MLB History: The best major leaguers to come out of Cuba

Cuban children practice baseball in a field of Havana, on September 17, 2018. - Football took over baseball in the preference of children and young people in Cuba, where the latter has been king for almost 150 years. (Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Cuban children practice baseball in a field of Havana, on September 17, 2018. - Football took over baseball in the preference of children and young people in Cuba, where the latter has been king for almost 150 years. (Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images) /
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AFP PHOTO Henny Ray ABRAMS
AFP PHOTO Henny Ray ABRAMS /

3. Tony Perez, Camaguey, Reds, Expos, Red Sox, Phillies, Reds, +54.0

As a teen-ager, Perez signed his first professional deal with his hometown Havana Sugar Kings of the International League. The Sugar Kings were a Cincinnati farm team at the time, but that relationship grew more tenuous with the rise of Fidel Castro and its implications for U.S.-Cuba relations.

Perez emigrated in 1960, basically at the last possible moment, touring the Reds minor league system until winning a promotion at the end of the 1964 season. His 34 homer, 107 RBI 1964 season in San Diego had more than a little to do with his elevation.

In 1965, Perez established himself as a middle of the order fixture. By 1967 he produced 26  home runs and 102 RBIs, making his first of seven All Star teams.

The question became where to play him. Initially, Perez established himself at third base, playing there most of the 1967 through 1971 seasons. From the start, however, he split time at first base, and by 1972 he was a regular there.

In 1970, when the Reds won the National League pennant, Perez for the first time hit 40 homers, posting a personal best 129 RBIs with a .317 average.  As “The Big Red Machine,” Cincinnati won back-to-back World Series in 1975-76, and Perez played a key role, averaging 20 homers and 100 RBIs.

But free agency arrived following the 1976 season, and the Reds – fearful of getting nothing in return for their slugger – traded him to Montreal. He played three seasons with the Expos, then three more with the Expos and one with the Phillies before returning to Cincinnati as a 42-year-old in 1984.

Retiring with 379 home runs, Perez was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.