Friday, March 4, 2011

#106 - Harry Parker

This is the first rookie card in a while and shows Harry Parker, one of two pitchers who unexpectedly bailed out the Mets from mediocrity and helped them return to the post-season. Here he looks thoughtful on a windless day at Shea. '73 was a pretty dramatic year for Harry and he assumed a number of roles, all quite successfully.

Harry Parker was drafted by the Cards in '65 out of high school in Illinois. As a senior he was on the state champion hoops team. After a near perfect start in the rookie league - 3-0 and a 0.43 ERA in four starts - he spent the next three years putting up excellent numbers in Single and Double A ball. Almost exclusively a starter during that time, the most games he pitched in a season was 19, due to weekend and other military commitments. In '69 he was slated to come up to St. Louis but that whole season was lost to the military. When he returned the following year he was sent to Triple A Tulsa, had a pretty good season, and was called up at the end of the year. At St. Louis he got a couple starts and put up good numbers. The next year he had a poor spring training and went back to Tulsa. At the end of '71 he went to the Mets with Jim Beauchamp and Chuck Taylor for Art Shamsky, Jim Bibby, and Rick Folkers. For '72 Harry pitched at Tidewater, the Mets Triple A team and had a very nice season. In '73 he came back up and jumped into the rotation when the regular guys got hurt. Then when Tug McGraw went into a slump Harry took a shot at closer. When Tug got his groove back, Harry became the set-up man. At season's end he was 8-4 with a 3.35 ERA and five saves. Six of his wins and three of his saves came after Mets losses so he was a pretty effective stopper. In the post-season he had some trouble with the Reds but against the A's he got away with zero earned runs.

In '74 Harry again moved between the rotation and the bullpen, but he reversed his record and then some, going 4-12. He did lead the team in saves, although he only put up four of those. In '75 he worked mostly out of the pen, going 2-3 with a couple saves through August when the Mets put him on waivers. St. Louis grabbed him back but for the rest of the season his numbers were pretty poor. At the start of the '76 season he was traded to Cleveland for Roric Harrison and sent to Toledo, the Tribe's Triple A club. There he went 9-11 as a starter with an ERA over 5.00. He threw a couple innings for the Indians and was then done. For his major league career he went 15-21 with 12 saves, a complete game, and a 3.85 ERA. In his only post-season he went 0-2 but his ERA was only 2.08. After his career he returned to Tulsa where he went to school and remained through at least the mid-'80s and by the early Nineties he was working for Shell Oil in the Houston area. For a few years he has been working for the Commonwealth of Virginia as a programmer.

Harry had a pretty good minor league career before '73 (he would finish 69-54 at that level). Bailing out the Mets in '73 sort of immortalized him locally. Still, that Bibby trade is a bit tough. Harry's nickname was Lurch, after the guy on The Addams Family TV show. That's not so nice, but this is also a very flattering photo of him.

Seaver comes in handy again:

1. Parker and Tom Seaver '73 to '75 Mets;
2. Seaver and Carlton Fisk '84 to '85 White Sox.

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