So he walked off the mound, into the dugout, down the tunnel towards the clubhouse. He kept walking. Down the corridor, past the old home run apple, out the bullpen gate, over the chop shops, across the bridge ...
Down Main Street, past Parsons Boulevard, and off he went ... Walkman in tow, to search for the meaning of it all. He heard of the ovation that Pedro received, the inside the park home run, the attempted comeback, and the unassisted triple play. As his head filled with the news of the Mets' latest demise that he caused, he looked up at the combination of cumulus clouds and isolated thunderstorms that signify the mixed bag that was his life. He knew he needed a change. He knew that change would not come in Flushing, where the organization that gave him $36 million dollars was deciding that they would remain status quo for the foreseeable future.
Oliver thought much of the circular nature of life during his walk. Eric Bruntlett set up his historic triple play by making two errors to put runners on, so Bruntlett completed his circle. Of course, that whole inning doesn't happen without his six runs in two thirds and three balls. So where was Oliver's circle? Where could he go to complete his journey? Wandering around looking at clouds while three run homers fly over your head certainly wasn't the path of a thinking man such as Oliver.
AP Alert (New York) - Mets' pitcher Oliver Perez announces hisAnd with that, Perez was officially disappeared. But the competitor in Oliver remained. He would stare out his window that night. And when he wasn't imagining the tooth fairy spreading pixie dust all over the neighborhood, his brain was on an endless search to quench the competitive craze inside him. It was at that moment that he took a look at one of the many newspapers that he had ordered subscriptions to in Buffalo when he was bored during his rehab stint:
"Eureka! If this guy Favor can do it, so can I! I'm going to un-retire and play for the Vikings!!!"
The news conference was, in no exaggeration, bizarre. Capping off a day where news helicopters chronicled the landing of his personal airplane, the Vikings.com server crashed upon the flood of clicks to order a "46" jersey, and the ceremony upon where Perez's jersey said "Oliver" on the back ("I wanted it to be like my idol, Vida Blue"), Brad Childress, Ziggy Wilf, and Perez took the podium in Minneapolis without realizing where Perez would play. Quarterback, after all, was taken. Perez needed a position which was available, and where he would cause the least damage. Long snapper seemed like the perfect compromise.
But it was slow going for Perez, coming into camp mid-stream, learning a new position. Many of his snaps would hit Ryan Longwell in the face. Childress had a problem ... how could the Vikes have a kicking game if his new long snapper misses the holder completely? Surely, Favre can't keep going for it on fourth down. Not even a call to old pitching coach Rick Peterson would help.
BC: Coach? Coach Peterson?
BC: Hi, it's Brad Childress. I want to ask you about Oliver Perez ...
But then, like a bolt of lightning from the sky, former Viking great Fran Tarkenton agreed to talk Perez through his problems as a special consultant. Tarkenton and Perez would sit around the camp fire, and Fran would tell the most wonderful stories.
FT: Yeah Oliver, I knew a guy who juggled knives, another guy who stayed in a small box for hours on end, and still another guy tried to catch a bullet between his teeth!
OP: Wow Fran, that's incredible!
FT: I know! That's what I kept saying! But don't try this at home.
And with that, Ollie was rolling. Thanks to his new mechanics, and his friendship with Tarkenton, all his snaps were true. Longwell was perfect for the season, Chris Kluwe led the league in net punting average, and Perez was the getting more hits on his player page than any other long snapper on the internet. Life was good. The Vikings were going to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in the playoffs was even better.
There was added pressure on Perez for the game, as he was going to play center in the shotgun formation, snapping the ball to a Hall of Fame quarterback. Tarkenton told him that whatever he did, to be sure to snap the ball high to Favre. It wasn't the kind of pre-game pep talk he was used to from Fran, and he went into the game tight. Sure enough, when Childress called for the shotgun team with two minutes left in the half, Perez went into the game at center ... and had the most brutal athletic competition of his career. His first snap hit the scoreboard. His second snap rolled to Favre. His third snap went so far out of the end zone, it took a great catch by Endy Chavez from keeping the football from going into the first row of the stands.
OP: Why'd you tell me that, Fran?
FT: HA HA HA HA HA!!! I hate that sonofabitch Favre! HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!
The Vikes were out of the playoffs. The love affair between Minneapolis and Perez was over. Talk radio was all over him to make a decision about his playing career. It was then that Perez announced his retirement to ESPN's Ed Werder.
EW: Can you say without hesitation that you're retired for good?
Perez: Yeah ... yeah I can. And I'm comfortable with that.
But it wasn't over. After a very brief stint with the circus as a knife thrower, Perez wanted to return to baseball ... and he wanted to return with the Phillies. After the retirements of Pedro Martinez and Jamie Moyer, they were looking for a starter. And Perez wanted to come back to a division rival ... just like Favre did. But unlike the poison pill that the Packers put into their trade with the Jets, the Mets put no such restrictions on the Vikings. If Perez wanted to give up six runs for the Phillies in the first inning, fine by them. Besides, Omar Minaya had filled his rotation need by re-signing Orlando Hernandez.
So Perez returned for more baseball in 2010 ... and fired a no-hitter at Citi Field.
The circle was complete.