The Greatest Summer Ever: Herbert Perry
Steve Eby | On 06, Mar 2014
For the next 26 days, DTTWLN will profile and break down the roster of arguably the most exciting sports team that Cleveland has ever seen; the 1995 Cleveland Indians. The ’95 Tribe won 100 games in a strike-shortened 144 game schedule, won their first Central Division title and made the playoffs and World Series for the first time since 1954. Six players made the American League All-Star team, eight players batted .300 or better, and the pitching staff had the lowest ERA in the American League. The players have been ranked from the most important to the Tribe’s success to the 26th. Today breaks down #21 Herbert Perry.
When Dave Winfield went down with a strained left shoulder in June of 1995, manager Mike Hargrove and GM John Hart had a decision to make on who would temporarily replace the right handed slugger on the Indians bench. The man that they decided on was tearing the cover off of the ball down at AAA Buffalo, batting .317 with two homeruns and 17 RBI in only 49 games played.
Herbert Perry was a right handed hitting corner infielder with a good glove and a solid bat. His track record was good, as he batted .327 in 1994 at AAA Charlotte and socked 19 homeruns in 1992 at Class A Kinston. He was the Indians second round pick in the 1991 draft and had a very brief appearance on the Indians in 1994, playing in four games. Perry was officially called up on June 13, 1995 when Winfield went on the DL.
The Indians were set to host the New York Yankees later that week with lefthanders Sterling Hitchcock and Andy Pettitte scheduled to start for the Yanks. With regular first baseman Paul Sorrento being left handed and struggling somewhat against left-handed pitching, Hargrove elected to start the rookie Perry against the two Yankee southpaws. Perry’s first game of the season came against Hitchcock and the game was one to forget for Herbert. Hitchcock and the Yankee bullpen baffled Perry and the rest of the Tribe hitters all day in route to a 4-2 Yankee win. Perry went 0-3 in the loss. The next day, June 17, Perry and the Tribe fared much better.
The Saturday afternoon contest matched the Yankee rookie, Pettitte, up against the Indians veteran starting pitcher, Bud Black. Black was 2-1 going into the contest and was coming off of his best start of the season, but had been struggling for most of the year. The Yankees gave the 41,662 fans at Jacobs Field a very quick reminder of Black’s season-long struggles.
Yankee leadoff batter and future Indian Tony Fernandez put the Bronx Bombers ahead in the first batter of the game when Fernandez lined Black’s 1-2 pitch onto the homerun porch for a 1-0 New York lead. Right fielder Danny Tartabull drove in catcher Jim Leyritz with a sacrifice fly later in the inning to make the Tribe deficit 2-0.
Pettitte held the Indians scoreless in the bottom of the 1st, but left fielder Albert Belle led off the bottom of the 2nd with a triple to right field…Belle’s only triple of the season.
Eddie Murray drove him home two pitches later when he grounded out to Fernandez, cutting the Yankee lead in half. New York was quick to respond, however. Leading off the top of the 3rd, centerfielder Bernie Williams crushed a 3-1 Black pitch deep into the left field bleachers. This put the Tribe back two runs for the second time that day.
As they did so many times in 1995, the Indians answered back. In the bottom of the 4th, Carlos Baerga led the inning off with a ground rule double. Belle followed with a groundout before Murray drove home Baerga with a single, Murray’s second RBI of the day. The next batter, Manny Ramirez, crushed Pettitte’s pitch deep to left field for a two run homerun, giving the Indians their first lead of the day.
That brought up Perry, who until this point had been 0-4 on the season. Perry showed the Cleveland fans why he was in the big leagues by blasting Pettitte’s 0-1 pitch deep into the left field bleachers, giving Perry his first big league homerun and the Indians a two run cushion.
Perry’s memorable day was not yet finished. The Yankees fought back to score a run in the top of the 6th inning making the score Yankees 4, Indians 5. Perry made his presence felt again in the bottom of the inning, as he blasted another Pettitte pitch over the left field wall, giving him his second bomb of the game and of his career. Hargrove turned the game over to his fantastic bullpen after Perry’s second blast, all but ending any hope for the Yankees to comeback. Julian Tavarez was able to keep the Yankees scoreless in the 7th inning, Belle blasted a solo homerun for some insurance in the bottom half, and Tavarez set down the Yanks in the 8th inning before turning the 7-4 lead over to closer Jose Mesa, who was a perfect 16-16 in save situations on the year. The Yankees certainly made it interesting in the 9th inning by loading the bases, but Mesa was able to convert his 17th save of the year.
Perry’s big day improved the Indians record to 34-12 for the season, best in the big leagues. He finished the day 3-4 as he chipped in a leadoff single in the bottom of the 8th inning to go along with his two bombs.
When Winfield returned from the disabled list in mid-July, Perry was hitting .333 and contributing strong defense at first and third base. His “temporary” stay with the Indians became permanent. Perry continued his solid hitting for the remainder of the regular season. He ended his rookie season with a .315 batting average, 3 homeruns and 23 RBI. Perry was added to the postseason roster and started three games for the Tribe in the playoffs. His regular season success did not follow Perry into the postseason, however. Perry ended the playoffs batting 0-14 with five strikeouts.
Perry’s glove did not slump through the playoffs though. Perry made a crucial play in the 9th inning of game three of the World Series when Atlanta’s Chipper Jones laced what looked to be a sure double down the right field line. With runners on first and second, Perry, who came on as a defensive replacement to start the inning, made a fantastic play on the smashed groundball, and sent the game into the bottom of the inning tied. The Indians eventually won that game in extra innings making the series 2-1 in favor of Atlanta instead of 3-0.
Herbert Perry managed to play only seven games with the Indians in 1996. He was plagued by injuries for the next couple seasons and was taken by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 1997 Expansion Draft. Perry was placed on waivers by the Devil Rays early in the 2000 season and was claimed by the Chicago White Sox. Perry had a very solid 2000 season in Chicago, batting .302 with 12 homeruns. That season was Perry’s second and final appearance in the postseason, as the White Sox were swept by the Seattle Mariners in three games. Perry was traded to the Texas Rangers following the 2001 season and had his best season with the Rangers in ’02. Perry played sparingly for the Rangers the following two seasons and retired following the 2004 campaign. In 2007, Perry returned to his hometown in Florida to coach his alma mater’s high school baseball team for two seasons.
Tomorrow: Ken Hill