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Great Moments in Jheri Curls: Pascual Perez

Pascual Perez was quite the interesting cat. At first, I wondered: How can a man who stands six feet, two inches tall weigh only 163 pounds? The answer: Drugs. Of course! Cocaine, to be more specific. Helluva drug, I’m told. Back in March 1992, after failing a drug test, Perez accused the New York Yankees of setting him up. A month later, Perez said, “I’m not the bad guy. The procedure was bad. I did nothing wrong.” The first step — again, so I’ve been told — is admitting you have a problem.

Perez’s Wikipiedia entry is also full of goodness:

Also a showboater, [Perez] often drew the ire of many of his opponents. He would use an imaginary finger gun to shoot opponents and would pound the baseball into the dirt on the mound. While it is customary for pitchers to walk back to the bench after completing an inning, he would sprint, with gold chains and Jheri-curls flapping in motion.

As if Perez’s Jheri curls weren’t enough, they were “flapping in motion” when he sprinted back to the dugout. Amazing. I wish I could have seen that.

Perez’s nickname: “I-285.” Why? This is why:

He earned his nickname after missing a start on August 19, 1982 while circling Atlanta’s Interstate 285 looking for Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

There’s more: Perez threw a Eephus pitch, and checked on runners at first by peeking through his legs.

Interested in learning more about Pascual Perez? You’ll want to read “Wild And Crazy Hombres,” an SI feature from January 1990, about Perez and his brothers.

You begin to suspect something’s not quite right when Pascual Perez tells you he’s the oldest of “five twin brothers.” Never mind that there are really six Perez boys—seven, if you count Mario, the Bronx cabbie whom Pascual calls his brother but who “really isn’t, because he’s my cousin.” The Perez clan thrives on contradiction.

As it turns out, there isn’t a twin—or even a Twin—in the bunch. But the family is loaded with ballplayers who are already major leaguers—Pascual, 32 (New York Yankees), and Melido, 23 (Chicago White Sox)—or who are working their way up to the bigs. Like Vladimir—Vladimir?—21 (New York Mets organization), Ruben Dario, 20 (Kansas City Royals), and Carlos, 18 (Montreal Expos). Pascual, who once missed a major league start after getting lost driving to his home ballpark, turned free agent at the end of the season and signed a three-year, $5.7 million deal with the Yanks in November. Melido, whose pet cows back home in the Dominican Republic are named Perez, Perez, Perez and Perez, was one of the top contenders for 1988 American League Rookie of the Year. The rest of the brothers are minor league hotshots, except for Valerio, 27, who was in the Royals organization from 1982 through ’84 and now plays for a Taiwanese team called Brother Hotel. Every Perez, save the cows, is a pitcher.

As siblings the Perezes are closer to the Marx brothers than, say, the brothers Karamazov. A case can be made for Pascual as Groucho, Melido as Harpo and Valerio as Chico. Their specialty may be the forkball, but their predilection is decidedly goofball. “The secret is cocoanuts,” says Juan Pablo (Chi Cho) Gross, their father. (His children have adopted the last name of their mother, Agripina Perez, as is occasionally the custom in their country.) “I tell them. ‘Strike out somebody with cocoanut, and baseball no problem.’ Baseball small; cocoanut big. My sons big cocoanuts.”

Seriously, read that feature. And lament the loss of one of baseball’s finest characters. I never knew of or saw Pascual Perez play baseball, but, somehow, I miss him.

H/Ts: This glorious website: 80s Baseball Player of the Day. And my mate @25th_Hour for bringing it to my attention.