Pat Perry

December 18, 2009

Pat, a soft-throwing southpaw middle reliever, has suffered

That is how one of the great unsung literary achievements of the last twenty years begins. I’m talking about the two paragraphs of text on the back of this 1991 Pat Perry card. It is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of its genre, a work that transforms the task of filling up the would-be blank space below a meager list of statistics into a comment on the space we all try and mostly fail to fill through all the days of our finite life. Through most of the history of the genre, which like intricate and ornate medieval book marginalia has been produced entirely in uncelebrated anonymity by nameless artisans, text was used to attempt to refute the vast void below the would-be blank space on the card. Below numbers that intimated transiency and futility, claims of importance were made, hopeful prospects voiced, brief miniscule highlights clung to.

A fine utility player for Chisox the past 2 seasons, Bill hopes to see action as starter with Mariners in 1977.

Brian’s first big-league Homer came after just 7 games in majors.

Gary gained credit for Victory as Brewers defeated Indians, 17-4, on September 6, 1976.

The hallmarks of the genre, including the use of clipped article-dropping syntax (as if the message was the body of an urgent telegram) and the heavy reliance on certain nouns signaled by the capitalization of those nouns (as if to elevate key words such as Victory and Homer to the realm of the sacred), produce a third common trait in back-of-the-card text: a faintly desperation-tinged voicing of the message that Everything Is OK.

Maybe everything is OK. Maybe one day we will all “see action as starter.” Maybe one day we will all have our lives transformed into a holy succession of Homers and Victories. Maybe one day we will all be redeemed.

I don’t know. I cling to all those Maybes and more as much as anyone. Then once in a while I hear a song or see a painting or read a passage in a book that hits me as if it was some portion of the unknowable truth reaching momentarily into my uncertain world. I’ve suffered. You’ve suffered. Pat,  a soft-throwing middle reliever, has suffered. As it is written, in its entirety, on the back of Score 1991 card #527: 

Pat, a soft-throwing southpaw middle reliever, has suffered a lot of baseball rejection in his 13-year career. He has been released three times and traded twice. Nine times he has played with at least two teams in one year. The lowest ebb of Pat’s fortunes came in ’83 when he was cut by Double-A Columbus (Astros) in June, signed by Double-A Buffalo (Indians) in July, cut 12 days later and finally signed by Class A Springfield (Cardinals) in August.

At any rate, Pat was signed as a free agent by the Dodgers in December ’89 after he was cut by the Cubs. Unhappily, he was on the disabled list the first two months of the season with a shoulder injury and was used sparingly after that.

(Much thanks to Stan Opdyke for sending me the card of Pat Perry, who after gracing this card never appeared in another major league game.)


  1. Perry only pitched in one home day game as a Dodger, so this is from May 22, 1990. He pitched a scoreless inning in an 8-3 loss to the Mets in his first appearance of the year. The Dodgers’ starter from that game is dead, and the guy who finished it was hospitalized for a mental issue last month.

    That should be added whenever Score decides to revise Pat Perry’s 1991 card.

  2. I think the “Pat Perrys” of the world are interesting characters. On the one hand they’re local legends. In Perry’s home town he probably was a big time athelete and received accolades from his local high school, little league, etc. But on the other hand in the baseball world he’s a relative unknown or nobody.

    In retrospect he might have played a minor part in the Cardinals 1985 N.L. pennant. He came up after September 1 and pitched 12.1 innings and had a 0.00 era. He was the winning pitcher in a Sept 16 game of that year and participated in (2) Sept 23, Sept 28th, wins. Who knows, if he pitched poorly in 1 or all 3 of those games maybe it effets the Cardinals chance to win the division. He didn’t play in the ’85 post season.

    He got traded from the Cardinals right at the deadline of the 87 season so he never got a chance to pitch in that world series which kind of sucks.

    In 1989, his best season, He had a 1.77 Era for the Cubs. He must have gotten hurt because he’s only listed as playing 35 innings until June 16th. He never pitched for the Cubs in the post-season.

  3. Good call, piehead. There is one thing you have to watch for with the Dodgers, though. They played the Freeway Series against the Angles before the season. In 1990, it was a game in Anaheim, then two at Dodger Stadium, and the second one WAS a day game, on April 8th. However, with Perry starting that year on the 21-day DL, it’s doubtful he would have been pitching the day before Opening Day. (Oh, and for anyone thinking this might be a Vero Beach game: that tree IS visible at Dodger Stadium, behind the blue wall, to the right of the where the bleachers end behind the right field fence.)

  4. I was trying to find information about the 4/8/90 game, but I got sidetracked when I found a minor leaguer named Beyker Fructuoso, who was born that day. He wasn’t very good in the Rookie League this year, but I hope he makes it. We need more Beyker Fructuosos.

  5. My favorite part of that description is the use of “At any rate”. Not only is it a blatantly unnecessary space-filler of a phrase, it reads as if the writer was shaking himself from the torpor brought on by having to relate the particulars of the career of Pat Perry. Like he was willing himself to continue.

  6. sansho1: I totally agree. That “At any rate” suggests hours or even days of dispiriting, exhausting, ultimately fruitless introspection in between the end of the first paragraph and the beginning of the second.

  7. I found a picture of the back of the card over at mikekenny.blogspot.com ( http://mikekenny.blogspot.com/2009/04/classic-card-of-week_29.html ). It’s really remarkable that they decided to fill in all that space, and that this is the best they could come up with. I like what one of the commentors over there said: “My theory is that the man who wrote the backs of cards for Score in 1991, was also a huge Double-A Buffalo fan and was refused an autograph by Pat Perry eight years earlier.”

    I don’t remember that set of Score very well. I guess in 1991 I was more interested in the 40th anniversary set of Topps, and those yellow-bordered Fleer cards. I do remember cards with a lot of text like that, though. I wonder how hard it was to fill in some of those backs, esp. considering that the players with the shorter careers are the ones with the least interesting notes about them. You have to wonder just how many jokes, innuendos, etc got past the editors of that set…

  8. piehead, I shall certainly be on the lookout for Beyker Fructuoso. AZL Dodgers, rookie league last year. What a name. The surname looks Italian (= “fruitful” in English), the first name – Turkish? But it can’t be – he’s from the Dominican Republic. Just one of those fanciful names. It will be a race he’s bound to lose to see if he can make it up to the major leagues in time for Vin Scully to give us the full derivation of his name (you haven’t lived if you haven’t heard about “Yorvit” 16 times). I don’t suppose there will be any announcer left who will care about such things by the time he makes it up, if he does.

  9. I recognized every name on the sidebar list, excect this one.
    Hoping this was a treasure that i missed growing up in the 70’s, I was dismayed to find this a 91 card. I had long lost my love affair with the cardboard gods by then.

    Fun read though.

  10. Pat Perry was once traded for Scott Terry. There’s a poem in there — somewhere.

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