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Dave Parker
Right fielder / Designated hitter
Born: June 9, 1951 (1951-06-09) (age 58)
Calhoun, Mississippi
Batted: Left Threw: Right 
MLB debut
July 12, 1973 for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Last MLB appearance
October 2, 1991 for the Toronto Blue Jays
Career statistics
Batting average     .290
Hits     2,712
Home runs     339
Runs batted in     1,493
Teams
Career highlights and awards

David Gene "The Cobra" Parker (born June 9, 1951 in Calhoun, Mississippi) is an American former player in Major League Baseball. He was the 1978 National League MVP and a two-time batting champion.

Contents

Playing career

He began his career on July 12, 1973 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, for whom he played from 1973 to 1983. In 1977, he was National League batting champion, a feat he repeated in 1978 when he was named the National League's MVP. This was in spite of a collision at home plate with John Stearns during a game against the Mets on June 30, 1978 in which Parker fractured his jaw and cheekbone; he wore a facemask in order to minimize his time away from the lineup.[1]The Pirates rewarded him with baseball's first million-dollar-per-year contract.[2][3] The following year, he was an instrumental part of the Pirates' World Series championship team.[4]

During a game in 1979, a powerful hit he made to right field was very difficult to throw into the infield, because he had "knocked the cover off the ball." One of the seams on the ball ruptured, making nearly half of the cover come loose.[citation needed]

Pittsburgh fans angered by his million-dollar contract threw "nuts and bolts and bullets and batteries" at him, as pitcher Kent Tekulve stated; a typo in a news story made it appear that they threw car batteries.[5]

In 1981, at a point in his career when it looked as if he would one day rank among the game's all-time greats, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.[6] The authors, noting that Parker had succeeded Roberto Clemente at the position, wrote, "Someone must have a fondness for right field in Pittsburgh."

However, in the early 1980s, Parker's hitting suffered due to injuries, weight problems and his increasing cocaine use.[7] He became one of the central figures in a drug scandal that spread through the major leagues. Parker was among several players who testified against a dealer in the Pittsburgh drug trials, and he was later fined by Major League Baseball for his admitted drug use.

At the end of the 1983 season, Parker became a free agent and signed with the Cincinnati Reds. In Cincinnati, he returned to the form that made him an All-Star in Pittsburgh. [5] In 1985, he enjoyed his best season since he won the 1978 MVP with a .312 batting average, 34 home runs, and 125 RBI. Parker finished second in 1985 MVP voting to Willie McGee.

After the 1987 season, Cincinnati traded Parker to the Oakland Athletics for José Rijo and Tim Birtsas. In Oakland, Parker was able to extend his career by spending most of his time as a designated hitter. Although injuries and age caught up to him to a degree – he hit just .257 with 12 homers in 377 at-bats in 1988 and .264 with 22 homers in 553 at-bats in 1989 – his veteran leadership was a significant factor in the A's consecutive World Series appearances.

Parker signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for the 1990 season and had a solid year as the Brewers' DH with a .289 average and 21 home runs in 610 at-bats. However, Milwaukee opted for youth at the end of the year and traded the aging Parker for Dante Bichette.

Parker's last season was 1991. He played for the California Angels until late in the season when he was released. The Toronto Blue Jays then signed him as insurance for the pennant race, and Parker hit .333 in limited action. However, since he was acquired too late in the season, he did not qualify for inclusion on the post-season roster and thus was unable to play in the American League Championship Series against the Minnesota Twins, which the Blue Jays lost in five games. Parker retired at the end of the season.

His career statistics are comparable with those of many Baseball Hall of Fame members, though he has not yet been elected. Some career achievements include 2712 hits, 339 home runs, 1493 runs batted in and a lifetime batting average of .290. Parker was also known as a solid defensive outfielder with a powerful arm. From 1975 to 1979, he threw out 72 runners, including 26 in 1977.

He was a baseball All-Star in 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1986, and 1990. In the 1979 All-Star Game, Parker showcased his defensive ability and powerful arm by throwing out Jim Rice at third base (Rice tried to stretch a bloop double into a triple) and Angels catcher Brian Downing at home on a base hit by Graig Nettles. The latter play squelched an American League rally. Parker also contributed an RBI on a sacrifice fly and was named the game's MVP.

Retirement

Parker served as a first-base coach for the Anaheim Angels, then as a batting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and a special hitting instructor for Pittsburgh.

As of 2008, Parker owns several Popeye's Chicken franchises in Cincinnati.[8]

In the early 70's, as a member of the Pirates AAA ball team The Charleston (WV) Charlies, Parker hit a home run that landed on a coal car on a passing train and the ball was later picked up in Columbus Ohio.[9]

During the KICU telecast of the Oakland A's versus the Chicago White Sox on 17 August 2008, former teammate Dave Henderson noted that Parker now has had both of his knees replaced.

Hall of Fame candidacy

Parker first became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1997, with his final year of eligibility being in 2011. While 75% of the vote is needed for induction, he has never received more than 24.5% of the vote[10].

See also

References

  1. ^ Paul Lukas, "Aggh! It's Dave Parker at the plate!," ESPN Page 2, July 29, 2008, accessed March 9, 2009.
  2. ^ Derek A. Reveron, "Dave Parker: Big Man, Big Bat and Baseball's Biggest Salary," Ebony October 1979: "the reported five=year, $5 million contract he agreed to in January."
  3. ^ "Parker's $5 Million Pact Says He's Baseball's Best," Jet February 22, 1979, p. 48.
  4. ^ Dave Parker as told to George Vass, "The Game I'll Never Forget," Baseball Digest April 1985, pp. 79-80: "I've been a big influence in some pennant races. We won the division three years when I was at Pittsburgh ('74, '75 and '79), and we won the World Series in 1979."
  5. ^ a b Mike Downey, "Dave Parker Left His Anger, not His Talent, in Pittsburgh: During his second season in Cincinnati, he produced some big numbers, reminiscent of his happy days with the Pirates," Baseball Digest November 1985, repr. from The Los Angeles Times: pp. 30-31.
  6. ^ New York: Crown, ISBN 0517543001.
  7. ^ "Reds Star Dave Parker Admits Cocaine Use," Lakeland Ledger September 12, 1985: "In his first public admission of drug use, Parker said that he bought cocaine from [Curtis] Strong and used it with him in Pittsburgh and in Philadelphia."
  8. ^ Jon Newberry (2007-12-28). "Franchise businesses opening doors of opportunity". Business Courier of Cincinnati. http://cincinnati.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/stories/2007/12/31/story4.html. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  9. ^ "Parker Excited to Return to Charleston," The Charleston Gazette, May 1, 2009.
  10. ^ Dave Parker at Baseball Reference.

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Bill Madlock
National League Batting Champion
1977-1978
Succeeded by
Keith Hernandez
Preceded by
Pete Rose
Dale Murphy
National League Player of the Month
August & September 1978
May 1985
Succeeded by
George Foster
Pedro Guerrero
Preceded by
George Foster
National League Most Valuable Player
1978
Succeeded by
Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell
Preceded by
Steve Garvey
Major League Baseball All-Star Game
Most Valuable Player

1979
Succeeded by
Ken Griffey, Sr.
Preceded by
none
Home Run Derby Champion
1985
Succeeded by
Wally Joyner
Darryl Strawberry
Preceded by
Gary Carter & Mike Schmidt
National League RBI Champion
1985
Succeeded by
Mike Schmidt
Preceded by
Bill Lachemann
Anaheim Angels First Base Coach
1997
Succeeded by
George Hendrick
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