Wednesday, June 17, 2009

#119 -- Marty Perez

I think I was pretty impressionable as a young baseball fan. If I ever heard something good about a player, that's what they were forever. That explains why I still can't believe Mike Rogodzinski, Tom Heintzelman or Stan Papi didn't make it big. Anyway, I must have heard something good about Marty Perez somewhere along the line because I grew up thinking he was a mid-level shortstop. He wasn't a Dave Concepcion or Bud Harrelson, but I always thought he was on a par with guys like Chris Speier or Tim Foli.

Imagine my shock when I grew up a little more and ran across his stats in the Baseball Encyclopedia. Marty was a full-time shortstop from 1971-1977 for the Braves, mostly, spending 1976 with the Giants and 1977 with the A's. But he hit .240 with no power, didn't steal bases, didn't walk a lot, and was an average to below average shortstop. But somehow he was a big league starter for most of 7 seasons. Of course, so was Mike Tyson. This just goes to show how the position of shortstop has undergone a transformation in the last 40 years. His career OPS+ was 70, hitting a high of 81. Since I don't like to use the word "suck" when I teach Sunday School, I'd have to say as a hitter, Marty verily stinketh.

He did hit lefty starters fairly well, as long as they weren't Hall of Famers. He hit over .340 against guys like Geoff Zahn, Doug Rau, Dave Roberts, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack. Good righthanders overpowered him. He was 0-for-John Montefusco and hit under .150 against Fergie Jenkins, Don Wilson and hard-throwing Tom Phoebus.

Not much else to say about Marty except that I'll forever link him with his double play partner, Felix Millan.

1972 Feature

Now, after all that about Marty, I'm going to write something much more complimentary. He played a big part in our June 17, 1972 Game of the Day. The Expos were in Atlanta to play the Braves and Ernie McAnally took a 2-0 lead into the 9th for the Expos. Ernie got Mike Lum to ground out and struck out Rod Gilbreath (making his big league debut). However, Marty worked a 2-out walk. Lum Harris sent Jim Breazeale (winner of the 2008 Cardboard Junkie Baseball Card Tournament) up to pinch-hit for Phil Niekro. He hits it out. Game goes to the 10th.

In the 10th, Ralph Garr singles to lead off against McAnally. After a passed ball on Terry Humphrey, McAnally wisely walks Hank Aaron. Mike Marshall comes in to relieve and Rico Carty singles in the winning run. All because Marty Perez worked a 2-0ut walk in the 9th. Way to go, Marty!

While this was going on, a security guard found some tape over a door lock. He took it off, but noticed it was back a few hours later and called the police. He had no idea how much that one phone call would change politics and journalism. That tape was in the Watergate Office Complex in Washington, DC, where future NBA Commissioner and 1972 Democratic National Committee Chairman Lawrence O'Brien had an office. Arrested that night were 5 men who worked for the Commitee to Re-Elect the President.

I remember the aftermath well, but nobody really remembers the break-in. President Nixon swept to one of the largest electoral and popular vote margins of all time. That's what's ironic. They didn't have to try to get the Democrats' secrets because they didn't stand a chance anyway. The 1972 election was decided the day Senator Ted Kennedy dropped Mary Jo Kopechne in the Chappaquiddick pond in 1969.

Instead of letting a special prosecutor deal with this, President Nixon decided to cover it up. The same paranoia that led his operatives to break in and look for secrets led him to try to cover it up. I guess he must have been gone the week they taught in Sunday School that your sins will find you out.

I liked President Nixon. I may have only been 8 in 1972, but I was a big Nixon guy. I got a poster in 1973 in the school book order and hung it in my room. It was still hanging in my room 10 years later when we were trying to sell our house (that was a good point for the folks that ended up buying it). However, for all the forward thinking in the Nixon/Kissinger foreign policy, he missed it big. Because of this, people mistrust politicians now, because he looked in the camera and said, "I am not a crook."

What's also ironic is that in 1968, Nixon was elected largely on a "law and order" platform that resonated with middle America, especially after the Democrat's convention in Chicago where anarchy broke out on national TV.

It would be nice if America could remember June 17, 1972 for Jim Breazeale's dramatic pinch-homer, but, unfortunately, this date will be inextricably linked with Nixon and company.


  1. I remember getting a Weekly Reader in 1st grade that had the headline "Nixon Begins Second Term."
    It had a picture of him on the cover. He looked kind of mad in the picture and I was afraid of him.

  2. Marty Perez and I worked together at the old olive plant in Visalia CA.

    Larry Kendrick
    Medford, OR