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Tony Pena

Tony Pena

Position(s):
C, 1B, OF, RF, DH, 3B
Born:
June 4, 1957
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6'
Weight:
175 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-01-1980 with PIT
Allstar Selections:
1983 GG, 1984 GG, 1985 GG, 1991 GG, 2003 Mgr

One of the Pirates most popular players, and during their lean years in the mid-80’s, its best all around player,Tony Pena was a .300 hitter for the team and gold glove catcher.

Signed as an 18-year-old, Pena showed early promise and had a breakout year at AA Buffalo in 1979 hitting 34 homeruns and batting .313.  Buffalo’s old ballpark was a homerun hitters haven, but while Pena’s homerun total dropped to nine with Portland of the Pacific Coast League in 1980, he hit .329 earning a lateseason call up to the Pirates.  Pena hit .429 in 21 at bats and convinced the team catcher Ed Ott was expendable the following spring.  Pena opened 1981 as Steve Nicosia’s backup, but it wasn’t long before he had taken over, displaying superior defensive skills.  Pena hit .300, playing in 66 of the Pirates’ 102 games during the shortened season and both Topps and UPI named him catcher on their rookie all-star teams.

Pena’s power increased significantly in 1982.  he had hit only 12 extra base hits as a rookie, but increased this figure to 43 as a sophomore.  Pena led NL catchers by throwing out 40.4% of opposing basestealers and played in the 1982 All-Star Game.  Ironically for a catcher, Pena entered the game as a pinchrunner and stole secondbase.  His .296 final average was tenth in the league.

Tony enjoyed his finest season in 1983.  He hit .301 with 15 homers (second highest total ever by a Pirate catcher) and drove in 70.  He got off to a slow start, but had an excellent second half, hitting .325 with 13 homeruns and 51 rbi’s.  The Sporting News named him its National League All-Star Catcher following the season.

The Pirates offense and position in the standings slumped badly the next three years and Pena’s performances at the plate were uneven.  He had a strong season in 1984, again hitting 15 homeruns and driving in a career high 78 while batting .286, but he slumped to .249 during the team’s abysmal 1985 season.  Pena got off to a poor start in 1986, hitting only .239, but he had the league’s best batting average during the second half (.348) to finish at .288.

Pena’s defense had remained consistent and he won Gold Gloves for each of these years and given the team’s overall lack of talent during the mid-80’s, it was not surprising the represented the Bucs in the All-Star Game in ’84,’85 and’86.  Perhaps baseball’s quickest catcher during the 1980’s, Pena set a team high for stolen bases by a backstop with 12 in both 1984 and 1985, although his record has since been surpassed by Jason Kendall.

Pena’s popularity went beyond his numbers.  He was enthusiastic and hustled on every play, even when his team was dreadful.  He gave the impression that he truly loved being a ballplayer and was polite with fans.  He gave  credit to his mother, who had been an outstanding softball player in the Dominican Republic for teaching him the game.  Tony also had a unique style behind the plate.  With no one on base, he would stretch out his right leg while kneeling on his left.  He would often throw out runners while still in his catcher’s crouch and often surprised players with his snap throws to first.  As a batter, Pena was a badball hitter who swung powerfully and sometimes would hit himself in the back with his follow through.
 
It was quite a shock to Pirate fans when Pena was traded on April Fool’s Day, 1987.  He was sent to the Cardinals  for Andy Van Slyke, Mike Lavalliere and Mike Dunne, a trade which eventually set the cornerstone for the Bucs’ resurgence in the late-80’s and early-90’s. 

Three games into his Cardinals' career, he suffered a broken left thumb in a game against his former team, the Pirates. He missed more than a month and returned to post a career-low batting average of .214. Nevertheless, the Cardinals won the National League Eastern Division crown with Peña rebounding to post a .381 batting average in the 1987 National League Championship Series as, the Cardinals defeated the San Francisco Giants. In the 1987 World Series against the Minnesota Twins he produced 9 hits with 4 runs batted in as the Cardinals lost in a seven-game series.

In 1988, Peña recovered with a .263 batting average along with 10 home runs and 51 runs batted in. He also led National League catchers with a .994 fielding percentage and was second in putouts and third in assists. In 1989 he earned his fifth All-Star selection and, once again led the league's catchers with a .997 fielding percentage, committing only 2 errors in 134 games.

In November 1989, Peña was granted free agency and signed a contract to play for the Boston Red Sox. With the Red Sox in 1990, he led American League catchers in games played, range factor, putouts and finished second in assists and in fielding percentage. His performance earned him the Gold Glove Award, making him only the second catcher after Bob Boone to earn a Gold Glove in both the American and National Leagues. The Red Sox won the American League Eastern Division pennant before eventually losing to the 1990 Oakland Athletics in the 1990 American League Championship Series.

In October 1993, Peña again filed for free agency and signed to play for the Cleveland Indians. Although his batting statistics weren't as strong as his earlier career, Peña was still valued for his strong defensive skills as a catcher. He proved invaluable for the Indians in 1994 as a substitute for the injury-prone starting catcher, Sandy Alomar, Jr., while posting a .296 batting average with a .341 on base percentage. He caught the majority of the Indians' games in 1995 as they made it all the way to the 1995 World Series before losing to the tlanta Braves. Peña's batting average dropped to .195 in 1995 and, he once again filed for free agency at the end of the season, signing a contract with the Chicago White Sox. He played with the White Sox until August 1996 when he was traded to the Houston Astros. At the end of the year, he retired as a player at the age of 40.

Career statistics

In an 18 year career, Peña played in 1988 games, accumulating 1687 hits in 6489 at bats for a .260 career batting average along with 107 home runs, 708 runs batted in and a .309 on base percentage. He ended his career with a .991 fielding percentage. He led his league five times in putouts and twice in fielding percentage, assists, range factor and in baserunners caught stealing. A five-time All-Star, he won four Gold Glove Awards during his career. Peña's 1950 games played as a catcher rank him sixth on the all-time list. His 156 career double plays ranks fifth all-time among major league catchers.

Coaching and managerial career

In 1999, Peña became the manager of the New Orleans Zephyrs and in he led them to a first place finish in the East Division of the Pacific Coast League. He also led Águilas Cibaeñas of the Dominican Winter Baseball League to two domestic championships in 1998 and 2000 and also led them to the 2001 Caribbean Series title.

Peña was hired by the Kansas City Royals in 2002 to replace Tony Muser (John Mizerock had served as interim manager). Peña led the 2003 Royals to a seven-game lead in the American League Central Division by mid-season before settling into a third-place finish in the with a record of 83–79. It was the Royals' first season with a winning record since the strike-shortened season. Peña was rewarded with the American League Manager of the Year Award.

Peña's Royals were less successful in 2004 Kansas City Royals season|2004, finishing in last place in the American League Central Division of the American League with 104 losses. He resigned as manager of the Royals after a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on May 10, 2005, as the Royals had the worst record in the American League at 8–25. He was replaced by interim manager Bob Schaefer.

On November 3, 2005, Peña was named coach first base coach of the New York Yankees. On October 21, 2007, the Yankees announced that Peña would interview to replace Joe Torre as manager. However, the Yankees chose to hire former catcher Joe Girardi to manage the team instead. Peña remained as the Yankees first base coach in 2008, before shifting to his current role as bench coach in 2009.

Personal

Peña is married to Amaris and has three children. He is the father of pitcher Tony Peña, Jr.(mistakenly known as "Tony, Jr. or just as TJ"), as well as New York Mets minor league player Francisco Peña, a prospect for the New York Mets. Peña's daughter, Jennifer Amaris, won Miss RD USA 2007 and represented the Dominican Community in the USA in Miss Dominican Republic 2008 and came in sixth place. Daughter of Tony Peña is crowned His brother, Ramon, pitched with the Detroit Tigers organization.

As retrieved from Wikipedia

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Tagged:
All Star, Boston Red Sox, Buffalo Bisons, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Gold Glove, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Portland Beavers, St. Louis Cardinals, Tony Pena

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