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You begin to suspect something's not quite right when Pascual Perez tells you he's the oldest of "five twin brothers." Never mind that there are really six Perez boys—seven, if you count Mario, the Bronx cabbie whom Pascual calls his brother but who "really isn't, because he's my cousin." The Perez clan thrives on contradiction.
As it turns out, there isn't a twin—or even a Twin—in the bunch. But the family is loaded with ballplayers who are already major leaguers—Pascual, 32 (New York Yankees), and Melido, 23 (Chicago White Sox)—or who are working their way up to the bigs. Like Vladimir—Vladimir?—21 (New York Mets organization), Ruben Dario, 20 (Kansas City Royals), and Carlos, 18 (Montreal Expos). Pascual, who once missed a major league start after getting lost driving to his home ballpark, turned free agent at the end of the season and signed a three-year, $5.7 million deal with the Yanks in November. Melido, whose pet cows back home in the Dominican Republic are named Perez, Perez, Perez and Perez, was one of the top contenders for 1988 American League Rookie of the Year. The rest of the brothers are minor league hotshots, except for Valerio, 27, who was in the Royals organization from 1982 through '84 and now plays for a Taiwanese team called Brother Hotel. Every Perez, save the cows, is a pitcher.
As siblings the Perezes are closer to the Marx brothers than, say, the brothers Karamazov. A case can be made for Pascual as Groucho, Melido as Harpo and Valerio as Chico. Their specialty may be the forkball, but their predilection is decidedly goofball. "The secret is cocoanuts," says Juan Pablo (Chi Cho) Gross, their father. (His children have adopted the last name of their mother, Agripina Perez, as is occasionally the custom in their country.) "I tell them. 'Strike out somebody with cocoanut, and baseball no problem.' Baseball small; cocoanut big. My sons big cocoanuts."
Chi Cho's piglet is supposed to be blessed today by Padre Perez (not a son and not a pitcher for San Diego). "To honor her," says Chi Cho, the family's premier shakedown artist, "you must bring much beer and money."
Chi Cho stands in the living room of his tin-roofed, cinder-block house on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. It's a small place off a dirt road, surrounded by fields of sugarcane. The walls are decorated with religious artifacts: votive candles, crucifixes and baseball cards.
"Me and my family always live here," says Valerio. "Always, always, forever."
"Sure. Eight, maybe nine years."
Melido, Vladimir, Carlos and Ruben Dario are out back by the pigsty with their uncle Mario and sisters Candida Vicenta and Ivelise, who last year hurled her softball team to a local title. They have gathered together to have their photo taken for this magazine.