in March 1984. I remember how much fun it was to watch Pascual Perez that summer … and how it was no fun whatsoever the next year.

Bill Richardson

November 1st, 2012
4:51 pm

Didn’t Lasorda call him out for wearing a ’shiny’ necklace, thus distracting the Dodger hitters? (all in an effort to get into Pascual’s head). I think the ump made him take it off. Nice article!

Mark Bradley

November 1st, 2012
4:52 pm

I also remember how neat it was to watch, from distant Lexington, Ky., the travails of the Braves of ‘82 and ‘83. A lot of folks up there started caring more about the Braves than they did the nearby Reds, just because of cable.

Mark Bradley

November 1st, 2012
4:53 pm

Pascual Perez wore much in the way of jewelry, as I recall.

MrDan

November 1st, 2012
4:57 pm

I remember seeing I-285 on the back of a pitcher’s shirt and asking what the heck is that all about. When I was told the reason I couldn’t stop laughing. Some good times at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium back then. Nice piece of writing Mark. Thanks,

Shug

November 1st, 2012
5:07 pm

Pascual Perez, Craig McMurtry, Larry McWilliams, the Mahler brothers. Go Braves!

Eric

November 1st, 2012
5:09 pm

Just an fyi on the sports page, it says the brave who make us smile. not made. can’t beleive no one at this paper checks anything after it’s published.

Dan

November 1st, 2012
5:11 pm

I wonder how many times he drove around 285?

Floyd

November 1st, 2012
5:20 pm

Well done, Bradley. Perez was a full-running character in a game that often seems to sorely lack them these days.

CaliChopper

November 1st, 2012
5:21 pm

Did you really have to make me smile and tear up, wait think the term Chipper used was get misty, all at the same time? Good story Mark, Thank you

P-Man

November 1st, 2012
5:21 pm

Always one of my favorite players. I loved the 1982 Braves. Come to think of it, I’ve loved all of them since the 70s. Some more than others, of course…

Spider29

November 1st, 2012
5:24 pm

Thanks, Mark! I remember loving to watch Perez on the mound for the Braves. The I-285 story is Braves lore. He was definitely a “character” and for awile, he belonged to the Braves. So sad to hear about the last chapter in Pascual’s life.

Joey

November 1st, 2012
5:24 pm

Loved Perez, MB. I saw him pitch twice, and both times he fanned 8-10 hitters.

Do you remember the night Tommy Lasorda got the Ump to make Pascual put his huge gold necklace under his shirt?

Blue Fox

November 1st, 2012
5:26 pm

Fitting tribute to “Perimeter Perez,” he’ll never be forgotten in Braves Land.

Joey

November 1st, 2012
5:29 pm

Bill (4:51), I remember that game. I think they made him put that gold logging chain under his shirt! Lasorda was definitely trying to mess his stuff up.

Pascual was a damn good pitcher, quirks or not.

Brent

November 1st, 2012
5:35 pm

RIP Pascual, thanks for the memories

Basstringerfish

November 1st, 2012
5:35 pm

Eric. Shut up. I actually thought it was correct knowing how Pascual spoke…that headline made me smile…
I started watching when WTBS Ted wanted Messersmith to change his name to Channel!!!
I think Pascual also thought the interstate sign was the speed limit at one time!!!

TN Dawg

November 1st, 2012
5:37 pm

Didn’t he have a brother named Airport Perez? from getting lost in Hartsfield?

Mike Luck

November 1st, 2012
5:39 pm

Eric,
Thanks for the correction. That was my mistake and not Mark’s. We’ve resolved it, with your help.
Thanks.
Mike
ajc.com sports

Mark Bradley

November 1st, 2012
5:40 pm

I believe Pascual’s brother did indeed get lost when he landed here.

Bill 2

November 1st, 2012
5:42 pm

Yes. Pascual was a trip on and off the field…he was a cool person an damn good pitcher. I still have the road maps Braves handed out at gates on Perez’s I-285 trip…he would also come to the party after games in ushers work room..fun to be around. RIP my friend.

All I'm Saying Is....

November 1st, 2012
5:45 pm

Pascual Perez and Craig McMurtry—the two of them together barely weighed 250 lbs but they were our two aces. And all of 1982 was like finding an oasis after being in the desert for 13 years. Rest in Piece P squared.

LET’S GO BRAVES!

John

November 1st, 2012
5:50 pm

Pascual was one of my favorite Braves players of AlLL time. I remember well the night Lasorda wined about the jewelry-pissed me off so bad. Pascual added great style to the game and made it really interesting to watch him–especially after he struck someone out. The 82 team gave us a great ride that year–starting out 13-0 and then battling the Dodgers down the stretch. Remember all the late night games–had to watch them all. Rest in peace Pascual and thanks for the memories. Good article Mark–thanks!

Steve

November 1st, 2012
5:55 pm

What’s it like to be perfect, Eric?

dawg4u

November 1st, 2012
6:04 pm

If I remember the story correctly, Perez stated that since he was told that I-285 was a big circle around the city of Atlanta that he would just drive around it until he saw the stadium which he obviously never did. It was hilarious at the time and still is. Tragic end and RIP Pascual because you did bring us all a lot of smiles. Fine article, Mark!

Skeezix

November 1st, 2012
6:12 pm

Rest in peace I-285.

1eyedJack

November 1st, 2012
6:20 pm

Spanky

November 1st, 2012
6:21 pm

dawg4u- do you remember Skip Carey’s broadcast that day? I do, I remember listening to the game, when Skip said that they finally know where he is…something to the effect of “Just pull off an exit, and get directions from a local, you can still make the eighth inning!” LOL

RIP- 285-Perez!

I know how Pascual felt on I-285

November 1st, 2012
6:23 pm

I’ve done my time driving around I-285 so I can sympathize with Perez. He is one of the best memories of those early 80’s and we were fortunate to have all of them: Knucksie, Murphy, Horner, Washington, Garber, Camp, Royster, Mahler, Hubbard, and many more. For all of Atlanta’s baseball woes, we would do good to look back and be thankful for the things we have and had.

I know how Pascual felt on I-285

November 1st, 2012
6:24 pm

Thanks, Mark, for putting it so well and reminding us of more than a sad end.

dawggirl

November 1st, 2012
6:29 pm

We had a poster in our house of a caricature of Pascual driving around I-285 back then. I wish I knew what happened to it. Thanks for the article, Mark.

RIP, so sad.

al davis

November 1st, 2012
6:29 pm

Rico

November 1st, 2012
6:37 pm

Good writing Mark. You tube has a nice video of the Braves,Pradres brawl on the Sunday afternoon in 1984.

capstoner

November 1st, 2012
6:41 pm

What memories. I loved that 82 team. Thanks Mark.

dawg4u

November 1st, 2012
7:03 pm

@Spanky – I didn’t remember that about Skip Caray saying that about Perez until I read your post. Thanks for refreshing my memory. That was so funny and definitely the golden age of Braves broadcasting. Perez was a good pitcher for awhile and as MB stated always seemed to make us smile and also laugh at times. He will def be remembered!

Disgusted

November 1st, 2012
7:04 pm

I loved those teams of 82 and 83. Too bad we ran into a slump and injuries in 83 cause we would have had another div title.

Disgusted

November 1st, 2012
7:05 pm

Lasorda was a piece of crap — cannot stand him to this day.

Stuart

November 1st, 2012
7:10 pm

In regards to the brawl, one of the other combatants recently passed away. Champ Summers who was with the Padres died from cancer a couple of weeks ago.
Alan Wiggins died a few years ago as did Dick Williams.
It was too bad about Pascual Perez. The guy was a piece of work and I believed that brawl took a little out of him before Eddie “the mute” Haas got to him.

DaveDawg96

November 1st, 2012
7:10 pm

I’m glad others remember Pascual “285″ Perez and the Perimeter story — and I’m really glad you just immortalized both for the Atlanta sports archive with a great column. Thanks!

Rico

November 1st, 2012
7:18 pm

Paul

November 1st, 2012
7:22 pm

Beautiful take on a sad story, as you filled it with hope, memories, smiles, and I am quite sure — a lot of “misty” eyes! Best sports article I’ve read in years. Well done, Mr. Bradley. Very Bisher-esque!

[...] Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tells it: Pascual Perez, recently acquired from Pittsburgh and just up from Richmond, was scheduled to start on a Thursday night in August. His new team had lost 19 of 21 to fall four games behind the hated Dodgers. Only just outfitted with a driver’s license, Perez went literally in circles, stopping only because he was almost out of gas. A guy at the service station recognized him and spotted him a splash of petrol — Pascual had forgotten his wallet, too — and by the time he arrived at the old stadium Phil Niekro was on the mound in his stead. [...]