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On the noisy ’93 Phillies, a quiet man was unforgettable

August 11th, 2017 at 5:27 PM
Aggregated By Sports Media 101

In the middle of the night during the late 1990s, long after the crowds and vendors and cleanup crews had vacated Veterans Stadium, security guards started to get reports of a tiny old man in white wandering like a specter through the empty corridors.

Pasquale “Pete” Cera, a loyal and devoted Phillies employee since the 1940s, was nearing 80 then and in the early stages of dementia. He resided in a rented room in South Philadelphia during the season and each winter moved in with his single brothers in Hazleton.  So when the disease began to jumble his familiar world, he clung to the place he knew best, the warren of rooms in the old stadium’s bowels.

“He always got there at dawn and stayed after midnight,” Michael Cera, his nephew, recalled recently. “He loved it there. He would have slept there if he could. But then he started walking around the Vet in the middle of the night and he wouldn’t go home. The security people called us and that’s how we realized what was going on.”

Darren Daulton’s death last week refocused the spotlight on the 1993 Phillies. That roster was loaded with personalities, players whose quirks, tics, and personal failings were as prominent as their mullets.

As the Inquirer’s beat writer, I profiled most of them during the wild eight months from spring training to Joe Carter’s home run. But if I have one lingering regret, it’s that I never got around to Cera, who died at age 86 in 2004.

How could I have missed what might have been the clubhouse’s most obvious feature story? It was Cera, after all, who had to scrub the clay and tobacco juice from the dirty uniforms that earned those Phillies a national reputation.

“I’ve never seen anybody dirty a uniform like [Lenny] Dykstra,” he once told me.

Cera was easy to miss. Not much more than 5-feet tall, dressed in white from head to toe, he was perfectly content in the shadows. After games, he moved inconspicuously through the clubhouse, pushing his basket filled …

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Tags: Bobby Wine, Christmas, Darren Daulton, Frank Dolson, Frank Fitzpatrick, Frank Lucchesi, Michael Cera, Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia, Richie Ashburn, Veterans Stadium

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