Perez at home in Puerto Rico
A very special surprise awaited Tony Perez on Friday night during the opening ceremonies of the Puerto Rico plaque tour at the Museo del Deporte de Puerto Rico in Guaynabo.
Joined by fellow Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Orlando Cepeda, along with Vera Clemente, the widow of Roberto Clemente, Perez was soaking in an evening of great baseball memories for Museum supporters and the unveiling of the Hall of Fame plaques on loan from Cooperstown, N.Y., for four days here in the baseball-rich island commonwealth when the surprise announcement came.
With both of his sons – Eduardo, the former major leaguer, and Victor, an actor presently living in London – in attendance, Perez received an unexpected recognition during the ceremony, as Henry Neumann, Secretary of the Department of Sports and Recreation for Puerto Rico, brought a special declaration from Governor Luis Fortuno.
Neumann read the proclamation of Tony Perez as an official “native son” of Puerto Rico, recognizing him for his dedication to the commonwealth as a family and community member, and for his impressive baseball accolades achieved while representing the island.
“We thank Tony for all that his adopted Puerto Rican man has done for Puerto Rican sports, for his native homeland, and for his children’s homeland,” said Neumann.
For Perez, who immigrated to Puerto Rico from Cuba at age 16, the honor was beyond emotional.
“It is not too easy to talk today,” said Perez to the audience of dignitaries and Museum supporters. “Since I have lived here, I feel like a Puerto Rican. I was welcomed with open arms when I got here. My wife (Pituka) has been welcomed here, my children were born here. My friends live here. This is my home.”
Following the ceremony, the plaques were unveiled and on Saturday morning, visitors began filing into the Museo del Deporte to see the plaques of their Puerto Rican heroes – Perez included – on display from Cooperstown.
Long-considered a Puerto Rican at heart, Tony Perez celebrated Friday night with the formal recognition from his adopted homeland as one of their own.
Brad Horn is the senior director of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.