Obscure Former Phillies Hour, Vol. 3: Tomas Perez
By popular demand! Enough people requested Tomas Perez that I can’t hold up one. Consider this the 2006 Time Man of the Year cop-out of Obscure Former Phillies Hour. There’s so much to discuss about Tomas Perez that I feel like I’m only wasting your time up here. Straight to The Pieman’s career in eighteen points.
- Before we start, I want to tell you about the first time I ever saw Tomas Perez. I was watching a Blue Jays-Orioles game at my aunt’s house in Virginia in 1996. I was nine years old, and Robert Alomar had just been signed as a free agent with the Orioles. Now, Roberto Alomar is a Hall of Famer, and I remembered him at the time as only one of the stars of that 1993 Blue Jays team. And to replace him, Toronto had promoted a backup infielder named Tomas Perez to the starting lineup, and because I was a child, I assumed that the replacement would be as good as the original. I remember being shocked that I wasn’t hearing very much about Tomas Perez for years afterward.
- Tomas Perez was born Dec. 29, 1973 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. Remember when I said the flag of Willie Montanez’s home city was cool? Well this one’s even cooler, if a trifle busy.
- As you might know, it is de rigeur for Venezuelan-born infielders (particularly shortstops) to wear No. 13 in the major leagues, starting with Dave Concepcion with the legendary 1970s Cincinnati Reds. Notable examples: Omar Vizquel, Freddy Galvis, Macier Izturis, Ozzie Guillen, Asdrubal Cabrera…you get the idea. Perez was no exception, wearing that fabled number first with Toronto, then for a year and a half with the Phillies, before switching to No. 9 partway through the 2001 season. As far as I can tell, this took place as a result of–and I’ve found only circumstantial evidence of this, so I could be wrong–Turk Wendell joining the Phillies via trade. That’s right, sportsfans, Turk Wendell. I remember that trade vividly, though again, I don’t remember what it did to Tomas Perez’s uniform number. We might do another one of these for Turk Wendell someday.
- Tomas Perez joined the Phillies in 2000 via free agency. Despite playing for four major-league teams (and in five other teams’ minor-league systems) in a 12-year major league career, Perez was only traded twice. One of those trades was from the Blue Jays to the Anaheim Angels for one-time Macho Row cleanup hitter Dave Hollins. On a personal note, Dave Hollins was the last person to play for both the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Philadelphia Phillies. Though I’m still rooting for you, Mike Cisco.
- As a Phillie, Tomas Perez played for Terry Francona, Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel. Very few players can make that claim. Jimmy Rollins, Brett Myers, Pat Burrell, Mike Lieberthal…I’m sure there are others, but it’s starting to look like Tomas Perez deserves a spot on the Wall of Fame.
- Tomas Perez stole six bases in his major-league career, but never more than one in a season.
- Perez was walked intentionally 24 times in his career, which wouldn’t be strange except for his career OPS+ of 65. And that would be strange except he hit in front of the pitcher often enough to garner 11 free passes in 2003. I just find it amusing that in about half as many career plate appearances, Perez has been walked intentionally exactly as many times as Ryan Braun has.
- On May 28, 2004, Perez started at first base and batted eighth in a game against the Braves. He went 0 for his first 3 plate appearances, but when he came up with the Phillies down 2-1 with one out in the bottom of the 8th, he lined a 1-2 pitch from Chris Reitsma into the right field corner for a game-tying double. His next time up, he hit a walk-off home run (also with two strikes) in the bottom of the 10th. This game is also a reminder that Chase Utley once batted seventh.
- Of course, Tomas Perez didn’t deliver many walk-off hits in his career with the Phillies. His most notorious connection with walk-off hits is through his role as the Phillies’ unofficial shaving cream pie specialist from 2000-2005. This earned Perez the moniker “The Pieman,” a cognomen that was cruelly stolen some years later by Lee Pace’s character on Pushing Daisies.
- Here’s a picture of Perez as a Tampa Bay Ray, having been hoisted on his own petard.
- In 2000, Perez played shortstop exclusively, but in September of that year, the Phillies called up Jimmy Rollins, making Perez and Desi Relaford the Tony Fernandez to Rollins’ Derek Jeter. Relaford had a .363 OBP that year too. CRAZY.
- Tomas Perez pitched once! It’s true–May 13, 2002, in the midst of 17-3 loss to the Houston Astros. Down 9-1 in the bottom of the 8th, Phillies pitcher Hector Mercado allowed eight of the 10 batters he faced to reach, so Larry Bowa moved Perez from third base to the mound and brought in outfielder Jason Michaels to play third base (also Michaels’ only career appearance in the infield). Perez got his first batter, Jeff Bagwell to ground a ball to…Michaels, who bobbled the ball for one error, then threw it away for a second, allowing Gregg Zaun to score and Bagwell to reach second. The next batter, Jason Lane, flied out to right, and the nightmare was over.
- I’m going to repeat part of that last bit, because you might have missed it with the excitement of Tomas Perez pitching: Jason Michaels played 1/3 of an inning in his career in the infield, and in that time he had one ball hit to him and committed two errors on the play. Scott Rolen started that game at third base, in case you were wondering.
- Despite playing in nine organizations, Tomas Perez never played in a playoff game.
- Tomas Perez played six positions in the major leagues. He missed out on playing catcher, left field and center field. And DH, which is a good thing, because, again, he had a career OBP of .290.
- Perez’s hometown of Barquisimeto, Venezuela is actually a pretty big place, a state capital and home to some 2 million residents, making it considerably larger than Philadelphia. I’d never heard of it before, because I don’t think I can name two dozen cities in the whole of South America. Anyway, Barquisimento has produced 15 major leaguers. Of those, 11 were position players, and of those, Maicer Izturis is by far the best hitter. Apparently Miguel Cabrera, Bobby Abreu and Magglio Ordonez (you know, the Venezuelans who can actually hit a little) grew up elsewhere.
- Maicer Izturis is the half-brother of fellow major leaguer Cesar Izturis. Fellow Barquisimeto native Steve Torrealba, however, is not, however, a relative of Yorvit Torrealba, which comes as a shock to me because I was convinced for years that Steve and Yorvit Torrealba were, in fact, the same person.
- Saving the best for last: This is from Phillies Nation’s Jay Floyd a couple weeks back.
The Pieman abides, sports fans. If you have any other Tomas Perez stories, you know where to share them. In fact, if you have any pie, I’d like for you to share that as well. I myself am fond of Boston creme pie, cherry pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, pecan pie….