The 1983 Braves are really the first specific baseball team we remember. We were 6 years old during that season, and our tiny black-and-white TV at home in Grand Forks (this is not a joke -- we did not have a color TV until, we believe, 1986) was equipped with roughly 12 channels -- one of them being The Superstation, known primarily these days as TBS, which showed pretty much every Braves game.
We like to think of this era as the time Before We Knew Too Much. This works on multiple levels. We were young, so the things that happened to ballplayers outside the lines of play did not register. So we, as a kid, did not know too much. On the field, there were scouting reports and other such competitive mechanisms. But there weren't such advanced metrics, made possible and easy by the digital age. Baseball was still ruled by conventional wisdom and varying levels of machismo between the pitcher and hitter. And also, seeing as how this was nearly 30 years ago, the masses didn't have access to all this information, either. If you wanted to hear the Dodgers score, you waited. If you wanted to call Jeffrey Leonard a no-good hot dogging [redacted], you said it to the guy at the bar or the guy at work ... or you said it into your hat. You did not say it on Twitter, where theoretically countless millions of people could either agree or disagree instantly.
We had no idea what OPS was, but we sure loved the 1983 Braves. Looking back on it now, they were a stat guy's dream (and we were totally into stats back then, even if it wasn't cool. In our great nerd-hood, we would organize all of our baseball cards by team and then add up all the stats of all the players. We will not tell you the approximate year in which this stopped). Look at those on base percentages! We remember Bruce Benedict as a light-hitting catcher with a good glove, but the guy had 61 walks and just 24 K's that year! Dale Murphy, our favorite player of all-time, scored 131 runs!
If anything let them down (outside of Bob Horner's injury) -- after winning the division the year before, they fell a few games short in 1983 -- it was the pitching. But if there is one truth about the pitching, it is this: Pascual Perez was not to blame. While Craig McMurtry was a pleasant surprise as a 15-game winning rookie (a season that proved to be his career highlight), Perez was the staff anchor. Those numbers -- 15-8, 3.43 ERA, 51 walks, 144 K's -- are rock solid. But the best part about Perez: he was wacky. He used to try to pick off runners by stepping off the rubber, bending over and throwing between his legs if they weren't getting back to the base. He did all sorts of other memorable stuff.
He was particularly noted for his crazy baseball card pictures. The one we showed you above is actually pretty tame, but it does have one real peculiarity: it says "Twins" on the glove. It's an error card, of course -- an oversight made three decades ago, no doubt by an overworked Donruss proofreader.
And now? Well, now we know way too much. We know Perez was suspended multiple times during his MLB career for drug use. And we know he was killed this week in the Dominican Republic, at his home, in a terrible act of violence.
It's times like this that make you long for the time when controversy meant Glenn Hubbard's Fleer snake card -- the time Before We Knew Too Much.