Late Thursday evening news first broke of the tragic and untimely death of former Major League pitcher Pascual Perez, who had been murdered in his Dominican Republic home during an attempted robbery. Perez had an eleven year career in the Majors with the Atlanta Braves, Montreal Expos, and New York Yankees. He was 55.
According to details from police in Santo Domingo, as passed on by ESPN and the Associate Press, Perez’s body was discovered in his home shortly after 8:30 AM Thursday by his ex-wife, Maritza Montero. Medical examiners ruled that Perez had died from a fractured skull, believe to be the result of repeated blows to the head with a hammer found at the scene. Evidence also strongly suggested the the home had been ransacked, presumably in search of money. Police had arrested three suspects by midday Friday, one of whom confessed that the group – which includes a pair of men who have yet to be apprehended – was entering the home specifically to steal the $2,400 monthly pension that Perez was receiving from his playing career. He reportedly lived alone in San Gregorio de Nigua, essentially a suburb of Santo Domingo – the nation’s capital and largest city.
Perez, a lanky 6’2” right-hander, was originally signed in January 1976 by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an international free agent. Nearly six years later to the day, he was traded to the Braves along with shortstop Carlos Rios in exchange for left-handed pitcher Larry McWilliams. In 601.2 innings of work over the next four seasons, Perez went 34-33 with a 3.92 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 5.6 K/9, and a 1.325 WHIP in 101 games (96 starts). He went 15-8 and 14-8 during the 1983 and 1984 seasons, the best stretch of his career. Things went downhill quickly from there, as he struggled to a 1-13 record in 1985, posting a career worst 5.4 BB/9 and 1.804 WHIP. The Braves would release him the following year at the conclusion of Spring Training. He wouldn’t pitch at all that year.
Prior to the 1987 season, the Expos signed Perez as a free agent and he’d reward them by winning his first seven starts for the team. He’d go 28-21 over the next three seasons, with a 2.80 ERA, 2.1 BB/9, 6.7 K/9, and 1.025 WHIP over 456.2 innings. He’d become a free agent once again after the 1989 season, only to sign a three year, $5.7 Million deal with the Yankees just a week later. Perez would only make 17 starts for the team in the next two seasons, going 3.6 with a 2.87 ERA.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of Perez’s career came on July 6, 1983 when he was selected to his only All Star Game appearance. The outing didn’t quite go as planned, as Perez allowed a pair of runs on three hits over two thirds of an inning of work in the appearance – facing eventual Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken Jr.
However, his career was also filled with it’s share of rocky moments.
He missed a start in August 1982 after allegedly missing his exit on the highway while driving to the stadium in Atlanta. He’d end up circling the for nearly two hours before arriving late to the game. The Braves suspended him briefly in 1984 as a result of a cocaine-related arrest in the Dominican Republic in January of that year. He’d also spend two months in a rehab facility during the 1989 season. Twice before he had unsuccessfully such a program, meaning Perez also had to agree to a minimum one year suspension if he were to fail a subsequent test.
The day he arrived for Spring Training in 1992 he’d receive a suspension from the Commissioner’s Office for another failed test. He was about to enter the final season of his deal with the Yankees. Perez would never pitch in the Major Leagues again.
Perez stemmed from a family of pitchers, as he was the oldest of three brothers to see time in the Major Leagues.
Middle brother Melido Perez spent nine years in the Majors, from 1987 through 1995, with the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, and Yankees. He went 78-85 with a 4.17 ERA and 1.343 WHIP over 1,354.2 innings of work for his career. Melido is now the mayor of San Gregorio de Nigua and was understandably devastated by news of his brother’s passing, expressing concern for the safety of his fellow Dominicans when reached for comment by the AP:
It is horrible what is happening in this country. You’re not even safe at home.
The youngest of the three was Carlos Perez, a left-hander who spent time with the Expos and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1995 through 2000, posting a 40-53 record and 4.44 ERA in 142 games (127 starts). He went 10-8 with a 3.69 ERA over 141.1 innings in his first season, finishing 4th in Rookie of the Year voting.