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Former Teammates Honor Perez

August 26, 2000

MIAMI (AP)_ Sitting among fellow Hall of Famers and his teammates on the Big Red Machine on Friday, Tony Perez laughed at former manager Sparky Anderson’s confession.

``To tell the absolute truth, I agreed to trade Tony away,″ Anderson said. ``How dumb am I? He was on my team for seven years, and I didn’t have enough sense to realize he was the leader of that team.″

``I can’t believe that, Sparky,″ joked former Reds’ first baseman Lee May, who left the Reds before their World Series wins in 1975 and 1976. ``Perez was the manager for the first three years.″

The Reds dealt Perez to Montreal after sweeping the New York Yankees in the 1976 World Series. Anderson said the trade halted the domination that earned the Reds four National League titles in the 1970s.

About 500 people attended a luncheon celebrating the clutch-hitting first baseman’s induction into the baseball Hall of Fame earlier this year.

Perez’s sisters, Argelia and Gloria, flew in from Cuba for the event. Their trip was arranged by the Florida Marlins, who employ Perez in their front office.

``I never felt the heart palpitations I felt when I saw my sisters here,″ Perez said. ``I don’t know who came up with all this, but I think they are trying to kill me. There’s so much emotion.″

Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo, and Pedro Borbon, all important cogs in the Big Red Machine, recalled how Perez was the ``heart and soul″ on their four World Series teams.

Bench described Perez’s home run off Boston’s Bill Lee to help win Game 7 of the 1975 World Series.

``It was a change-up,″ said Bench, a Hall of Fame catcher. ``Imagine the mechanics and timing it took to put that pitch over the Green Monster. That homer was what Tony Perez was all about.″

Also on the panel were Andre Dawson and Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio. Florida Marlins announcer Jay Randolph and Reds announcer Marty Brennaman, a 2000 Hall of Fame inductee along with Anderson and Perez, conducted the discussion.

Pete Rose was invited but couldn’t make it, Perez said.

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