I wrote a “where are they now” profile of ’80s second baseman Jack Perconte a little while ago. In talking with Jack to write the article, I also asked him about his time with the Albuquerque Dukes in 1979, 1980, and 1981. Since that exchange didn’t fit in the article, I set it aside for later use, and now here it is, for Dodgers and Dukes fans to enjoy. My questions are in bold: Jack’s responses are in plain text.
What was it like to play AAA ball all through the 1981 major league strike? Did it help create a winning atmosphere on your team, because the Albuquerque players knew they weren’t going to go up to Los Angeles, and you could concentrate on winning the PCL title? Obviously, stability is extremely rare on a minor league team, and I imagine being together almost all year helped the Dukes.
I believe it did help because with nowhere to go (no big league call up possibilities) everyone just settled in and played ball. We were so loaded with talent, that we actually received some notoriety from the Los Angeles and national press. Additionally, the Dodgers and other ball clubs sent out scouting personnel to see us that wouldn’t have been available if the big club was playing – people like Tommy Lasorda made the rounds so we felt like we were being show cased more than we normally would have been.
What’s your memory of the atmosphere in Albuquerque? Was the city unusually attached to the team? Did you have a sense of following a winning Dodgers tradition that extended down to the minors?
Very fond memories – great place to play with supportive and knowledgeable fans. Definitely a Dodger town and after the great Albuquerque Duke teams of the early 70s with Lasorda, we definitely felt the Dodger pride and tradition. As a side note, I am honored to say that I am being inducted into the Albuquerque sports hall of fame this summer [of 2010] for my play as a Duke.
Did you feel like an outsider in ’81 when you got called up to L.A.? Or when you watched the team play in the playoffs? I guess maybe being around guys you’d played with in the minors made it more comfortable to be in the majors. And the strike must have affected the atmosphere with the Dodgers.
As a September call-up in 1980 I felt like a member of the team, even though I was extremely nervous when playing. It all changed in 1981 because after the summer strike the Dodgers decided to call Steve Sax from double A ball up to the “Bigs” instead of me. Because of that situation and knowing I would not get much of a chance to play, I did feel more like an outsider. Having said that, “Any day in the big leagues was a blessing and I wasn’t complaining.”
I don’t recall the strike affecting the atmosphere. By the time I got there, it was business as usual with everyone trying to win a pennant.
It’s very unusual to be a very good performer over three straight years for a very good PCL team. What was your frame of mind as time went by and you didn’t get much of a chance with the Dodgers? Apparently Davey Lopes was blocking you in L.A., so you just had to be patient.
Looking back, I can’t say that I dwelled on it much – Davey Lopes was a great player and I felt like my time would come, if not with the Dodgers than somewhere else. I believe playing for such great teams in Albuquerque certainly helped me stay focused. We won a ton and winning keeps a player happy for the most part. As mentioned though, when the Dodgers brought up Steve Sax instead of me, my attitude changed quickly and I felt slighted and like I wanted to be traded. That trade came in the off-season.
Finally, on September 1, 1985, Perconte nearly became one of the few dozen major leaguers to get six hits in a nine-inning game. Bidding for his sixth single of the day in the ninth inning in Baltimore, Perconte’s sharply hit grounder to third instead became a double play. I asked Jack:
What do you remember about the 1985 game in which you almost went 6 for 6? Was there a sense of being on with your swing, or having an unusually good approach at the plate? Looking back now, do you have warm feelings about it as your greatest day in baseball, or do you try to avoid that sort of nostalgia?
Show me a player who wants to avoid that sort of nostalgia and I will show you a liar. Just kidding, but some memories like that day are very vivid. I don’t remember each and every hit but it was definitely a day where I felt “in the zone” and those in the zone days were very few and far between for me.
I don’t recall my approach being much different. It just felt like the ball was in slow motion and my confidence was sky high. Seeing how I battled confidence issues my whole major league career, that day was unusual.
I do remember our fine manager Chuck Cottier was going to pinch hit for me before my last at-bat because we were winning by a good margin. One of the assistant coaches mentioned that I was 5 for 5 so they let me hit again. I hit a rocket to third where they turned a double play ball on it. Six for six would have been much more memorable.