Saturday, May 27, 2000

Perez treasures fans' affection

1B says he never heard boos, jeers

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Tonight's pregame ceremony honoring Tony Perez will allow the Big Red Machine first baseman to renew his special bond with Cincinnati fans.

        “I never heard my name being booed here, even when I went bad,” said Perez, the Hall of Fame-bound slugger whose jersey No.24 will be retired officially.

        Perez, a special assistant to Florida Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski, recalled the fans' kindness even during the 1975 World Series when he experienced an 0-for-15 slump.

        “I walked out there to play and people were still clap ping for me,” Perez said Friday. “I remember people saying from the stands, "Don't worry, Tony, you'll get them next time.'

        “I heard boos for other players when they went bad, even (Johnny) Bench or Pete (Rose). They were expecting too much of them, I guess. But they were always behind me. Always.”

        Perez also will receive a thrill in joining the other Reds greats who have had their numbers retired: “When you look up there (at the jersey replicas behind the left-field wall) and your (number's) beside those guys', you say, "Hey, I was a heck of a player, too.'”

        This evening will continue an exhilarating year for Perez, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in January and will be inducted July 23.

        Said Perez: “I don't know what 2001 or 2002 are going to be like. But this year, with all this happening ... when I came to this country, I never thought things like this could happen. I guess only in America.”

        RAIN DELAY? The Perez ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. The possibility of showers tonight could force them to be postponed until Sunday.


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Bengals Notebook

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