Pérez deal marks the end of an era in Cincinnati
Less than two months after the 1970s Cincinnati Reds were officially crowned a dynasty, the trade of one of the cogs of the Big Red Machine shook baseball to the core.
On Dec. 16, 1976, the Reds traded first baseman Tony Pérez to the Montreal Expos. Relief pitcher Will McEnaney – who was on the mound for the last out of the 1976 World Series – also went to Montreal in a deal that brought pitchers Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray to Cincinnati.
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But it was the Pérez move that had everyone in the game wondering if the Reds were heading toward a rebuilding phase after back-to-back World Series championships.
“He’s part of what helped make me what I am,” Reds second baseman Joe Morgan – who won back-to-back National League Most Valuable Player Awards in 1975-76 – told the Associated Press: “I have to be losing a little bit, too.”
Pérez waived his no-trade provision as a 10-and-5 player (10 years in the big leagues with the last five with the same team) to complete the trade and received a three-year deal from the Expos worth around $500,000.
“I am both happy and sad,” Pérez told the AP. “The multi-year contract will give my family security. That is important.”
An All-Star for the seventh time in 1976, Pérez hit .260 with 19 homers and 91 RBI as the Reds swept the Yankees in the World Series following 102 wins in the regular season. As the longtime backbone of the Cincinnati lineup, Pérez averaged 26 homers and 102 RBI per season from 1967-76. The Reds advanced to the postseason in five of those 10 seasons.
At a press conference announcing the trade, Pérez was joined by fellow Reds stalwart Johnny Bench and Reuven Katz, who represented both Pérez and Bench.
At the end of the event, Pérez embraced his future Hall of Fame teammate. “Thanks for all the years,” Pérez told Bench.
Pérez left Cincinnati as the team’s all-time leader in RBI, a mark Bench eventually exceeded. But after Pérez’s departure, the Reds would not win another World Series title for 14 seasons.
In Montreal, Pérez provided veteran leadership to a young team on the verge of the postseason. As the Expos’ everyday first baseman for three years, Pérez averaged 15 homers and 81 RBI per season – helping Montreal record its first winning campaign in 1979 while finishing just two games behind the Pirates in the NL East.
Pérez joined the Red Sox as a free agent following the 1979 season and hit 25 home runs to go along with 105 RBI in 1980, finishing 22nd in the AL Most Valuable Player voting.
After two more seasons in Boston, Pérez transitioned into a part-time player and helped the Phillies win the 1983 NL pennant before playing his three final seasons back in Cincinnati. He retired with 379 home runs, 1,652 RBI and 2,732 hits to go with seven All-Star Game selections.
Pérez was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum