Editor’s note: At a time when sports are shut down, including the canceled Final Four in Atlanta and many other postponed events, we take a look (in no particular order) at some of the bizarre moments from Georgia sports history.
For those of us in the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium press box on the night of Aug. 19, 1982, the first sign that something was amiss came when Phil Niekro headed to the bullpen to warm up.
Pascual Perez was supposed to be the starting pitcher for the Braves that night. So why was Niekro, the staff ace, warming up? Was Perez injured? Or ill? Or were the Braves so desperate for a win, having lost 19 of their past 21 games, that they decided at the last minute to start their Hall of Fame-bound knuckleballer on short rest?
The explanation wasn’t nearly so mundane.
In what remains, almost four decades later, one of the more bizarre tales in Atlanta sports history, Perez was scratched for a reason perhaps unique in major-league annals: He couldn’t find the ballpark.
The 25-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic was new to Atlanta and its highways. He had gotten his Georgia driver’s license earlier that day. He had the music turned up loud on the car radio.
Someone had told him to take I-85 from his apartment to the stadium, but he got on I-285 instead. He thought, in those long-before-GPS days, that he’d see…