May 24, 2013
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Sunday, August 19, 2012
Thirty years ago today, Atlanta Braves pitcher Pascual Perez missed his start for a very memorable and interesting reason: He kept missing the exit.
Originally a Pirate, starting pitcher Perez had joined Atlanta about six weeks earlier in a trade. Aug. 19, 1982 was to be his sixth start with the franchise. Though two of them had been at home in Atlanta, Perez was still getting used to the city itself. Today would show just how much more he had to learn.
He drove to the ballpark that day, bright and early as he was supposed to. But then something went wrong. Atlanta Fulton County Stadium had its exit on the highway —but Perez missed the exit.
Okay, normally there would be a simple enough answer. You would just get off at the next exit. But Perez really didn’t know the city. He pretty much knew that one exit. Wait—check that. Perez knew one other thing. The highway he was on went in a giant loop around Atlanta. He didn’t know any of the surrounding exits, but he knew if he kept driving, eventually his spot would come around again.
So he kept driving. All the way around Atlanta. And sure enough, as is the nature of a circular loop, the exit aome up for Perez again.
And he missed it again.
Oops. Well, now the same scenario played itself out again. Perez, still uncertain of the area around the ballpark, decided his best bet was to stay on the highway. And once again he toured the city of Atlanta. After plenty of time passed, for the third time Perez approached his exit.
And he missed it. Again.
By now, he was 0-for-3 and it was too late to get the ballpark in time. But dang it—he didn’t know the layout of Atlanta worth a damn, so he stayed on the highway. He drove around the increasingly familiar highway for a third ring around Atlanta. And yet again he approached the exit for the ballpark.
And this time, mercifully, he found it. Fourth time’s the charm, I guess.
Perez got to the ballpark, but the game had already begun and he’d missed his start. I can only assume that manager Joe Torre wasn’t too happy with his supposed starting pitcher—but when you hear the story it’s hard not to laugh a little.
It all worked out. With Phil Niekro starting on one day’s less rest, the Braves won the game anyway. The next day Perez got to the ballpark on time and started in a 2-1 Atlanta win. That pair of victories kicked off a six-game Braves winning streak that left them in a tie for first place in the division. And they wound up winning the division by one game.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold.
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