White Sox

White Sox

Melido Perez wasn’t as flashy as his brother, Pascual, nor as animated as his brother, Carlos, but he did all right for himself. He reigned near the top of the White Sox rotation for a little while; a long, lean 6-foot-4 right-hander with a nasty forkball and some sweet Jheri curl that inspired his White Sox teammates to call him Oil Can Harry.

Remember that guy?

Melido Turpen Gross Perez was born Feb. 15, 1966 in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic in a full house. He had eight siblings, and six of the Perez boys would go on to pitch professionally. Melido, Pascual and Carlos made the majors; Valerio, Ruben Dario and Vladimir (who had a brief tryout for the Sox in 1991) all pitched in the minors.

Back home in the Dominican Republic, Melido’s father, Juan Pablo, joked his sons mastered pitching by throwing coconuts. Melido had four pet cows, named Perez, Perez, Perez and Perez.

In 1983, the Royals signed Melido and he started his pro career the following year at Charleston (class A) and worked his way through the Kansas City system, stopping at Eugene (low A) in 1985 and Burlington (A) in 1986. In 1987 at Fort Myers (A) and Memphis (AA), Perez posted a combined 3.09 ERA and debuted for the Royals at age 21 on Sept. 4 against the White Sox. He got the win, tossing seven innings of one (unearned) run ball. His first career strikeout was of Sox outfielder Gary Redus.

 

Perez made only three major league starts in 1987, and three months later he was traded to the White Sox along with pitchers Greg Hibbard, John Davis and Chuck Mount in exchange for Floyd Bannister and utility man Dave Cochrane. In 1988, Perez put together a fine rookie season for the White Sox, going 12-10 with a 3.79 ERA, leading the staff in both innings (197) and strikeouts (138).

Perez remains the last White Sox rookie to lead the team in strikeouts and is one of ten rookies in franchise history to do so. Those 138 strikeouts as a rookie are tied with Black Sox hurler Lefty Williams for third in franchise history, behind Gary Peters (189 in 1963) and Carlos Rodón (139 in 2015).

Perez led the White Sox in strikeouts again in 1989 (141) but battled inconsistency, going 11-14 with a 5.01 ERA. However, he did make two starts in which he struck out 12 batters. That would remain a career-high (he’d do it a third time in 1993). In 1990, Perez earned his first career Opening Day start, turning in a solid effort (six innings, four hits, one run, one walk, six strikeouts) though coming out of it with a no-decision in a 2-1 win against the Brewers.

1990 was a roller coaster ride. Though Perez answered the bell every time and made 35 starts, he ended up 13-14 with a 4.61 ERA in 197 innings. To illustrate the highs and lows of that season, Perez posted a 1.33 ERA in his 13 wins and a ghastly 9.57 ERA in his 14 losses. It didn’t get any higher for him than on July 12, when he tossed a six-inning rain-shortened no-hitter at Yankee Stadium. The losing Yankee pitcher that game was Andy Hawkins, who, less than two weeks earlier, lost a game in which he tossed a no-hitter but four White Sox unearned runs scored on the 80th anniversary of the first ever game at Comiskey Park.

1991 was a disappointing year for Perez; after eight rough starts (4.82 ERA) he was demoted to the bullpen. To make matters worse, on Sept. 4 (the four-year anniversary of his MLB debut), his no-hitter was taken away from him. Commissioner Fay Vincent and a committee for statistical accuracy declared official no-hitters to be a minimum of nine innings (Roger Maris was also declared to be the single season home run champion, no ifs ands or asterisks about it).

Melido’s brother, Pascual, was also stripped of a no-hitter, as the elder Perez tossed a shortened no-no in 1988. The silver lining for Melido, who asked to be traded after his demotion, was that he pitched really well out of the Sox ‘pen in 1991, putting up a 2.22 ERA in 41 games of middle relief.

After the 1991 season, Perez was finally traded. The Yankees agreed to a deal, changed their mind and finally, on January 10, the trade was on again. Perez, Domingo Jean and Bob Wickman were off to the Bronx in exchange for Steve Sax and cash. Perez paid immediate dividends in the Big Apple; his 13-16 record didn’t tell the story. His 2.87 ERA was excellent, and with 218 punchouts, he delivered the first 200-strikeout season by a Yankee since Ron Guidry in 1979.

 

Perez's 218 were the most by a Yankee right-hander since Jack Chesbro, who went 41-12 with 239 strikeouts in 1904.

Perez never repeated his 1992 brilliance. He went 6-14 with a 5.19 ERA in 1993 before undergoing shoulder surgery at the end of the year. In 1994, he was 9-4 with a 4.10 ERA but his season was snuffed out by the strike. He was 5-5 with a 5.58 ERA in an injury-riddled 1995 and had to undergo another surgery in 1996. When he returned, it was in the minors and he hit free agency for 1997. He went to spring training with the Indians in 1998 but never made it back to the majors. He threw his last major league pitch before he turned 30.

Melido Perez showed top of the rotation stuff at times but never fully reached his potential. That being said, he put together a solid major league career. In nine seasons he had 78 wins, a 4.17 ERA in over 1,300 innings with 1,092 strikeouts. He had ten career games of ten or more strikeouts, five each with the White Sox and Yankees.

Perez returned to the White Sox organization as pitching coach for Dominican Summer League White Sox in 2009-10.

Pascual, Melido and Carlos Perez are one of 20 sets of three or more brothers all to play in the major leagues. Tragically, Pascual was murdered in his San Gregorio de Nigua, Dominican Republic home during a home invasion on Nov. 1, 2012. By that time Melido, was Mayor of San Gregorio de Nigua, which is east of San Cristobal.

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