Norge Luis Vera Peralta
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 183 lb.
Norge Vera (first name pronounced NOR-gay) has been one of the top pitchers in Cuban baseball history. He was the league MVP in 1999-2000, has won two Olympic medals and was a star in other international events. He is noted primarily for a fastball that has hit 95 mph and his control.
Vera debuted in the Cuban Serie Nacional in 1993-1994. He joined the Cuban national team for the first time for the 1998 Baseball World Cup, going 1-0 with a 4.70 ERA. During the 1998-1999 Serie Nacional, Vera pitched a complete game victory in game seven of the finals to give his Santiago de Cuba team the title. In the 1999 Baltimore Orioles Cuban National Team Exhibition Series, he allowed 3 runs and 3 hits in 7 innings of work in Baltimore to get the win after a horrible start by Jose Contreras; from the 2nd through the 8th, Vera allowed no runs before he ran into trouble in the 9th. During the 1999 Pan American Games, Vera was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA, pitching against Brazil and facing Canada in the semifinals. Against Canada, he gave up runs in the 2nd and 3rd and was later relieved by José Ibar.
Vera's best season was the 1999-2000 campaign. He was 17-2 with a 0.97 ERA and 8 shutouts, leading the league in wins, ERA and whitewashes in the Year of the Pitcher in Cuba. He also was the winning pitcher in that year's All-Star Game. He won Pitcher of the Year and MVP honors.
In the 2000 Olympics, Norge was 1-1 with a 1.23 ERA. He pitched five perfect innings, striking out six, against the South African national team, but allowed four runs (one earned) in 1 2/3 IP against the Dutch national team. An Omar Linares error and Hensley Meulens double were the big plays in a rare loss by Cuba.
In either the 2000 or 2002 Serie Nacional All-Star Game, Vera was injured by a line drive through the middle; A History of Cuban Baseball lists both years in different places.
Norge had a 13-5, 3.06 record in the 2001-2002 Serie Nacional, two wins behind leader Pedro Luis Lazo and was 6th in ERA. He led the league with 11 complete games and 19 hit batsmen. In the 2002 Intercontinental Cup, Vera was 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA.
Vera struggled in the 2002-2003, battling a tired arm that year. He was only 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in four games. He was healthy again by the 2003 Baseball World Cup, when he put on another fine show. He was 3-0 with a 1.22 ERA in the Cup; he pitched 7 scoreless innings in the semifinals to beat Taiwan and 5 1/3 scoreless innings in relief in the finals against a Panamanian national team with several former major leaguers, giving up just one hit. He got the win against Len Picota. He became the first pitcher in Baseball World Cup history to win games in both the semifinals and finals. He tied Picota and Rafael Medina for the most victories in the 2003 World Cup and was third with 23 strikeouts, trailing Vicyohandri Odelin and Jae-young Lee. He allowed 11 hits and only two walks in 22 2/3 IP in the Cup. Brazil's Kleber Ojima was named to the All-Star team as the top right-hander instead of Vera. In the 2003 COPABE Olympic qualifiers, he threw a shutout in the medal round as Cuba clinched a spot in the 2004 Games. In the 2003 Pan American Games, he threw a two-hit victory against Team USA in the Gold Medal game (A History of Cuban Baseball mistakenly identifies it as a shutout; the US scored once); Jered Weaver took the loss. The US got its run in the second when Jeff Larish walked, Seth Smith singled, Mike Nickeas grounded the runners over and Brent Lillibridge hit a sacrifice fly.
Vera was 10-1 with a 1.95 ERA in the 2003-2004 Serie Nacional, walking only six batters in 74 innings of work. Had he qualified, he would have ranked second in the Serie Nacional in ERA. In the 2004 Olympics, he allowed one run (unearned) in five innings in a win over Greece on August 16. He pitched four scoreless innings against the Netherlands for a revenge of his 2000 loss. Then, in the Gold Medal game, he threw the first four innings without allowing a run before Paul Gonzalez homered in the bottom of the 5th to make it 2-1; he was promptly relieved by Odelin as Cuba went on to win Gold. He was 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA, allowing 7 hits in 13 innings in the Games. He was 4th in ERA behind three guys at 0.00 - Luis Borroto, Hiroki Kuroda and Chris Oxspring.
Vera saw limited action in 2004-2005 (5-1, 2.48) and was ineffective in 2005-2006 (3-3, 8.03, 35 hits in 24 2/3 IP) as he battled injury once more. In the 2006 Haarlem Baseball Week, Norge pitched and got a win against Japan. He was back with the national team for the 2006 Intercontinental Cup and was 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in two appearances.
Vera started the 2007-2008 campaign 7-0 to give him a career Cuban record of 146-55. He was second all-time in winning percentage, right behind Orlando Hernandez. Vera split his next four decisions to finish 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA. He was 9th in ERA and tied for second in complete games (5). He walked just 15 in 102 2/3 innings and threw no wild pitches. Vera saved the finale of Santiago de Cuba's title run, working the final inning of game four of their sweep in the championship; he struck out two of three batters he faced.
Vera was 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in the 2008 Olympics. He got wins against the #3 team, the USA and the #4 team, Japan, beating Stephen Strasburg and Yu Darvish respectively to help Cuba earn Silver. He tied Suk-min Yoon, Hyun-jin Ryu, Hideaki Wakui and Jonder Martínez for the most wins in Beijing.
Vera had a 11-5, 3.08 record in 2008-2009 with 15 walks in 111 innings. Vera tied Yunieski Maya for the league lead with 7 complete games, tied for 4th in wins and was 9th in ERA. He tied Maya, Danny Betancourt and Ismel Jiménez for the most shutouts (2).
On November 9, 2009, before he had made his first start of the 2009-2010 season, Vera was seriously injured while trying to break up a fight in Santiago. He suffered multiple fractures to his face, requiring reconstructive surgery and putting his career in jeopardy. He was back in action by mid-January, though. He announced his retirment the following year. He suffered another very serious accident, this time because of a car crash, near Santiago de Cuba on December 23, 2011. He was hospitalized with severe head trauma and multiple fractures in the intensive care unit of a local hospital.
- A History of Cuban Baseball by Peter Bjarkman
- 2000-2008 Baseball Almanacs
- Defunct IBAF site
- Japanese wikipedia entry
- Cuban Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation
- 2008 Olympics