Sunday, July 29, 2001

Five Questions with Tony Perez

        Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan were bigger stars. But no Red has ever been more loved than Tony Perez. Perez played 16 seasons with the Reds and never got booed.

        Perez returned to Cinergy Field Friday night for the first time as manager of the Florida Marlins. The fans cheered loud and long when he brought out the lineup card before the game.

        Perez's return to managing has made this summer nearly as memorable as last summer when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame and had his Reds number retired.

        Friday was Perez's first look at the “new” Cinergy.

        “I liked it the old way,” he said. “You can't even see where I hit my red-seat home runs.”

        Perez hit the first red-seater Aug. 11, 1970 — two months after Riverfront Stadium opened. It was, fittingly, a grand slam. Perez was Mr. Clutch for the Reds, driving in at least 90 runs 11 straight years.

        Perez answered five questions Friday for the Enquirer's John Fay:

        1. Who's you favorite teammate?

Don't put me on the spot like that. All my teammates were special to me. I roomed with Dave Concepcion and hung around with him the most. But I was close to them all.

        2. OK, which was the favorite team?

        I played on so many great teams — '75, '76 — '70 was a great team even though we didn't win the World Series. But I think 1976 was the best team. We played well all year and in the playoffs and World Series. We never lost a game in the postseason.

        3. Was your wife, Pituka, OK with your decision to return to managing?

We talked about it. She said, “Why not?” My son Victor was there in Miami, too. They encouraged me. So I made up my mind I wanted to do it.

        4. Has getting into the Hall of Fame changed your life?

People recognize me more. They ask for my autograph more. People don't call me Doggie or Tony. They say, “There's the Hall of Famer.”

        5. After getting fired by the Reds after only 44 games in 1993, did you feel like you wanted to prove you could be successful as a manager?

I didn't come back to prove anything. '93 is over. I moved on and didn't think about. I don't hold anything against anybody. I just got over it quick.


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